A World As True As It Is Big: Mondo Grosso Returns With ‘BIG WORLD’
On February 9th, Japanese DJ, producer, record producer and composer MONDO GROSSO, also known as Shinichi Osawa, returned with his eponymous 8th album BIG WORLD (“Mondo Grosso” is Italian for “big world”). BIG WORLD is MONDO GROSSO’s third album since returning from a 14-year hiatus in 2017, and similar to his last two albums, Reborn Again and Always Starting New and Attune/Detune, MONDO GROSSO leverages his experience, connections, and imaginative chops to produce a diverse and comprehensive album covering swaths of the J-Pop world.
“IN THIS WORLD” is essentially the sequel to MONDO GROSSO’s biggest hit (yet), “LABYRINTH.” The song begins with Ryuichi Sakamoto sounding out a somber motif on the grand piano before singer Hikari Mitsushima enters, her sonorous and endlessly sensitive voice flooding the sorrowful mood with a warm and assured light. Throughout the track, passionate strings and a heartbeat-like rhythm accompany the duo, adding textural complexity and emotional depth to the compassionate soundscape of this breathtakingly sensual single.
“BIG WORLD” featuring RHYME captures and reflects MONDO GROSSO’s heart for his fans and for our world. Through RHYME’s touching voice, we can feel and appreciate the affection that undergirds his effort. Together, they create an atmosphere akin to gazing over an urban landscape with a lover late at night — someone whom you’ve cherished for a long time. It’s that special kind of love song.
Other album highlights:
“B.S.M.F.” (short for “bullshit mathafacka”) featuring hip-hop/rap duo DONGURIZU was one of the album standouts. The duo brought a refreshing, unapologetic energy to the song, even if it was sometimes brazen. It carried this “driving down the highway on a Friday night after work” feel, when you’re done with work and want to live your life to the max. The contradicting lyrics in the chorus – “Everything’s alright” followed by “bullshit mathafacka” – basically reflect how we all feel leaving work on a Friday knowing we’ll be back on Monday.
“OH NO!” featuring J-Pop indie rock quartet CHAI was also a standout. The girls are a world away from DONGURIZU in terms of style and delivery, yet the two are linked in their unabashed sensibilities. At once fierce and adorable in self-expression, CHAI stand out amongst the crowd of voices in the album.
“CRYPT” featuring PORIN was gorgeous. The instrumental was brilliant and beautiful, and PORIN’s warm and translucent voice sealed the deal. The track, rooted in the club and deep house genres, was as much a banger as it was a piece of art.
“STRANGER” featuring Asuka Saito grew on me. I wasn’t too impressed with it at first, yet as I listened more, I realized I felt quite relaxed. As the only shoegaze track on the album, the substance of the song is quite abstract, and it would probably make for better background music than serious-listening music.
“LAST HEART” (ft. suis) and “OVERWHELMING” (ft. Mika Nakashima) were both well-produced, but they lacked the emotional and structural development needed to retain my interest. The two fluctuated between an emotionally restrained A section and a more emotionally liberal and expressive B section. These sections failed to resolve, however, and simply existed in a liminal space without definitive conclusions. This left me wanting more.
“LOST PEOPLE” featuring Yoshie Nakano did not land. It felt too slow and heavy compared to the rest of the songs on the album, and the melody was unappealing.
In BIG WORLD, MONDO GROSSO follows a formula similar to his previous two albums and collaborates with a range of artists across the world of Japanese music to bring new ideas, emotions, and feelings to life. While some songs may be a hit or miss depending on your style and sensibility, the end result is a world that is as true as it is always big.
BIG WORLD is out now via A.S.A.B.
Johan Qin is a writer, musical artist and violinist based in Northern California. He grew up with classical music and enjoys combining his musical background with his writing ability to review Asian pop music that he is passionate about. He can speak 5 languages – English, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin and Cantonese – and enjoys listening to Kenshi Yonezu, Elephant Gym, and Epik High.