Ask most rock musicians to name their influences, and you will get a laundry list of critical favorites the Beatles, the Velvet Underground, Nirvana. Yoshimi, singer-guitarist for the Osaka, Japan based OOIOO, names a more surprising source of inspiration: "I was influenced by my dog's breathing," she says. "Or the beat my dog makes when she is drinking water."
Perhaps that's why OOIOO's (pronounced "oh-oh-eye-oh-oh") second American release, Feather Float (Birdman), resists classification. Layers of reverberating guitar arpeggios lock with propulsive drum rhythms and high, sharp vocals to make music that suggests both fervent prayer and the early efforts of Yoko Ono.
That may sound jarring, but Yoshimi and the rest of the band Kyoko on guitar, Maki on bass, Yoshiko on drums (they refuse to give last names) carry off the songs with grace and levity. In Yoshimi's words, they "just softly dropped a bird feather to the earth with Feather Float."
In 1997 Yoshimi, who has been the drummer for the Japanese rock group The Boredoms since 1988, hooked up with three friends for a magazine photo shoot in which they posed with guitars and pretended to be a band. OOIOO is what happened when they learned to play and became the real thing. Yoshimi and her bandmates still display the giddiness of beginners; the high on just being in a group, and it shows particularly in their live performances.
Their set at the South by Southwest music-industry conference in Austin, Texas, early this year earned rapturous applause. If they continue to make music with their current mix of rigor and playfulness, they may soon get some of the attention they deserve provided that Yoshimi's dog keeps up the good work.