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Theremin master, Sukho Lee, and fashion visual artist, Lun*na of L.A.'s Seksu Roba, head towards avant garde electro-pop in their new release, "Pleasure Vibrations."
Their name is misleading and their appearance is questionable. Seksu Roba, the name, has nothing to do with robots and the duo are not fresh migrants from Japan as they have sometimes been misunderstood as. Sukho Lee, producer/thereminist, is a Michigan-born Korean-American who is an L.A resident and his partner, Lun*na Menoh, though originally from Japan, is also a local. Seksu Roba, however, is Japanese for 'sex donkey,' which alone laces them with an eccentric identity in L.A.'s electronica underground where the two met. The pairing of the duo was based on an instant fascination that took a little more push-n-pull than the typical producer + chick team up. Sukho recalls the earlier days when Seksu Roba started out as a challenging possibility and became a worthwhile experiment.
"It's not like we sat down and charted everything out. It was more like I had been working on some music and I had seen Lun*na perform. At that point, she was more of a visual artist than a performer but her performance side was coming out and seeing both those sides, I thought we could do something together," Sukho says. "She was way into music and she was secretly - or maybe it was kept inside her and she didn't realize it - but she definitely has this desire to make music and do vocals."
Lun*na's background is in visual arts and fashion and is quite reputable for her work and was even invited to England last year to do an exhibition. She designs her own visually dynamic costumes, which define the personality of Seksu Roba - white retro hair, shimmery space cadet outfits with hairy glittery go-go boots. She sings and dances like a go-go dancer loaded on a keg of Red Bull, whip-smacking the audience with a sassy theatrical delivery while Sukho stands behind the keyboard, capturing sounds with the mysterious theremin, which he calls "uncharted territory." "That's what attracted me most to the instrument. Part of exploring the theremin is coming up with stuff to play because it seems that people still don't know what to do with it. You just don't see it or hear it much so you're bounded to do something different because no one's really doing much with it."
Behind this strange name and the implementation of strange sounds, Sukho and Lun*na released a sensual lounge electronica self-titled debut album in 2000, which put them at par to groups like DJ ME DJ YOU, Sukia and Tipsy. Seksu Roba have only grown out of their experimental stage recently as Sukho confirms that Lun*na and he are finally on the same page after trials of experimenting. "Eventually it became clear what we wanted to do, and that is to become more of an electronic pop outfit, but it didn't necessarily start out that way. We want to make music that people can enjoy, music that's not difficult to "get" basically. At the same time, we don't want it to come off as superficial. There's some depth to it all - the music and the visuals - things you wouldn't normally see in a cheesy pop group."
There's no room for cheese in Seksu Roba. Sukho's sounds are non-formulaic with an assured edge that's even more poignant with the verse-chorus-verse format delivered by a mildly accented Lun*na. After the curious Japanese-spoken intro on "Pleasure Vibrations," two very club-worthy undulated dance tracks spew forth, introducing a revamped Seksu Roba. "Hesitation" and "L.A. Freeway" were the two most challenging tracks for the duo since it was such a huge step in a different direction. "We were making a conscious effort to do something else. We weren't even sure what Lun*na's voice was supposed to sound like," Sukho recalls. The final product? Triumphant left-field pop with a bounce propelled by amusing and ironic lyrics ("I won't touch you/ until you touch me," "this is a game/ that we play/ this is a game/ that we both lose").
"Pleasure Vibrations" also features vocal tracks by Lady P (Chile's Los Abandoned) and Terryn Westbrook who contributes amazing ethereal melodies to the fifth track titled "Fantasy." The album also contains an ultra slow cover of 5th Dimension's big hit, "Up Up and Away," and My Bloody Valentine's "Moon Song." Seksu Roba's sophomore disc is overall a great listen, never too pretentious with its few femme-lyricized club tracks by throwing in bossa nova, electro-funk and new wave nuances, creating a wonderworld orgy of sonic hedonism. The pop electronic music by Japan's Kraftwerk, otherwise known as the Yellow Magic Orchestra, was mentioned by Sukho to be a big inspiration. "I'm glad that people are accepting that 80s electronic sound again because for a long time it was out of fashion. Everything had to be guitars. Now it's more balanced. At least in this country people can listen to sounds that are electronic and like it and not think that it's just computer music without soul."
Sheen, sensual and conceptually quirky, Seksu Roba is evolving at a comfortable pace, both musically and performance-wise. "We're more of a theatrical show so we'd need a stage to show Lun*na's costumes and what she's doing. Otherwise, you'll probably be scratching your head," Sukho replies. "Well, you'll probably be scratching your head anyway if you see us." Who would have guessed that a sex donkey can be so cleverly self-aware?
Date Posted: 10/10/2003