The Tikiyaki Orchestra
The Tikiyaki Orchestra is a fascinating band hailing from Los Angeles, one of several productive places in the U.S. Exotica-wise. The band approaches modern Exotica music from the most creative standpoint: conducting and coming up with unique, original tunes only. While contemporary Exotica bands favor a mixture of both new tunes and old classics, the Tikiyaki Orchestra always tend to the former – and one thing is for sure: every song off StereoExotique is a winner!
Moreover, the story behind the band's debut album, StereoExotique, is especially worth noting, for the Tikiyaki Orchestra in 2007 comprised only of Jim Bacchi, while all succeeding releases are team efforts. Hence, the band's first release can be categorized in a long tradition of fake band – or rather one-man band – records such as some of Trent Reznor's works for Nine Inch Nails, Kenny Sasaki's Tiki Boys or also German Electronic producer Jan Jelinek's fake band The Exposures. On StereoExotique, Bacchi plays every instrument, although not simultaneously, but in a cut & paste manner not unfamiliar to the aforementioned examples of the realm of the Electronic music genre. However, Bacchi does it in a very creative way, and you won't even notice the various digital tracks per song thanks to his skilfull tricks. All in all, the album sounds more electronic than the band's following albums, as these sound more natural and jazzy. To my mind, this is an advantage, as StereoExotique can be seen as the band's standout album even if you prefer the band's later studio sessions.
X <--- You are Here starts the album with tribal percussion and screams of nervous apes. It's a quick start to get you in the right mood. Exotique, the first real track and equally dynamic, features a prominent bachelor pad-like organ and fast percussion. Mai Tais on the Moon slows things down and introduces a Classic Clean guitar and induces a Hawaiian feel. A favorite track of mine, Waikiki Serenade, has a very catchy, echoey vibraphone melody, laughing apes and an accompanying organ – exquisite ingredients forming an upbeat song whose melody will be in your head hours later still. The following Koko Sufu is the album's most downbeat track, yet again featuring an echoey vibraphone and a guitar. Yet another remarkable track is The Road to Punalu'u, which starts with a dominant piano, followed by a staccato'ed vibraphone and exotic percussion. Again, the melody is delightfully hummable and simple. Another track worth mentioning is Sneaky Tiki with its curious vibraphone and its surf guitar as a counterpoint.
One signature move is the generous usage of exotic animal sounds, either orally imitated or extracted from freely available audio archives, soundfile CD's etc. While the screams of apes and the noises of birds are clichéd and not exactly innovative nowadays, Bacchi purposefully awakens the Golden Age of Exotica music with this approach; especially Arthur Lyman's bird noises come to mind which he used to great effect on tracks like Bahia or Vera Cruz. The hidden track on the CD, or track 13 on the digital download release, is an alost 5-minute ambient setting of ocean waves, chirping birds and distant jungle drums and an exquisite fade out of the dynamic, rhythmic creations by Bacchi.
This album is highly recommended for its original approach of Exotica music. Yes, it has an electronic feel to it, however, it is by no means a DJ showcase album, but a collection of original music without a single dull filler. Exotica afficionados looking for a more jazz driven approach will be more pleased with the Tikiyaki Orchestra's following albums – 2009's Swingin' Sounds For The Jungle Jetset! and their latest album of 2011 Aloha, Baby! – where the only remaining electronic devices consist of an organ used in a few songs. Otherwise, this is a stunning, consistent album for lovers of melodic music spiced with animal and nature sounds.
- You need to visit the official Tikiyaki Orchestra Website, which is a feast for the eyes, especially their satellite websites that are presented on the web shortly before the arrival of a new album.
- Their Twitter handle is @tikiyaki.
Exotica Review 003: The Tikiyaki Orchestra – StereoExotique (2007). Originally published on Dec. 18, 2011 at AmbientExotica.com.