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November 5, 2001
Amy Leach

For seven years, Chiyoko Yoshida was a guitarist and vocalist for the now defunct band Squash Blossom. When that group dissolved in ´97, she moved on to another Chicago-based band, Sweeder, and with them released 2000´s Swallowed By The Sun. Though Sweeder still exists, Chiyoko is apparently not one of those girls who knows how to relax. In addition to making guest appearances on a number of other releases (The Chamber Strings´ Gospel Morning and Modest Mouse´s The Moon & Antarctica to name two of many) Chiyoko somehow managed to find time to whip up an album of her own tunes.

Thankfully, Chiyoko has plenty of friends, and several of them lent a hand on Cinematic, from current bandmates like Sweeder´s Jeff Carleton to Ben Taylor of Beat Down Sound fame. Cinematic, though, is uniquely her own, flavored with beautiful melodies and Chiyoko´sChrissie Hynde/P.J. Harvey hybrid voice. There are obvious similarities between Chiyoko and a variety of other artists (Shirley Manson and Debbie Harry come to mind), but although it´s likely that Chiyoko has gleaned inspiration from some or even all of them at one time or another, she never once comes off as an imitator or a cheat.

From the opening track, "Smile", with its Pink Floyd/Radiohead vibe (think wind-like effects, a piano playing one key at a time, simple guitar work and lots of reverb) to the closing track, "Cinematic", and all the swirling, melodic tracks in between, you can´t help but be swept up in Chiyoko´s strange but lovely world. The effects-heavy "Soiled Summer" sounds like Portishead -- if Chan Marshall sanglead rather than Beth Gibbons. It´s these odd combinations that help to make Chiyoko so alluring. "Pleasure Diamond", which contains one of the album´s prettiest melodies, is another highlight, distinguished by its "scratchy record" static and the subtle accents of a string section.

Chiyoko is one of those "happy accident" artists; you´ll stumble across her by chance, then rapidly develop a manic urge to hunt down every album she´s had anything to do with. Right now, I´m wondering how to get my hands on some Squash Blossom vinyl...

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