Japanese Jazz-Funk-Fusion for Hangovers

July 16th, 2017

I’m wicked hungover and have to be at work in three hours. Let’s chill out.

Yukata Mogi
Die Deustche Ideologie
Flight Information
Near Miss
Telstar (Single Edit)
Yukata Mogi was a keyboardist for the Japanese progressive rock band Yonin Bayashi, who released several albums in the 70s and into the 80s. They’re really good. I highly recommend their 1974 album Ishoku-Sokuhatsu, as well as Neo-N, which came out in 1979. That one is actually my favorite of theirs that I’ve heard so far, due to its combination of prog-rock and new wave. And I don’t mean Yes “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” new wave, this album is much more aggressive. I suspect it was influenced by Ryuichi Sakamoto’s 1,000 Knives and other experimental stuff from the time.  It even has a bit of a Philip Glass vibe. These dudes should’ve collaborated with Polyrock.

Mogi is the keyboardist on that album. I believe it was his only collaboration with the group. I dug the record so much, especially his work on it, that I tracked down his 1980 solo record Flight Information, hoping for more of the same.

The album, it turns out, is nothing like Neo-N, and is a much more laid-back and jazzy affair. Not all of it is my cup of tea, but I do dig a few of the songs, which are the ones I’m sharing today.

Also up there is his cover of The Tornados’ “Telstar.” This song is on Flight Information, but that version segues into another track. However, the song was also released as the b-side to to the single “Sky-Love.” For that release, a different mix was created with a modified ending, allowing for it to be played on its own. That’s the version I’m including here.

I think that Mogi passed away a few years back, and sadly his discography is rather sparse. He released a covers album in the late 70s that includes a radical cover of “Magical Mystery Tour.” If I can track down that bad boy I’ll share it here for sure.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to drink all the tea and take a 30 minute shower.

Continuing to fret over the remote possibility of nuclear war with help from The KLF

July 7th, 2017

Every time I buy one of these North Korea launches a missile. I’m sorry.

The KLF
What Time Is Love? (live at Trancentral/7″ radio edit)
What Time Is Love? (The KLF vs. The Moody Boys)
What Time Is Love? (The 1988 Pure Trance original)
3 A.M. Eternal (live at the S.S.L./7″ Radio Freedom edit)
3 A.M. Eternal (Guns of Mu Mu/12″ edit)
3 A.M. Eternal (1989 “Break for Love” mix/original Pure Trance mix)
Last Train to Trancentral (live From the Lost Continent/7″ radio edit)
Last Train to Trancentral (The Iron Horse/12″ version)
Last Train to Trancentral (The White Room version/import LP version)
Last Train to Trancentral (The 1989 Pure Trance original)

I’m writing this post before I even finish listening to the box set because it’s not like I’m going to hear one of these tracks, dislike it, and then decide not to share it. More epic KLF.

I don’t have much to say about these tracks (because they’re great and you should listen to them) so I thought I would use this space to plug the store that I bought the box set from. It’s called Shop Mecano and it’s located inside the Nakano Broadway shopping mall in Nakano. If you like my blog then you’d probably go apeshit in this shop, it’s dedicated almost entirely to electronic and new wave music from the late 70s to today, with a heavy bias towards anything influenced by Kraftwerk. The dude who runs this shop loves Kraftwerk more than you love Kraftwerk. For real. I’m pretty sure he actually wrote the liner notes for the Japanese re-issues of Kraftwerk’s back catalog a few years back. Dude is hardcore.

This store has all kinds of amazing stuff, from rare and hard-to-find imports of releases from western acts like Art Of Noise and Depeche Mode, to what seems like an endless supply of YMO and YMO-related music. This store is straight-up dangerous to my wallet, I’ve probably spent more here than I have at any other store in the greater Tokyo area. It gets the Lost Turntable seal of approval to the max. I’m not saying you should make your way to Tokyo just to go to this store, but if you made your way to Tokyo just to go to this store I certainly wouldn’t judge you for doing so.

And in case you’re wondering, you can find part II of this set here.

Towa Power

June 25th, 2017

I’ve been trying to write a lot more lately and I think the results have been relatively good. Over at my other site you can find a goofy little write-up about a strange Japanese arcade game, as well as a piece about a game music DJ set that I went to.  I don’t often say this, but I’m kinda sorta proud of the latter piece and I think it covers something more people should know about, so if you read it and like it, please feel free to share it with your friends via your social media platform of choice. More people need to know about dope underground game music DJ shows in Tokyo.

Towa Tei
Butterfly (Extended)
Moth (DJ Die & Suv Remix)
“Butterfly” is a track from Towa’s 1999 album Last Century Modern, which is a great album I recommend checking out if you like 90s electronic music, very drum and bass in parts, but it still keeps some of that Towa lounge sound that he’s known so well for. “Butterfly” is a standout track from the album, I think it was a single first. It’s definitely an example of Towa incorporating the Shibuya Kei lounge music sound into a more upbeat and modern context. A really fun and upbeat track. “Moth” is the B-side remix, which makes me hope that somewhere there’s a cassette only remix of the track called “Pupa” or “Caterpillar” or something. I do have some more remixes of “Butterfly,” but they’re on an album I plan on sharing in its entirety on a later date so they’ll have to wait for now, sorry. These two mixes came from a 12″ single. That single also came with a stupid poster. Look.

Freakpower
No Way (Full Mix)
No Way (Norman’s Club Mix)
No Way (Dee Joy Delite Mix)
Pro-tip for anyone out there collecting obscure dance singles from the mid-to-late-90s (I can’t be the only one, right?). If you see the name “Norman” on it anywhere, that Norman is probably Norman Cook aka Fatboy Slim. That’s certainly the case with this one. Freakpower is one in a long line of Fatboy Slim aliases and collaborative acts, which also included Cheeky Boy, Pizza Man and Yum Yum Head Food. The next time you think that Fatboy Slim is a dumb name, keep those other possibilities in mind.

Freakpower was one of the more prolific aliases for Cook, he actually released two albums as part of the group, one in 1994 and another in 1996. I’ve never heard either of them, but if they’re anything like “No Way” I highly suspect they sound like Fatboy Slim albums.

 

YMOh Yeah

June 22nd, 2017

Yellow Magic Orchestra
Technopolis (M.S.T. Mix)
Rydeen (Beat Sonic Mix)
Behind The Mask (Live at A&M Chaplin Memorial Studio 7th Nov 80)
I don’t know if the information regarding when and where that version of “Behind The Mask” was recorded is right. Let me explain.

A few weeks ago I picked up YMO Giga Capsule, a special edition DVD featuring live and rare YMO performances. This is not the same as YMO Giga Clips. That’s a different DVD that focused more on TV show performances and music videos. Giga Capsule is a bigger affair, mostly because it’s a two-sided disc. One side is your standard DVD video and features a nice selection of YMO live footage from various concert videos (all of which are annoyingly out-of-print right now). It’s great, but nothing out-of-the-ordinary.

The other side is what’s special, a unique digital experience full of behind-the-scenes footage, interviews, outtakes and more. Of course, that’s what I’ve gathered from reading about it online. That’s because I can’t get the fucking disc to work on my computer. I think the thing will only work using an old 32bit version of Quicktime that is no longer available and doesn’t work on modern 64-bit machines. If anyone does know anything about getting this thing to work on a new PC, hit me up.

Even though I can’t run the disc’s program proper, I can browse the file directories, which led me to some interesting discoveries. Rather amazingly, this one DVD contains YMO’s complete studio discography, as well as the Live At Kinokuniya Hall album. They’re AIFF files, but they all sound pretty good save for the live album, which is blown out for some reason. Anyone with a bit of technical skill could rip all these files off the disc, easily convert them to MP3, and then have every single YMO record on their hard drive! That kind of thing would never happen today.

There are a lot of other random audio files on this disc. Apparently, somewhere on it are the raw instrumental tracks for several songs. Tried my best, but I couldn’t find them. What I could find was this live version of “Behind The Mask.” I got the information behind its source via the disc’s Discogs page. It could be completely wrong, I have no way of checking. I think I just wrote more words in English about this disc than anyone in the history of the internet. If I’m wrong, please inform me with the correct information.

As for the remixes, they’re from a bizarre remix compilation (pictured above) that features remixes of YMO tracks as well as YMO-associates Sandii, Snakeman Show and Melon. As remixes of YMO go, these are some of the better ones I’ve heard. However, as you may know if you read my multi-part guide to the YMO discography, that’s really not saying all that much. Nearly every YMO remix is complete garbage, even the ones by prominent electronic artists like The Orb. I think it’s because YMO are, at heart, a pop band, and the majority of their remixes have been done by artists looking to make the music more like whatever dance music trend is hip at the time. That just doesn’t work.

Like I said though, these aren’t atrocious. And if you’ve ever wondered what YMO might sound like if they were a mid-90s hardcore house act, well then you are in luck tonight!

Barbarians and Slap Bass

June 21st, 2017

Guin Saga – Seven Mage Doctors (グインサーガ 七人の魔道師)

I have a lot of soundtracks to anime I have never seen. But they don’t hold a candle to the number of soundtracks I have to manga I’ve never read.

That’s right, soundtracks to manga.

In yet another example of how crazy a bubble economy can get, there were scores of soundtracks to manga in the mid-80s in Japan. Many of these were official releases sanctioned by the publishers, while a few were not 100% up-and-up affairs. You can always tell which ones were vaguely unofficial because they didn’t use any licensed artwork from the series, instead opting for abstract graphic designs. This is what an overwhelming number of the Synthesizer Fantasy albums do, which is one of the many reasons why they’re so dope.

From what I’ve noticed through my casual observations shifting through record store racks, a lot of yaoi (teen gay-themed romances written for straight girls) were given soundtrack releases. I haven’t bought any of them, mostly because I absolutely abhor the artistic style on the covers, far too flowery and fruity for this flower-loving fruit. I will probably pick some up eventually though, especially the ones by my favortie manga/anime synthesizer composer, Osamu Shoji.

One series that is not of the hot teenage manlove variety that I often see in the soundtrack section is Guin Saga, which is a long (long) running novel and manga series about a mysterious leopard-masked warrior who doesn’t hesitate to throw down when the time calls. There is an anime of this series now, and that anime has a soundtrack. I have not seen that anime, nor have I listened to that soundtrack. But no matter how good it is, it can’t hold a candle to the Guin Saga album I have.

Guin Saga 〜辺境篇〜 (roughly translated as Seven Mage Doctors, I think) is an all-synthesizer album much like the Digital Trip/Synthesizer Fantasy albums that I love. However, it is much more lush and varied than many of those albums are. That doesn’t have anything to do with the composer, Goro Ohmi composed many Synthesizer Fantasy albums as well as this record (and several other in the Guin Saga series), so I assume it must’ve been a stylistic choice. Whatever the reason, it certainly works this album. Guin Saga is a big adventure story filled with magic, monsters and barbarians, it needs a big sound, and this album sure as hell delivers.

The opening is very stereotypical synth, with an obvious synthesizer melody and mechanical drumbeat. But as the album progresses, Ohmi takes more liberties with his instruments at hand, delivering us synthesized string arrangements, echoing chimes and faux-choral accompaniment. It even becomes less like a collection of songs and more like a proper score at times, with ambient, moody pieces filling out a good chunk of the record.

One thing that really strikes me about the album is how much it sounds like the game music that would come in the following decade. While the SNES couldn’t have featured instrumentation as lush and involved as this, it has a similar vibe. If you told me that some tracks from this album were cut from a proposed Actraiser soundtrack, I’d believe you. I can’t really place why, it just feels right. Maybe its the rad synth slap bass. SNES tracks were all about the synth slap bass and this album is just overflowing with it.

If you’ve never heard of Guin Saga or Goro Ohmi, don’t let that discourage you from giving this album a test run. Anyone who is a fan of instrumental electronic music of the 80s should certainly check it out.

Another Diva Post

June 18th, 2017

Coming here for game music? You’re in luck! I finally posted some. But it’s not here, it’s over on my other blog. Check it!

In other news, I decided to get back on Instagram. I figured the social media platform known more for random pictures of food is probably better for me than the one known for spreading Neo-Nazi hategroups. You can find me at LostTurntable. I mostly post pics of records (shocking I know) but I also put up pictures of flowers and the occasionally weird/funny/pretty thing I see in Tokyo. If you’re ever aching for sneak previews of what I’ll be posting here, that’s a good place to check as well.

I’ve  been posting a lot of avant-garde and Moog-centric nonsense as of late. How about some disco?

Diana Ross
Love Hangover (Tribal Hangover)
Upside Down (93 Remix)
Upside Down (Dub 2)
Someday We’ll Be Together (93 Remix)
You ever notice how most good Nile Rodgers tracks kind of sound the same? You ever notice how that’s not a problem at all because they’re all dope as fuck?

These are all from the 12″ single to “Chain Reaction.” I didn’t include the mix of that track, as it’s on one of Diana’s greatest hits albums and easily available. All of these remixes are still unavailable outside of this single. The highlight of the bunch is that “93 Remix” of “Upside Down,” an eight-minute extension of the disco track that is just more (but not too much) of a good thing. Although I think that the part where they cut up her voice so she says “up up down up up down” is kind of strange. It sounds like she’s trying to dictate the Konami code or something. Still, a great mix.

The remix of “Someday We’ll Be Together” isn’t all that bad as much as it is entirely unnecessary. The original version features a musical accompaniment by The Funk Brothers and the Detroit Symphonic Orchestra, supplementing their instrumentation with a 90s house beat just seems wrong.

Madonna
Celebration (Oakenfold Remix)
Celebration (Benny Benassi Dub)
Celebration (Johnny Vicious Club Remix)
Celebration (Oakenfold Remix Dub)
Edit: Apparently I posted these a few months back? Oh well.

I still have…one second, let me go count…51 or so rare Madonna remixes I need to get around to posting here, so I figured I should get on that. I found myself in a dirge of Madonna about two years ago when a local record shop had a massive Madonna 12″ single sale. I don’t even remember how many singles I bought that day, too many probably. I know I didn’t need that 2×12″ remix single of her cover of “American Pie,” that’s for sure.

While “Celebration” isn’t A-grade Madonna, it’s certainly better than that.

The 2×12″ single from which I ripped these also had a pair of Benny Benassi remixes that I’m not including here as they are currently in print and available on most digital music storefronts.

Golgo 13 Jams

June 16th, 2017

Golgo 13 Original Soundtrack
My father owned a video store until the late-90s. Around 1994 or so, he started to carry a lot of anime. The section was instantly popular with many of the high school kids in the area as he was the only store that dealt with it. All the other stores in the area were chain stores that didn’t even bother with the stuff.

I still remember that first batch he got in, stuff like Akira (of course), Wicked City, Riding Beam, and this – the first animated movie based on the Golgo 13 manga.

I, being about 13 at the time and entirely ignorant of manga as a whole, had no idea that the movie was based on the manga. I didn’t even know that the manga existed. Instead, I assumed the movie was based on the NES video game, which I played the shit out of when I was much younger. I loved that game, even though it was punishingly hard and disgustingly unfair. That didn’t stop me from playing it for hours on end. Shit, I even played the sequel and managed to somehow nearly beat it.

1994 me hadn’t played the game in a while, but I still loved it, so I jumped at the chance to watch a movie that I assumed was based on it. I snagged it from my dad’s store the second I saw it and popped it in on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

My mother was very displeased with the somewhat graphic nudity early on, but I recall her rolling her eyes and letting me continue to watch it. My mom is dope like that.

To be honest, I don’t remember much of the film. Reading the plot description on wiki, only snippets come back to me. The (disgustingly misogynistic) ending does ring a bell, but the rest of it is a blur. I certainly didn’t recall the soundtrack when I picked it up a few months back. I bought it mostly for nostalgic reverence for the video game, and the super dope cover.

I’m glad I picked it up though, because it’s pretty damn rad. The movie came out in 1983, but if the soundtrack is any indication, disco was still the hottest latest in Japan. The main theme is very disco, as are many of the instrumental numbers that accompany it. One thing that does surprise me is that it’s a predominately analog affair. While some dope keyboard riffs do pop up from now and then, the entire thing sounds very organic, more like mid-70s disco than the more electronic-influenced dance music that was popular in Japan at the time. It still sounds great though.

The composer is Toshiyuki Kimori, who worked on several other anime films in the 80s, including Dirty Pair and Arcadia of my Youth. He also released a Super Mario Bros. covers album in 1986. That goes for a pretty penny online, but I can entirely see myself caving and buying it in the relatively near future. I have no willpower for such things.

This soundtrack was only released once, in 1983, and appears to have been out of print ever since. The seller offering the sole copy available on Discogs is asking over $70 for it, which is about how much the last copy went for on the site. Happy that I found mine for less than $20! Living in Japan has so many perks.

Enjoy the assassination jams.

Moog – The Final Frontier

June 11th, 2017

Welcome Retronauts listeners who are discovering this blog for the first time thanks to my recent appearance on that show. It was a lot of fun to be back after a long hiatus from it!

I do occasionally post game music here. I’ll probably be sharing some in the coming week or so. A good one too, something extra bizarre, so hold tight on for that. In the meantime, be sure to check out my other site, Mostly-Retro.com. I post a lot more gaming and Japan-related stuff there.

In the meantime, here’s an obscure album of synthesizer covers. Y’know, the hottest latest.

E-Project – Synthesizer Trek
The liner notes on this release don’t have a lot of details regarding who E-Project exactly is. But from digging around on the internet I discovered that E-Project is a duo comprised of Susumu Hirasawa and Takashi Kokubo. At least, that’s what a random website said.

It would certainly make sense though. Hirasawa is an incredibly influential and eclectic musician. He’s best known in Japan for his work with P-Model, an amazing group that did a bit of everything from prog rock to new wave synthpop, but he also has an extensive solo discography that I’ve been meaning to dive into a bit more.

Takashi Kokubo has also been around. He was in a prog rock act called Ring, but I don’t know anything about them. What I do know is that after this album was released in 1980 he started pumping out the amazing Synthesizer Fantasy anime/manga “soundtrack” LPs that I often mention here. He put out 10 of those bad boys in a scant three years. I own half and I can personally attest to how utterly amazing they are. Fucking rad shit even if you don’t give a shit about the anime they originate from (I certainly don’t). He also released a Bach covers album called Digital Bach, which I have, and I’m certain I’ll share here at some point.

Anyways, unlike a lot of the other synthesizer albums I’ve featured here recently, this one is almost entirely focused on newer (at the time) compositions, specifically it focuses on themes and songs from big sci-fi epics. That means you get synthesized covers of the Star Trek and Star Wars themes, as well as all-electronic takes on tunes from Close Encounters, Black Hole and even Alien. The main theme from 2001 is also included, because how couldn’t it be. Also along for the ride is the original track “Intergalactic Journey,” and “Night Flight,” a cover of an obscure song I’ve never heard of.

My favorite number on the album is the batshit interpretation of the Star Trek theme. It incorporates this wacky, weird synthesizer springy effect into the mix. Sounds like noises you’d hear if you came across Q-Bert fucking or something.

Sorry for that mental picture.

Please enjoy. And if you’re interested to find out what synthesizers were used on this album, you’re in luck, they listed them all.

Holy shit.

MORE FUNK AND MORE TURTLENECKS

June 10th, 2017

The era of Prolific James (that’s me) continues. Over on that other site I have for some reason, I wrote about an awesome Mario Paint instructional video that I finally managed to get uploaded to YouTube. I also put together a rambling piece about my musical tastes and how they’ve changed over the years (save for my hatred of Steve Winwood). Check them out if you’d like.

And since I’ll probably have a few more readers than normal reading this post in the coming days thanks to my upcoming appearance on Retronauts, I’d like to share this post I wrote about a sexual I.Q. test on vinyl. Apropos of nothing, I just really like one and want more people to read it!

Anyway, bicoastal keyboards ahoy!

Electro Keyboard Orchestra
The Heated Point
The Iron Side
You probably don’t know this (because why the hell would you) but Japan has its own series of exclusive releases for Record Store Day. Almost all of them are of Japanese acts, which makes sense – because it’s Japan. This year did feature on Todd Rundgren seven inch single though, which is way more Japanese than any Japanese release (Japan loves the Runt).

Of the Japan-exclusive titles, I only bought two. One was an electro covers album of Sly Stone tracks.

It’s weird.

The other was this, a seven-inch single featuring a pair of tracks from a 1975 space-rock/funk/jazz instrumental keyboard outfit  that featured Yuji Ohno, who’s best known for his work on the Lupin series.

Why they just didn’t repress the original LP in full is beyond me, but I’ll take what I can get. These tracks are uberdope. Dope as a mother. Dopest shit. They’re dope.

There was some primo-synthsized funk coming out of Japan in the mid-70s that really embraced the electronic sound of early synthesizers and combined it with vintage funk grooves of acts like Sly Stone. Any random 70s Japanese funk track I’ve heard could have easily served as the soundtrack to a high speed car chase featuring Steve McQueen and/or a Dodge Charger.  One day I will compile a Nuggets-style compilation of pre-synthpop Japanese electronic music. Until that day, enjoy this taste. These tracks are my everything right now.

Pet Shop Boys
Yesterday, When I Was Mad (Jam & Spoon Mix)
Yesterday, When I Was Mad (Junior Vasquez Fabulous Dub)
Yesterday, When I Was Mad (Raf Zone Mix)
I have now posted every single Pet Shop Boys remix in my collection. As Pet Shop Boys singles are a bit harder to come by here (and I already have most of the ones I do stumble upon), don’t expect another post filled with remixes of PSB classics anytime soon. Longtime readers of this site (shout out to both of you) probably remember when this site was almost nothing but Pet Shop Boys (and New Order/Depeche Mode) remixes. Seems so long ago, because it was. I still can’t believe I’ve been doing this thing for over ten freaking years.

I hope to continue this prolific streak of mine for at least a few more weeks. Hopefully expect more posts than usual. Sorry if they’re all covering strange Moog records from the mid-70s. Actually, I’m not that sorry about that. But I thought I’d give a heads up.

Stay sane out there.

Giga YMO (We need to use giga more, it’s a good word)

June 9th, 2017

I was previously lamenting about my analog-to-digital struggles. But you know what’s dope and super-easy? Converting one form of digital file to another. I used to write for eHow and thanks to that, I know how to convert anything to anything. Seriously, got a RealVideo file you want to convert to ogg vorbis? I got you covered.

These files are not in ogg vorbis I swear. I’m not a lunatic.

Yellow Magic Orchestra
Cosmic Surfin’ (Live)
Rydeen (Live At Hurrah)
Behind The Mask (Live At Hurrah)
Day Tripper (Live At Hurrah)
Ongaku (Live)
Expecting Rivers (Live)
Cosmic Surfin- (Live 2nd Version)
Technopolis (Live On Japanese TV)
Rydeen (Live On Japanese TV)
Kageki Na Shukujo (Live On Japanese TV)
Riot In Lagos (Live YMO Special)
Solid State Survivor (Live YMO Special)
Rydeen (Live YMO Special)
An item on my holy grail watch-list for some time had been the YMO Giga Clips DVD. This video compiles not only all of YMO’s various music videos, but also features a slew of live performances from various concerts and Japanese TV appearances. I would occasionally see it in stores used, but usually for prices close to $100.

Thankfully, I stumbled upon a heavily discounted copy in Kichijoji last week. It was lacking the original booklet, kind of a big deal here, so it was priced to move. I paid less than a third of it’s usual price. That’s pretty amazing.

The above files are MP3 rips of all the non-album versions that are on the disc. So, none of these are music video rips as those are just the album versions.. I also didn’t include tracks that are also available on live CDs. Not for ethical reasons (those CDs are long out of print) but because the versions on the CDs are of higher quality. I also skipped a few TV performances that appeared to be mostly lip-synced, because what’s the point.

As my copy doesn’t have the booklet, I don’t know all the details behind all of these tracks, I don’t have that information. I do know that the “Live At Hurrah” tracks are a 1979 performance at the Hurrah in New York City.

The YMO Special tracks are from a….YMO Special (shocking I know) that aired on Japanese TV in 1983. That special also featured some behind-the-scenes stuff and interviews. That stuff isn’t on Giga Clips, but you do a search for “YMO Special” on YouTube you can find VHS rips of it rather easily.

“Ongaku” and “Expecting Rivers” are from a concert video. I think they’re from the band’s 1983 Budokan performance. That lines up with their wardrobe/instrument set-up in the video. That concert was released on laserdisc only. Which means I’m going to have to buy another Laserdisc player at some point. That makes me angry and sad.

I have absolutely no clue as to where the second version of “Cosmic Surfin'” is from. It appears to be taken from the same tour as the Hurrah show, however.

The remaining clips are all Japanese TV shows. Again, I don’t know which ones because, no booklet.