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Nobukaza Takemura 10th

Throughout his prolific career, Takemura has dexterously juggled the experimental and the accessible. The tension he's wrought between coolly calculated DSP chaos and melodious songcraft has usually resulted in rewarding, if bipolar albums like 1999's Scope and 2001's Hoshi No Koe. Heretofore, Takemura's childlike melodies flirted with cuteness without causing nausea. On 10th, however, he over-sugars his aural pastries. Blame his reliance on speech-synthe, a vocoder-like device that helps the disabled to speak to their caregivers. While the vocals here flow with a unique cadence, their effect over 78 minutes is initially as ludicrous as death metal's Cookie Monster gutturals, and finally as annoying as Barney the Dinosaur. It's a shame, because Takemura's lushly exotic production, memorable pastel tunes, and dazzling prog-rock deviations can't overcome the cloying gimmickry of those synthetic voices.

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