Feb 03 2014

Cibo Matto – Hotel Valentine (Review)

Cibo Matto
Hotel Valentine

Review by David Cirone


Funny, tragic, and mesmerizing, Cibo Matto’s Hotel Valentine is a return to form, and then some. After a way-long absence, the New York-based duo has crafted an concept album centered on the musings and (believe it or not) troubles of a hotel-bound ghost girl. Worth the wait? Absolutely — though it’s hard to admit since I’d like to imagine my shelf full of a decade’s worth of Cibo Matto releases. But Hotel Valentine‘s impact no doubt comes from the built-up momentum of creative minds Yuka Honda and Miho Hatori waiting for the right moment, the right temperature. Cibo Matto came back with something to say.

In tracks stylized to fit the hotel theme (“Check in”, “Lobby”, “Housekeeping”), the Ghost Girl experiences a detached life in a New York hotel, observing modern-day humanity and worrying about guns and radiation (but not marijuana), even hesitating to go shopping outside her safe hotel doors.

Multiple times in the album (and sometimes multiple times per song), Cibo Matto threw a curve ball at my expectations and landed something heavier, trippier, groovier… just “more”, period. One of the most amazing things about Hotel Valentine is that it balances so many composition elements that dance on the edge of overload, but never tip that balance into the red. I felt the duo’s confidence from start-to-finish as they weaved their musical narrative.

Props to the Cibo Matto for not issuing a repeat of Stereotype AHotel Valentine has an identity all its own. “10th Floor Ghost Girl” dances along with the title character who “talks like American, walks like Egyptian”. Title track “Hotel Valentine” brings the center of the album into clear focus with echoing trumpet, tribal beats, and ethereal vocals.

“MFN” seemed cool to me when they released the video last month, but it confused me a little. I still don’t know how I feel about this song, simply because it won’t stay put long enough for me to make up my mind. But in the tapestry of the concept album, it fits in as a high point, waking up the Ghost Girl’s adrenaline (“Don’t tell me what to do, I’m a ghost!”) and wanderlust. Closing track “Check out” is a reflective, imagery-filled escape from the confines of Hotel Valentine, bittersweet since we (like the narrator) aren’t really sure we want to leave.


Order Cibo Matto – Hotel Valentine (avail. on CD or Vinyl w/download)
Cibo Matto – Hotel Valentine at Chimera Music