Hex Kitchen showcases downtown New York musician Ikue Mori at the height of her compositional abilities. While her unique manipulation of samples and drum machines always yields interesting sounds, some of her improvisatory and recorded work leaves something to be desired in terms of musical structure. This release, however, offers the fascinating percussive and machine sounds Mori is known for, along with some highly inventive, yet listenable songs. Most of the tracks even clock in at the three- to four-minute range, making for the closest approximation of a conventional album that will ever come from this purely experimental electronic musician. Boasting an appearance by John Zorn on clarinet, Hex Kitchen is an all-star avant-garde ensemble piece with some inspired playing by Zeena Parkins on electric harp and accordion, trombonist Jim Staley, and violinist Hahn Rowe. The real highlights of the album come with the first three tracks, though. Album opener "Slush" showcases Mori's unique approach to rhythm with driving, syncopated solo drum machines and sampler. "Woke Up Aghast" is rather catchy with a rolling bass line courtesy of Hideki Kato and surprising use of bagpipes by David Watson. Here, Mori also introduces her haunting use of vocals, which have a sort of lullaby-ish quality that portrays a frightening innocence when coupled with Mori's abrasive samples. Zorn's clarinet work, coupled with Parkins' accordion and the odd vocalizations of Catherine Jauniaux on "Angler Fish" make for the album's best moments. Hex Kitchen remains consistently solid, however, with Mori laying a solid foundation for the other musicians to work on top of, using drum machines and samplers to create alternately strong rhythmic bases and brief blasts of utter chaos. The sum total is an engaging experimental work that would be a good starting point for the uninitiated.
- Matthew Carlin (All Music Guide)
One of New York's most exciting improvisers and composers, Ikue Mori has developed a personal and innovative technique of playing samplers triggered by adapted drum machines. Hex Kitchen, which includes the soundtrack to Abigail Child's 8 Million Ways To Die, features both Mori solos and performances with an all-star line-up of creative musicians.
Playing with musicians such as Fred Frith, John Zorn, Zeena Parkins and Jim Staley, Ikue Mori has proven herself as one of the world's most inventive and unpredictable avant-garde improvisers. Her most recent albums are Painted Desert (on Avant) with guitarists Marc Ribot and Robert Quine, Death Praxis (on Nonsequitor) with vocalist Tenko, and Vibraslaps (Rec Rec) with singer Catherine Jauniaux. She has also recorded as a member of the groups Fukuko, Tohban Djan, and The Worlds Of Love (with David Garland and Cinnie Cole). Mori was a member of the legendary late '70s "No Wave" group DNA (with Arto Lindsay) who can be heard on albums on Avant and American Clave, and on the Brian Eno-produced No New York compilation on Antilles.