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Ai Phoenix | The Driver Is Dead (Racing Junior)
Gender-unspecific, diminutive and precious, the ultimate neuter suspiro, Ai Phoenix's lead vocalist, Mona Mork, at times sounds as if plucked from a Saturday morning puppet show. Remarkably, her dissipated, cherubic whisper revolutionises the pure, blissed-out genius of the band's material. Significantly influenced by Mazzy Star, Ai Phoenix cut their cloudward drift with lugubrious synth textures and hints of things cabaret, elements that counteract the band's own attempts at pure bliss-out. Whereas the Mazzys nearly rendered themselves insignificant amidst the hazy backwash and frittering sensuality of their voice/guitar axis, Ai Phoenix impart a sharp sense of melancholic dread and encroaching violence which keeps them nearly earthbound. A stunner out of left field, this droney, idiosyncratic epic is sure to make my short-list at the year's end.

G. C. Weeks
CWAS #8 - Summer 2001