A Japanese-born duo relocated to New York and christened with an Italian band name, Cibo Matto's music mirrored the melting-pot aesthetics of their origins, resulting in a heady brew of funk samples, hip-hop rhythms, tape loops, and fractured pop melodies all topped off by surreal narratives sung in a combination of French and broken English. Cibo Matto comprised vocalist Miho Hatori and keyboardist/sampler Yuka Honda, a pair of expatriate Japanese women who arrived in the U.S. independently. Honda, a onetime member of Brooklyn Funk Essentials, settled in New York in 1987, and Hatori, an alum of the Tokyo rap unit Kimidori and a former club DJ, followed six years later. After meeting in 1994, they first teamed in the Boredoms-inspired noise outfit Leitoh Lychee (translated as "frozen lychee nut"); after that band's breakup, the duo formed Cibo Matto, Italian for "food madness" (their love of culinary delights quickly becoming the stuff of legend).
The group soon emerged as a sensation among the Lower Manhattan hipster elite, gaining fame for their incendiary live shows backed by guests including the Lounge Lizards' Dougie Bowne (Honda's ex-husband), Bernie Worrell, Masada's Dave Douglas, and Skeleton Key's Rick Lee. After a pair of acclaimed 1995 independent singles, "Birthday Cake" and "Know Your Chicken," Cibo Matto signed to Warner Bros., surfacing in 1996 with the Mitchell Froom/Tchad Blake-produced Viva! La Woman, a delirious, stunningly inventive record celebrating love, food, and love of food. After touring with guest bassist Sean Lennon and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion drummer Russell Simins, the EP Super Relax followed in 1997. Lennon, percussionist Duma Love, and drummer Timo Ellis were installed as full-time members for the follow-up, 1999's Stereo Type A. A few years later, the group disbanded, with Hatori going on to collaborate with Smokey Hormel and Gorillaz, while Honda produced Sean Lennon's Into the Sun and collaborated with the Boredoms' Yoshimi on the album Flower with No Color.
Also during this hiatus, between 2002 and 2011 Honda notched up four solo albums; while in late 2009 she joined a revamped lineup of Plastic Ono Band before going onto produce Martha Wainwright's 2012 release Come Home to Mama. In 2011, Honda and Hatori began to write material together once again, and after a few delays, Hotel Valentine -- Cibo Matto's first album in 15 years -- was appropriately released during Valentine's week in 2014. ~ Jason Ankeny
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