On the urgings of a friend I’ve been having a look at Fantastic Plastic Machine, the stage name of Japanese DJ Tomoyuki Tanaka. With it’s odd mix of bossa nova, lounge music and sampling, there is something wonderful about it, both in it’s undeniable cheerfulness and wily charm. It treads the line between cheese and irony, but I think it’s not supposed to be taken entirely seriously.
The thing about Fantastic Plastic Machine is that it’s so ridiculous. There’s something very Willy Wonka-esque about the whole thing, even in the way it sounds. Most of the samples seem to be taken from completely random sounds; listening to ‘Pura Saudade’ right now, I can identify what I think is the sound of a baby’s rattle, aswell as the turning of a winch. Laced between these sounds is the piano, the drums and some guy whistling. Taken seperately they’re a mess; together they form a coherent, delightful whole. It’s like Tanaka has found all these mundane things and done something a little crazy to them, forming something quite unique.
Some of the songs really do pop, such as ‘Bachelor Pad’, which is so over the top groovy that you can’t help but bounce a little to the beat. Of course it brings to mind a very 50s vibe, but that’s alright, so long as the songs themselves aren’t done with anything serious in mind, which these aren’t. Sometimes the line is crossed, however, with the cliche layered on a little too thick for my liking, such as in the title track.
The French language features rather heavily on a few songs, and the French style seeps through alongside it. While I’m usually the first person to dismiss the French, here they do work rather nicely, especially in ‘L’Aventure Fantastique’, the strongest track on the album.
It’s rather hard to discern whether I like this album because of the cheesiness or in spite of it. The whole thing reminds me of a track of Amon Tobin’s album ‘Bricolage’, called ‘One Day In My Garden‘, where the band took typical elevator music and added DnB stylings to it, creating one of my favourite feel good tracks. While the same technique isn’t employed here, it is certainly remniscent of the feeling.
Despite it’s flaws, the album overall is rather good, and definitely worth chasing down if you’re at all a fan of bossa nova or crazy instumentalists in general.