Music Reviews

ALBUM REVIEW: Sen Morimoto – “Self-Titled”

By Jacob Thompson

Sen Morimoto’s third album landed from his own Sooper Records this month, and it is written, performed, and produced by the man himself. The self-titled LP is a lo-fi trip-hop jazz fusion of saxophones, reverb, and melancholy rap, running a whopping fifteen tracks in total. Following on from his 2018 breakout Cannonball! and March 2020’s more relaxed B-Sides and Rarities, Morimoto has attempted to bring his many influences and instrumental skills together here, to varying results.

Some of the best tracks on offer are the openers; “Love, Money Pt.2” and previously released single “Woof” are both tight, soulful tunes, the former providing a smooth introduction with a fast-paced, upbeat snare rhythm track overlayed with lilting sax, the latter brimming with small-town frustration, big-city woes, and slick guitar, a through-line of descending keys adding momentum to Morimoto’s melancholy bars. “Symbols, Tokens” is also a strong track; funky keys and tight drum samples build to a fantastic central refrain.

A multi-instrumentalist at heart, Morimoto performs most of the album himself on sax, keys, bass, and vocals, bringing in the occasional guest, with Ryan Person covering drums. Morimoto is a man of many talents, though sometimes it feels as if he’s trying to do too much at once, taking his layered approach so far that these layers can begin to clash. “Taste Like it Smells” is one such overcrowded misfire, with guest appearances from Lala Lala, Kara Jackson, and Qari all lost amongst a barrage of keys, snares, and samples that never manage to fully mesh.

What could be anthemic instead ends up being overdone and overlong, and this is something that happens again in “Daytime but Darker” and “The Box” ft. Joseph Chilliams. “The Box” suffers especially, with Chilliams wiping out the otherwise smooth soulful vibe with comedic bars that sully the sensual, pacy rhythm of Morimoto’s own slick bass and vocal work.

Make no mistake, Morimoto can utilize guest vocals to great effect. “Butterflies” ft. KAINA and “Deep Down” ft. AAAMYYY are both standouts, with KAINA providing an ethereal edge to the pounding bass of the former and AAAMYYY lending a heady sense of longing to the latter with her soulful Japanese vox. Morimoto is strong enough to stand on his own two feet too, showcasing his vocals in “Save” and “Wrecked” over less busy compositions.

Closing tracks “Nothing Isn’t Very Cool” and “Jupiter” give a rounded sense of Morimoto’s slip-ups and strides. “Nothing” once again struggles with a confusing opening that later finds its feet in a fusion of barbershop, layered rap, and grungy, distorted guitar, whilst grand finale “Jupiter” recounts the artist’s musical journey beneath elevated and airy samples, strong guitar riffs, and beautiful Wurlitzer keys. 

The lyricism in the closing song is especially strong and speaks to Morimoto’s best qualities. His sound is unique, his production is variegated, and he’s willing to experiment with fusing genres in a way that few are, pulling together many elements of the Chicago scene into something authentically new. Sometimes, as in “Woof,” “Save”, “Butterflies” and “Deep Down”, it works. It’s only when it doesn’t—like when he tries too much too fast—that it feels as if a tighter, more reigned in approach could have served this album better.

@JacobBaggins is a Manchester-based music journalist and former #fusefm radio writer.

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