Tim & Puma Mimi describe themselves as sushi served with Swiss chocolate for wasabi. As off-the-wall as that sounds, that’s just an appetiser in their world. This Swiss-Japanese duo, who for the most part reside in Zurich, have been crafting a colourful, wacky world for themselves (and us) for more than a decade now. They’ve been spotted using a cucumber to trigger their synthesisers, to prove how crazy triggering interface design could get, if you wanted it to. (It’s worth noting, however, that Tim often complained that these funky veggies made a mess of his keyboard.) As far as we know, they were also the first to utilise Skype during live shows. On their first tour, while Tim was performing in clubs scattered around Europe, Puma Mimi joined him nightly, beamed up to a screen behind him – as she performed the songs from her Tokyo apartment, while having her first cup of coffee before going off to work. All these quirks and eccentricities, of course, pale next to the music.
On their latest release, Der Die Das (the German articles), Tim & Puma Mimi not only pushed their idiosyncrasies to the maximum, but also refined them to perfection. By analogy, it’s as if Towa Tei and Lady Miss Kier of Deee-Lite ran into Giorgio Moroder at the thickest, craziest 90s rave. Then all of them took copious amounts of mushrooms and turned into anime characters who just so happened to live in an 8-bit video game. Then, somehow, they were all teleported back to 2016 and made a record together about this entire experience. The point is that Der Die Das is a wildly bizarre ride, one that manages to weave the very roots of Electronica, with a touch of that sexy, sensual 90s rave music, some great pop songwriting and a bit of an 8-bit aesthetic. And it does this using a modern production craft.
This is a record that feels cohesive and relevant from first track to the last, despite each song being completely different. There are elements of House, Rap, Electro, Dancehall, Dub, Soundtrack Music, Acid and even Punk scattered about. But everything is processed through this unique, cartoony Tim & Puma Mimi sound prism; and fully owned. Despite the songs sounding so easy and accessible, this record displays songwriting and production at its best. The crowning element is Puma Mimi’s unique voice, or more aptly, voices, as she has an amazing ability to shape-shift from song to song – blending into each seamlessly. At times she sounds like a computer glitch, a runaway arpeggio, then she dominates the playback like a seasoned pop singer. She’s sensual, comic, furious and larger than life, and then suddenly she can melt into a hyper feminine softness. Although the lyrics on this record were written in Japanese and a performed in Puma Mimi's native tongue, as she once said in an interview, she uses "the language and its peculiar sound as an instrument mainly", hence every phrase has an infectious cadence and sound to it. It’s damn near impossible not to sing along.
For the first time in their release history, Tim & Puma Mimi feature numerous guest musicians and vocalists. The song called I Feel Sleepy features vocals of Mara Miccichè aka IOKOI. Hilala was recorded in South Africa and features local talent Ngoma Makhosi. Schuwa Schuwa was produced by Michael Ho of None of Them. Kumo received a bass line from James Varghese of Odd Beholder. And the epic closing track of the record, Guest Book No. 1, is truly a family affair, and seems to have everyone and their moms on it. In Tim’s own words:
I asked musician-friends if they could send us any recording, whether noise or music that they recorded for this song. I sent them a simple loop with a kickdrum and a bassline from the Korg Volca. Boris Blank (Yello) sent several samples, even one with him singing! Seelenluft made something orchestral to the bassline. Benni Bo (DJ from Hamburg) sent recordings of a typewriter and samples of an oriental-orchestra. Toshi TKNG (Guitarrist from Tokyo) sent a heavy guitar riff and his daughter singing a children’s song. Töbi Tobler (Dulcimer Switzerland, a childhood idol of Tim's), invited Tim to come over for a session. While I was working on this song, somewhere deep in the innercity of Johannesburg I was constantly hearing Taxis honking and even some drumming ceremonies – it was clear, that all these recordings had to be on the finished song.
Der Die Das took four years to make and was predominantly recorded in a small hippie cottage in Menorca, Spain, with parts laid down in South Africa and in Switzerland. Outside of very the places where the songs were recorded what inspired Tim and Puma Mimi were Studio Ghibli flicks and their beloved daughter whom they dubbed The Intern. The Intern is said to have very strong opinions about practically everything the duo dabbles (from music, choreography, to clothes).
Tim & Puma Mimi are characters from a video game found in an anime come to life – but still as musically relevant as the best of them. You would have to invent a new genre to describe their particular brand of Electronica, so lets use Sushi with Swiss chocolate as a placeholder for now. The duo has been around since 2004 and has, to date, played over 400 shows! They were officially featured at Sonar Barcelona, Iceland Airwaves, Berlin’s Popkomm, at the Paléo Festival, Montreux Jazz Festival etc. They’ve been commissioned to score all types of movies and plays. Their most recent work was featured on “Ivan’s Need”, a cartoon short about a baker’s apprentice who fell in love with a woman with the longest breasts in the world (but of course!). This short, btw., stole just about every film award at the film festival circuit in 2016 . They were the first act to use Skype at a live show. They are also the only band know to use a cucumber as a synth trigger. Tim & Puma Mimi are: Tim (multi-instrumentalist / producer) and Puma Mimi (vocalist / force of nature).