Performance artist Mokumedori goes all out. She creates a distinct persona (actually a pair of personas, big Mokumedori and little Mokumedori), makes her own masks and props, and decorates her stages and songs with fairy tale images and sounds. She’s an original character ~ at first endearing, but ultimately a little bit scary ~ and the contrast is a large part of her appeal.
Her debut album contains a cluster of sounds that are also scattered about our recent feature, Music for Nurseries. But while glockenspiel, mouth piano and children’s toys abound, this album’s tone is not as light. At certain points, everything sounds innocent; but then the light changes, and one imagines the shadow of the mobile rather than the mobile itself. These shifts place the album in the company of múm’s disconcerting 2004 release Summer Make Good, reflecting the wonder and the terror of children’s folklore. Mokumedori calls her work “a picture story book in motion”, but she’s not only the author; she’s also the main character.
The slow winding of a music box in “tomoshibi” gives little indication of what is to come. In retrospect, one appreciates the innocent beginning. Childhood has always been a mixture of guilt and innocence, trust and fear; all too often, nostalgia glosses over the oxidized surfaces. A circus breaks out in “dans les bois”, calliope included; a bicycle bell rings, birds flit about the tent, an oom-pah pah prepares the crowd for the next big reveal. Mokumedori operates as ringmaster, in control at every moment, yet unafraid of a pratfall. It’s all part of the show, and the show must go on.
Every sound has its purpose here. Many are percussive and hand-made. Whistles and woodblocks, shakers and squeaky toys, triangles and bells conjure memories of a preschool’s instrument bin. “gate” is all ticks and tocks, buzzes and alarms. And yet, melodies abound, and any potential chaos is reined in before it begins. It’s as if Mokumedori is attempting to protect an unnamed child while unnerving her, inoculating her in preparation for eventual entry into a grown-up world. Or perhaps she’s exorcising her own demons. The genesis of her music is as mysterious as the face behind the mask.
The end product is elusive yet beguiling. We breathlessly turn every page, so that we can go back and enjoy each image at our leisure. Mokumedori has created an immersive world, and invites us to meet her on the border, in hopes that we might take one step too far, and fall in. (Richard Allen)