Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Why do I suddenly like Techno? The Transonic Label

Electronic Music isn't something I've ever delved into too deeply. The seemingly endless labels for every sub-genre of a sub-genre of club music has maybe contributed to this. So if I come off kind of naive in this post, well, I have to admit that I am. I know nothing about this stuff.

My tidbit of knowledge about break-beats, goa-trance, psy-trance, gabba, trip-hop, etc. is from beatmania. The dudes in charge at Konami threw in a dictionaries worth of genres(seriously, who came up with these specifics??) to accompany every song by the impressive array of musicians featured in their DJ Simulation game that reflected the sort of happenings in the underground club scene of the day (or at least, I'd like to think you can kind of sense the year some of these games were released based on the styles of music). Even if I never understood all these crazy genres attached to  the title of the songs I was still listening to just about all of it while playing the game--and enjoying it, too. I didn't understand the entire context of what made the way these songs sounded line up with the genres but to hell with whatever broken beats or symphonic jazz was, I just remembered what songs were good and played them. A lot. But again this about how far I went into music like this but I did still have a pretty good idea of it. And I didn't hate it, that's for sure.

By coincidence, I happened upon a CD by the artist Fuzita Blender and it struck a chord--he was an artist in earlier Beatmania IIDX games. None that really floored me, mind you, but looking him up again put me in touch with his label mates,  Mind Design, after a random youtube recommendation (let's face it, alright, these sure as hell aren't random):

Mind Design really dealt out an atmospheric kind of electronic happening with these tracks, something that really got me interested. It was spacey, in that groovy neofuturistic spacey, the kind that had curvy Dutch looking chairs and orange and white colors. Something easy to put into perspective if you were fond of some playstation-era video game music. Have to admit that maybe what really seals the deal is the excellent cover art of relics from the iconic Expo '70 fair in Osaka, complete with gnarly saturated colors, that adorns the jackets of this entire series of compilations from the Transonic label.

All of which, so far, has proved really interesting to listen to. I'd of course like to get my hands on some of these CDs for their jackets alone but that's been a much more difficult task. However, I have been able to get a few of the many compilations they dished out every year or so. And interestingly enough, the more experimental ambient duo Inoyamaland, who as been getting a lot of attention lately with reissues and such, were on Transonic at one point in time with their album Music for Myxomycetes--listeners of the trending environmental Japanese ambient music should take note--and appearing in a few comps. That should attest to the good taste of the label, if genres like techno or trance turn you off. They shouldn't, though. Really.

Maybe in time we can get a retrospective of the Transonic label when that electronic music revival finally hits. In the meantime, Mind Design is a well kept secret.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Aichi Triennale presents Tamaki Roy @ Endoji 2019/9/13

Even if you don't like contemporary art, the Aichi Triennale has a expertly curated lineup of artists performing as part of its music program a few times a week for free at the Endoji temple and Shotengai not far from Nagoya station.

I went to check out hip-hop artist Tamaki Roy this past Friday after missing nearly a month of great artists because I was home for the holidays.

The stage is set against a large mural painting on the side of a building in the mall with a parking in front of the structure providing space for a hundred or so audience members. Tamaki Roy had garnered quite a crowd when I arrived; the space was full and onlookers spilled out into the center street and off to the side. He had just belted out a free style rhyme sans any backing track but resumed his set with some of his popular tracks. The gig lasted about an hour, from 7PM to 8PM.

Later in the program there are a slew of other artists who are due to perform solo or acoustic on the small stage throughout the month. It seems that bands werent allowed and I can imagine the noise complaints from the neighborhood already, not to mention the inconvenience to those who use the street where the mall is as a way to get around. Seeing as the gigs are free, it's a great way to check out some new artists and get a look at a really cool looking mall and the preserved traditional architecture that dots the areas back streets. The public seemed to enjoy it too, with more than one passerby stopping their commute to listen to Tamaki rhyme over his beats.

You can check out the Aichi Triennale's website for more info, their music program category for info on all the music related work for the triennale, and the page dedicated to these Endoji Day Concerts that are taking place every Thursday to Sunday until October 11th.


Friday, June 21, 2019

Konami's music production powerhouse show off their chops on self-titled album, "Kukeiha Club"

Most musicians composing video game music were not known by name, and instead eclipsed by both the companies they worked for and the now-timeless gaming franchises they worked on.Thanks to the wave of vinyl reissues of video game soundtracks, this trend has been shifting slightly as the focus on the music itself has naturally come with a recognition of the once unknown musicians responsible for the work. Konami's in-house band Kukeiha Club has in particular been prolific, and the group has finally been gaining some well deserved credit for their work on some of the gaming giant's most prolific melodies and memorable background tracks, from the medieval anthems of Castlevania to the 8-bit galactic space tunes that set the backdrop for the otherworldly adventures of Gradius' Vic Viper spaceship and its legacy.

Aside from these nostalgic compositions that became as synonymous as the characters and their respective games, the group also released a few albums sans the "Konami" prefix--just as Kukeiha Club--that often go under the radar. These were minor side-projects of sorts for the band to showcase some original music outside of the game franchises they were usually attached to. With a heavy focus on the style of jazz fusion, these releases are definitely worth a listen for both fans of the genre and those curious about the musicians outside of the context of video game compositions.

After their debut album Hope, which you can still listen to it in its blue-baby goodness here, Kukeiha Club released their self-titled sophomore release, an album I became particularly interested in after hearing sample online. The usual trio of musicians in Kukeiha Club are joined by the likes of a number of guest players for this outing, which included musicians from some of the most prolific names in Japanese fusion music: members of Casiopea, The Square/T-Square, and Yoko Kanno's The Seatbelts, all make an appearance, plus an interesting cameo by Chizuko Yoshihiro, a composer who worked on the soundtracks of many SNK games.

If you play rhythm games like me, Kukeiha Club guitarist and track arranger Motoaki Furukawa will probably already be familiar to you as will the style of tracks on this album, which recall his work in the Guitar Freaks and drummania series: Captain's Voyage, Dance to the Future, or Get Ready just to name a few of the tracks he is famous for in those games. But glossing over the musicians who appear on the guest list will give those unacquainted with rhythm game soundtracks a pretty good idea of what to expect: that 80s Jazz/Fusion style that recalls of images of tropical beaches, sunsets, and cruising around an island on a sunny day, immortalized by the reevaluation of Japanese 80s music and vinyl culture and its re-appropriation by artists in future funk and vaporwave. If Mint Jams is your, well, jam, then Kukeiha Club will be too.
But that's not to say that fusion fans are the only ones who will enjoy the album. The famous style of Kukeiha Club is at full force here, and all the professional musicianship and tight, melodious compositions that made Konami's music so memorable is everywhere to be found. And of course, video game fans will be in for a treat the instant they hear the electronic organs that begin "Shuffle in the Dark," a track that is an obvious nod to the staple Castlevania track, "Bloody Tears."

Top notch musicianship is everywhere on the album, as can be expected by the virtuoso players who make an appearance. Look no further than the dueling rhythm section solos at the end of "Return to Departure" for some of the best jamming on the album. Arranger and guitarist Motoaki Furukawa really shows his chops on here, shredding away with his signature licks on top the tightest rhythm sections on the planet, showcasing some unbelievably solid drumming by the likes of virtuoso Akira Jimbo, and bassists who were also part of Casiopea.

Whereas its easy to write off the strength of the record as resting entirely on the collaborations with bigger name musicians, I'd like to think that the amazing work Kukeiha Club has done for video games and rhythm games speaks for itself. Unfortunately, the tracks in which collaborators are absent and feature guitarist Motoaki Furukawa performing solo, are some of dull moments in the otherwise interesting collection of tracks. Tracks like "Good Night Pony" or "Twinkling Star" feel like forced attempts to round out an otherwise solid album with a variety of moods even if the formula for the rest of the album works fine as is. There's definitely no reason to dial down the instrumental work on here when its as interesting as this.

Kukeiha Club is definitely worth tracking down to complete your collection of Konami video game music or just to engage with a great package of tracks that feature some brilliant musicians in the genre. 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

To City Pop, with Love: Ryusenkei's Tokyo Sniper

Although most references to the City Pop genre call upon musicians active in the 70s and 80s, a lot of modern City Pop, that is, artists who were influenced by the genre and make music in the same vein during the last few decades, largely go ignored. And while there are plenty of recent musicians that seem to carry the City Pop genre into the 2000s and beyond--the bittersweet soulful melodies of Lamp that summon the sounds of 70s and 80s AOR or the group Ovall and their chill instrumental hiphop--none seems to profess their love of the genre quite like Ryusenkei, a project headed by Cunimodo Takiguchi. The band is far from cryptic in their nods to the 80s genre; the name is derived from the 1980 album by the queen of City Pop, Yumi Matsutoya (or Yumi Arai, Yuming, depending on the time in her career). It wouldn't be far off to say they wear their influence on their sleeve: quite literally, when you look at the cover of Tokyo Sniper, their second album, and how it relays the vibes of the cool, nighttime grooves. Ryusenkei's music is both a love letter to city pop fans and a retrospective of the genre that both retains and transforms the groove of 80s Japan into a modern sound all its own.

Tokyo Sniper was released in 2006 as the group's only proper album after their aptly titled debut EP City Music in 2003. This was about a decade before the "Plastic Love" boom and thankfully, fans today--myself included--can have a better understanding of the group thanks to the resurgence of knowledge now available to contextualize their influences, and youtube, of course, filling in for crate digging. Early innovators in the genre who started the funky and down tempo sound it became known for are the source of inspiration here, with obvious nods to Tatsuro Yamashita and Minako Yoshida injected throughout the album: the refrain from the mind-blowing opening track to Yoshida's Flapper, "Ai no Kanata, "is replicated on "Over the Heliotrope" and the percussive lead up to the sax solo in "Petal" screams Tatsuro. There's also the title track, that seems like it was pulled from a Rajie song called, "The Tokyo Taste," off one of my own City Pop introductory records, Heart to Heart. (and one I cannot recommend enough)

But this isn't just a who's-who name-dropping spree that will amuse a small niche of careful listeners to early City Pop gems. Tokyo Sniper is far from exclusive in its musical language and welcomes those unfamiliar with the genre with a smooth ride through its short nine tracks that can serve both as an introduction to city music and as an excellent standalone record that distills bossa nova, funk, and smooth jazz. It's an original piece of work--hardly a ripoff of the genre--and perhaps this is why, years after its release it has become a mainstay in discussions about the genre of music it emulates, its iconic cover joining the patchwork of albums that comprise City Pop's music canon.

Tokyo Sniper is also on Spotify.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Sachiko Kanenobu's "Misora" - A folk masterpiece

It's hard to imagine what Japanese music sounded like before the recent gratification of the 1980s era of City Pop but, believe it or not, Japanese musicians were making waves across the country in plenty of other ways prior to this explosion. The Japanese folk scene, for example, was alive and brimming with talent well before folks like Tatsuro Yamashita and Taeko Ohnuki came on the scene, with a great number of bands and solo musicians strumming away at guitars whilst reforming the conceptions of Japanese pop music at large. There's a lot to go through, and thankfully the compilation "Even a Tree Can Shed Tears" released last year by Light in the Attic records, offers a breather from the City Pop and YouTube algorithm chart toppers with a look at the country's diverse scene of folk music, with the album featuring an expertly curated role call of the scene's most important and overlooked musicians. Household names like Japanese pop music founders Happy End and its prolific bassist Haruomi Hosono are listed among dozens of other musicians I would have otherwise never known about. From bands to singer songwriters, there's a little bit of everything here whether its a certain vocal style, lyrical content, or musical prowess you seek.

Female vocalists are on of my recent obsessions, and the album doesn't disappoint in its offerings of talented women in the scene. Women were not as active in the folk scene as men (unfortunately) but theres definitely a quality over quantity on here with the female vocalists being particularly wonderful. Sachiko Kanenobu steals the show here, heralded as the first female singer-songwriter in Japan and one of the first women to pick up a guitar in the flurry of folk music in the 70s. But this isn't novelty alone, and Kanenobu easily eclipses her male contemporaries on LITA's compilation.  Her voice can be heard at the beginning and end of the compilation: first, a track off her solo album Misora and then as a vocalist of the mysterious band Gu. Her gentle voice really stuck with me as I gave the album repeated listens, but it wasn't just her vocal quality that had caught my attention--surely, Kanenobu's talent extended to her songwriting skills, her penchant for pairing her alluring voice with delicate guitar arrangements that was what really drew me in. What's impressive is that her work has  aged so well it's eerie. If you didn't know the date of its release, any of the tracks on Misora sound like they could come from a release in the last year, resounding with SSWs like Ayano Kaneko or Satoko Shibata with ease. Perhaps there is some ephemeral quality to something as simple as vocals and guitar strewn together with only talented melodies and songwriting ability.

And it seems like others seem to think so, too. At the beginning of this year, The New York Times ran an article about her and musician Steve Gunn. Kanenobu made such a profound impression on him that she was invited to open for shows on his tour. She also recounts the warm reception she received in Japan for performing the album for the first time in front of a live audience. I was surprised that she had been quite close to the late author Philip K. Dick--the Light in the Attic compilation mentions that she moved to the US and did not release much music after her eponymous Misora. Decades after releasing this little gem of an album, Kanenobu seems to finally be recognized for her talent.

Speaking of Misora, the album is finally getting a reissue on vinyl and CD by none other than the record label responsible for the aforementioned compilation. Lite in the Attic will, hopefully, press enough copies to go around so people all over the world can enjoy Kanenobu's timeless masterpiece.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Goodbye to P-Can Fudge - pt.1

In a few days one of my most frequented record stores in Nagoya, P-Can Fudge in the always lively neighborhood of Imaike, will close its doors after decades of operation--perhaps the oldest record store in Imaike still going strong. Here, I would like outline some cool finds I've had here over the nearly three years I've been in Nagoya to pay tribute to its legacy, to say thank you, and to immortalize the memory of such a cool little place for music aficionados in Nagoya. As the first record store I went to when I arrived, it has a certain special place in my heart.
Braving the wild windstorm today, I trecked over to the Imaike neighborhood via the Imaike waterworks path that stretches from the back of Kakuozan station to the area right across the Shin-Imaike building housing P-Can Fudge.

A stray kitten waited for me on the stairs leading down to the path.
Given the shop is on its last leg, most of the vinyl has been picked clean and the stacks were noticeably slim. There is perhaps little left for them to offer in that regard but I found myself instead purchasing a bundle of discount 300yen CDs.

The CDs on the left have been on their shelves since I got to Nagoya so I decided to finally bring them to the counter. This Pizzicato Five album in particular is interesting for its utilization of less electronic sounds and more studio band-style arrangements. A lot of the tracks can be heard in a more familiar, shibuya-kei club fashion on other albums, and it was a treat to be able to listen to them here with more emphasis on drums, bass, and guitar. That the group worked so well even in this form makes me wonder how they could have sounded if Konishi stuck with this style -- it certainly fits the mold of other acts in the shibuya-kei collective, instead of reducing pizzicato five to a duo with him as the conductor, the one-man-band behind the gig alongside the chic and beautiful Maki Nomiya.  Below Freedom is an album by Lullatone, a husband and wife duo that creates delicate jingles for commercials with soft piano and toy instruments. Finding it in a Nagoya record store seemed only appropriate, given Lullatone is(or at least was?) based here.
The right side pickings: a compilation of tracks from the always groovy reggae outfit Fishmans, and an album by the internationally famous rambunctious girl power trio Shonen Knife that was completely necessary for the cool cover art by Yoshitomo Nara. How could I say no?

Lastly, I picked a rather embarrassing album from the shelf: The debut album by Japanese indie rock legends, Number Girl. Who, by the way, will be smashing their way across Japan in a reunion tour this summer. This blog used to be named after this exact album so I'm a bit ashamed to say that I never owned a physical copy. Listening to it again brought back fond memories of blasting select tracks on repeat, the shortest ones were all i could download on a dial-up connection with Soulseek, and being completely mesmerized by them in high school. It all sounded so familiar even if it's been a really long time since I've heard anything off of here.

That said, my pickings speak for my early days of Japanese music discovery, and here, again, I have this neat little corner record store to thank for putting me in touch with compact discs that have jogged some really warm memories of sitting in front of my PC monitor at home after school digging through P2P user lists for new and exciting music from Japan, in a time before YouTube and Spotify.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Ryuichi Sakamoto - Life in Japan

After I was introduced to Ryuichi Sakamoto's music by his 2017 album async, a somber collection of soundscapes that has always haunted me, I cranked the time machine back a few decades to listen to some of the older works in his extensive catalogue like Ongaku Zukan/Illustrated Musical Encyclopedia, an 80s album of refined, instrumental dance pop and Coda, a collection of piano arrangements containing his hit, "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence" from the Nagisa Oshima film of the same name starring David Bowie and Beat Takeshi. It was difficult to plot my next point of approach into Sakamoto's seemingly endless ouvre--I dabbled in an interesting ambient album for an art installation called Plankton for a bit and then purchased an LP of his on a whim after coming across it at the record store. The record, Life in Japan, turned out to be, however, not an album but a promotional single. 

The iconic jacket features (most likely) Sakamoto with his eyes shut as he gets a shave--whether he is enjoying or loathing the process I still wonder. Life in Japan was given away to customers of Nippon Life Insurance in 1983. The A-side contains a single track probably used in the company's commercial. The B-side features two instrumental tracks, both of which recall the style of the electronica tracks from Ongaku Zukan, which makes sense since Life in Japan was released shortly before this album. While a lot of synth-based instrumental music at the time--say, tracks used as background music for anime and video games--really put the "synth" in synthesizer, that is, making stuff sound really plastic and contrived sometimes, Sakamoto's instrumental tracks have a lot of character and life to them. His attention to detail really shines through, and both tracks are brimming with smart melodies and layers of interesting sound bits and clips.

B-1 "Yoru no Gasuparu (Gaspard of the Night)," based on either the book, the piano piece, or both, is particularly catchy and maintains a nice boogie throughout while remaining alive and interesting. B-2 "Ao-penki no Naka no Boku no Namida (My tears, in the blue paint)" is a couple notches down in tempo and layers some relaxing melodies over heavy synth bass. The track is healing almost, and wouldn't sound out of place in the background of a hospital area in a video game, or else a location that emphasized rejuvenation and relaxation--I think it would be a fantastic track in the Mother series and, for some reason, a great accompaniment to the sounds of the Ape Escape soundtrack. Speaking of Mother, the lyrics to the A-side track "Kimi ni Tsuite (About You)" were written by its creator, Shigesato Itoi. What a collaboration!

Until next time 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Jazz & Anime Records, Friction's Akureki

This weekend I finally went to one of my favorite record stores in Nagoya after missing just about every opportunity to stop by in the last week or two and going to just about every other record store instead. The stopover yielded a lot of cool finds and reminded me why I love coming here in the first place. Actually, it was so exciting that I ended up going back the next day to pick up the records I had been mulling over the previous day in the back of my mind...and then I still managed to find some new things I had missed.

The first day I picked through a bunch of anime soundtracks in the bargain bin and noticed a ton of Urusei Yatsura LPs, most of which I already had (and spent way more money on before!), and Macross ones, some of which I need but aren't particularly excited about. One of the standouts of the selection was this compilation of music from the series Crusher Joe, a space/mecha anime that I haven't watched before but I've seen around. At 300~yen I had to pick it up, if not just for the cover art by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, whose iconic style is sure to be familiar to fans of the Mobile Suit Gundam series. He did the character designs for this OVA.

Usually I never find anything by prolific Jazz musicians in the bargain bin, but this time I took home two pretty neat LPs I was eager to listen to. One was what looked to be an old Japanese pressing of Miles Davis' Birth of the Cool and the other Herbie Hancock's Sextant. Davis' record has this cool Japanese record design that's a lot more sleek and glossy than usual cardboard printed ones and came complete with liner notes in Japanese. I usually try to opt for the imported Jazz LPs or the ones from Japan that at least retain the English liner notes and print but again, it was about 300yen so I can't complain. Sextant is pretty beat up but I've been eager to listen to more of Herbie Hancock and didn't mind the condition. I've read that this album is a little less accessible than Hancock's other work--arguably more avant-garde and free jazz--but I didn't find it so difficult or academic. It's become a favorite of mine, an LP I frequently go to if I hover around the jazz area of my shelf.

The highlight of this visit was finding Akureki by Japanese punk pioneers Friction, a record that had been on my want list for a while. The jacket is obviously one of the biggest reasons why I wanted it but its also because the band is one of the pioneers of punk in Japan. Ian Martin mentioned them a lot in his book Quit Your Band! as being pretty instrumental in early punk movements and the record lives up to the hype: it's fast, powerful, and aggressive. According to some unnamed sources I read in Japanese, it wasn't fast enough, however, and the band just couldn't really get a studio recording to match the kind of noise and ferocity they exhibited during their live shows, so much so that the record was dubbed a kind of watered down, slow motion version of their concerts. Still, it holds up pretty well and was noted for being produced by Ryuichi Sakamoto even if the band themselves don't really dwell too much on this prolific musician's involvement as the defining force behind it's reputation.

Here's to more finds and more adventures in sound.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Katsu lunch and O.S.T.pickups at Book Off

My mom and sister planned to visit me in Nagoya for a few days and my sister ended up arriving a day before my mom, to which she suggested that we use the one free day without our mother around to do all the nerdy stuff we could possibly do--and I guess have some rare sibling bonding in the process. I brainstormed some ideas and decided we had to have some katsu (preferably the Nagoya variety drenched in a dark miso sauce) since my mom is vegetarian. Since my usual hole-in-the-wall haunt was closed on Sundays we opted for a more well-known restaurant not far from my house called Hirono. The restaurant has four different buildings all along the same street, each with its own culinary theme: Nagoya specialties Kishimen(a wide, thin noodle soup) and Tenmusu (rice balls with fried shrimp) in one, Katsu of all kinds in another, one serving sandwiches and coffee, and one serving Japanese style eel dishes. Each is in a chic, old style building with a wooden interior that gave it a really cozy, retro atmosphere. While it still doesn't beat the greasy little cutlet eatery I wanted to go to, the portion was huge and well worth the trip. It's probably not a big tourist stop because of its location in an otherwise quiet student neighborhood near Kawana station, but it's definitely great to get good quality Nagoya local food in a neat little corner of the city that isn't overrun by tourists. Definitely a neat trip off the beaten path.

We walked off the big lunch and had to stop by the Book-Off on the way back to my house where--my sister promised to buy me a CD or two as a present. In every record store, there is always that one CD or record in a store that I've had my eye on for months, that I want but for some reason never purchase, a disc that has been there for as long as I can remember and when I visit the store I always pay it a visit to see if it's still there waiting for me. Now was the time to finally take home the treasure that I had checked up on so often at this particular Book Off.

In the aisles of J-Pop CDs, nestled in between the sparsely populated rows dedicated to game music was the soundtrack to to the shooter Metal Black. The CD suddenly appeared in the video game soundtracks section one day and immediately caught my eye. Not only do I love this shooter but the cover art made it hard to put down when I first spotted it. Yet somehow it still ended up waiting there for me for months on the shelf and each time I passed by this location I contemplating whether or not I should finally take it home.

If you aren't already familiar with Metal Black, it's a shmup that feels like a dark, depressing version of Darius if the creators favorite film was 2001: A Space Odyssey. Copies of the Saturn version, an excellent port of the arcade version, are a little pricey, but if you're in the US you can play the game on the Taito Legends 2 compilation for the PS2 and Xbox. The game itself is often lauded for its visuals, delivering some of the most impressive animations you will see on a shmup from this era, and is a pretty immersive shmup that emphasizes stage design and graphics over complicated scoring and play styles. Still, it poses quite a challenge towards the end and things can get quite frantic. But even if you aren't a fan of shmups and aren't up to the challenge (see: frustration) of grinding through the seemingly undodgeable bullet storms at the ending of the game, Metal Black has an ending sequence so bizarre and surreal that I recommend anyone try at least once to see the end. It's a cinematic-level tour de force I won't soon forget.

The music for the game is definitely part of the immersive experience and fits the stages nicely. The post apocalyptic wasteland that you are first transported to in the first stage really pairs well with the equally eerie and sort of unsettling sounds. As the Metal Black travels deeper into the nether regions of the cosmos, the music takes on a darker tone just as the enemies and environments become more outer worldly and foreign. The tracks for the first few stages are infectious and really stick, and I found myself going back to the themes for Level 2 quite often.

Unfortunately, outside the two gorgeous illustrations on the front and back of the CD there really isn't much more in the package. They do, however, give you the musical score to the first stage music just in case you wanted to recreate it on your own. How thoughtful!

The soundtrack to Metal Black hasn't seen a release on vinyl yet, but the song "Area 26-10" from stage 3, was included on the compilation Diggin' In The Carts, to accompany the documentary film of the same name. It's one of my favorite tracks from the OST, too. In the meantime, it's the only way to listen to a piece of Metal Black on wax but let's hope for a rendering of this beautiful cover art on a finely printed vinyl jacket sometime in the not-so-distant future.

Chris/クリスさん(@matakondone)がシェアした投稿 -
My other pickup needs little introduction: the first Cowboy Bebop soundtrack. I thought twice about picking it up because there wasn't an obi but couldn't complain about the price. I seldom see any of them in stores and always try to pick them up when I have the chance. If only I could find Blue for a good price--I used to own a pirated copy of it way back when.

Long live book-off

Saturday, September 29, 2018

On the Beach with Hosono, Ohnuki, Shigeru / Questlove and Reiko Kashiwagi

I've been toning down my record shop excursions but this week I decided to go back to a store in Osu called Hi-Fi-do to get a record I've been looking for forever. 

Everyone knows Questlove, drummer for The Roots, and I really enjoy his seemingly endless amount of knowledge on all things music that he brings to his social media accounts...not to mention his unparalleled drumming talent. Some time ago he shuffled through tons of records in his collection via Instagram's story feature and one of them caught my eye because it seemed to be from a Japanese artist. This was Reiko Kashiwagi's "Dream of Dream," and I took a screen shot to look up the album later; I liked what I heard, and so did Questlove. Tracking it down was way too difficult though and ironically, this Japanese album was pretty hard to find here (discogs, for example, has a dozen copies but none are from Japan!) and the album never appeared in online searches. I had given up until I saw it at Hi-Fi-do last month but passed it up at the time, only to regret it when someone linked a track from the album and I heard it again and fell in love. 

Thankfully, it was still there when I returned. The LP is in beautiful shape and didn't cost too much, but I generally try to wait things out since prices at Hi-Fi-do tend to be on the high side for some records, especially more common ones. On the other hand, they are usually pretty immaculate and come in one of those sleeves I like without the sticky adhesive stuff. 

The album is pretty neat and features both originals and covers by Kashiwagi on this behemoth looking "home"(really???) use organ by Yamaha called the Electone. These things were apparently powerhouses at making music at the time, and you can tell that some of this stuff was probably state of the art at the time by listening to some of the tracks, all done by Kashiwagi herself with minimal participation by other musicians. She was somewhat of a virtuoso at this thing and won a few of the worldwide contests held for it in Japan, and her work on this album is just one of many that has her working with this amazing instrument.

The focus of the record is primarily to show off the synth sounds of the Electone and they are presented with a smooth jazz accompaniment. Think of those background tracks that play while wandering around a city or into a clinic during your favorite Playstation 1 RPG. If that's the stuff you live for then this is just your thing. 
On the other hand, this might not be your thing if you can't really groove with the Electone's overall sound. I myself sometimes get a kind of dated vibe from it that sounds vaguely reminds me of the slapped together MIDI compositions that play at the supermarket. I mean, not that bad. But I imagine if you worked at a supermarket and heard this kind of music everyday during your 6-hour shift you would probably want to avoid Ms. Kashiwagi's records at all cost. 

My intent was to be in and out with "Dream of Dream," and if it had already been bought then maybe I would pick up something in exchange, but I couldn't help but walk up with a second LP in my hands. Just as I was ready to leave I leafed through the last stack of V/A records and was shocked to see "On the Beach," a compilation album I never thought I'd ever see in my collection. 

Actually, I almost picked this up before and was sad I didn't. A local record shop in Okinawa posted a photo that declared they had stocked a copy for 650yen while I was visiting the island but I never made it up to the store to check. I hadn't seen it show up online for a reasonable price either, so I thought this was the last I'd seen it...but Hi-Fi-do is always full of surprises, making it worth a stop in once in a while. Even if the copy was a rental record, I thought that paying 900yen was a steal. 

The names on the A-side of the record should make it an easy sell: Taeko Ohnuki, Haruomi Hosono, and Shigeru Suzuki are powerhouses in 70s and 80s Japanese music. Unfortunately, this album itself isn't really an amazing masterpiece in itself and is really just a mixtape with a really well designed cover that features some great tracks with waves in between each of them. That's really all there is to it, so I wouldn't really suggest paying an outrageous price for this one even if it does look great on display.