Archive for the ‘Yukihiro Takahashi’ Category

Radio Junk and Other Garbage To Distract You

Monday, March 13th, 2017

I just finished the latest chapter in my ever-growing guide to Yellow Magic Orchestra. This one covers the side-projects. It was a lot of fun to write so I hope you all check it out when you have the time.

You’ll also need to read it to understand who I’m writing about tonight. I just wrote a few thousand words on these guys, I’m not doing anymore! Go read that and then come back here to enjoy the tunes.

Takahashi/Jansen
Memory Without Consequence
Memory without Consequence (Extra Polated Mix) [Remixed by Reflection]
Memory without Consequence (Reflection Confused Bits) [Remixed by Reflection]
These tracks are from the Takahashi/Jansen releases that came out in the late 90s, PulseXPulse, and its remix record. I actually put off buying these for a long time because I just assumed they weren’t very good. Takahashi’s first collaboration with Steve Jansen was back in the 80s, and it was a three-song EP of boring sonic wallpaper that I forgot as soon as I finished listening to it. I just figured their later effort was more of the same. Now I’m wishing I had bought them much sooner. While neither are gobsmackingly great, both are very good records that feature some great, hella catchy tunes. Of them, “Memory Without Consequence,” and its remixes are also great, although they have very little to do with the source material.

Metafive
La Femme Chinoise [Live]
Radio Junk [Live]
I cannot possibly express how much I like Metafive and how much I highly recommend all of you pick up their self-titled studio debut, which came out last year.

But that wasn’t their first album. The group actually started as a live project, one that was almost solely dedicated to playing previously recorded Yukihiro Takahashi tracks. They must’ve meshed well enough on the tour to go into the studio.  Whatever the reason, I’m glad it happened. Like I said, that album is wonderful, such a perfect synthpop record. You can also buy it in America on iTunes! So please go do that!  You can’t find their live albums there though, which gives me a good excuse to share a few tracks from those albums tonight.

Like I said, their first live album is comprised almost entirely of Takahashi material, and mostly his solo work. Most of the YMO tracks they do perform aren’t the big tracks, and are instead album cuts or lesser known cuts like “Cue” or “Ballet.” The only big number from his YMO days that they do pull out is “La Femme Chinoise,” and that’s probably because he wrote it. Although he also is the sole songwriter for “Rydeen” and they didn’t play that live, so what do I know.

After their first studio album came out, their live shows shifted gears to feature, not surprisingly, material from that record. But on Metalive, the live album documenting that tour, they still threw in one cover from Takahashi’s past, and I couldn’t be happier with the one they chose – “Radio Junk.”

“Radio Junk” is my favorite YMO song, although technically speaking, “Radio Junk” isn’t even a YMO song. It’s a Sheena And The Rokkets track that YMO wrote for them. It’s the “Nothing Compares 2 U” of YMO. A fantastic track that was cast aside and found new life in the arms of another artist. Despite the fact that YMO never released a studio version of the track, they’ve performed it live on multiple occasions during different tours. You can find them performing on several of their live albums, and other live takes have been included on compilation releases. They must have a soft spot for it. Because it’s the greatest song of all time ever.

Okay. Hyperbole. I know, but it’s really fucking great. Such a good combination of punk/new wave and synthpop. So simple, so effective, and with such great lyrics.

“Fill me with radio junk.”

I can’t breathe. I can’t move. I can’t even think. And I don’t to anymore.

“Fill me with radio junk.”

There’s just too much going on. Too much around me. Too much to handle. I need to drown it out.

“Fill me with radio junk.”

It’s all horrible. I know it’s all horrible. And I know I should care more and do more. But I can’t and I won’t because when I try to, it kills me. So pump me full of bubblegum pop, hair metal, and cheesy love songs. Make me forget. Make it all go away. Make it better.

“Fill me with radio junk.”

Friends Of Earth (FOE)
Total Eclipse
I think I might’ve downplayed how weird this group was in my guide. Because they’re really freaking weird. Maybe the awfulness of their hip-hop blinded me to the overall weirdness of the rest of their tracks. I said that this track was beautiful, and it is, but it’s also damned strange. Mostly because of the samples. The keyboards here have a very hard to describe effect running through them, kind of like a generic “eastern” sound effect, but run through a flange or something. They really set the song apart. I wish I was a better writer so I could describe it in more detail.

But for me, what really makes the song are the haunting, wordless vocalizing by Koshi Miharu. Her voice is just ungodly great. While I’ve had some of her albums for the past few years, I’ve only recently really begun to dig into her back catalog, and so far everything I’ve found has been amazing. Her range (both vocally and stylistically) is just completely incomparable to anyone else, both in Japan and in the West. She’ll definitely be a large focus on the next part of my YMO guide, which focuses on the greatest and most interesting of their associates.

You think Prince had a lot of disciples and proteges? He had nothing compared to the guys in YMO.

BONUS TRACKS
Radio Junk (Live At Budokan 1980) – Yellow Magic Orchestra
Radio Junk – Sheena And The Rokkets
Radio Junk – Yukihiro Takahashi 
Fill me with Radio Junk!

YMOMG

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015

 

I recently bought a 3CD set entitled イエローマジック歌謡曲, which according to my boyfriend translates to Yellow Magic Popular Music. It’s a compilation from a few years back that collects various pop tracks from the 70s and 80s that members of Yellow Magic Orchestra were involved with in some degree or another.

With 55 songs in total, it’s all over the place tonally, and includes everything from 80s J-pop, experimental electronic music and even some traditional Enka tunes. It’s a weird collection, and while it is a little uneven at times, I’m still incredibly happy that I was able to find a copy (and a cheap one at that), as I feel that it’s exposed me to a treasure trove of obscure pop acts from the 80s that I must unearth.

Tonight’s tracks were all taken from said compilation. I hope you enjoy them, especially since I plan on posting a lot more Japanese electronic pop in the coming weeks, from this compilation and elsewhere.

Koharu Kisaragi
Neo-Plant (12″ Version)
On the CD this track is credited solely to Kisaragi, but the truth is that it’s a collaboration between her and Ryuichi Sakamoto, something I could gleam even just by listening to the track. It sounds very similar to many of the best tracks on Sakamoto’s Futurist Bastard, an album that came out the same year. Both are heavily rooted in sampling technology and at times incredibly manic, seemingly drawing upon both the same technological and philosophical influences that The Art Of Noise were pulling from. Neeless to say, if you like Art of Noise or late-era YMO, this track should be right up your alley.

As for the woman who is credited with performing it, I really can’t find out all that much about her. She only released one album, Tokai No Seikatsu, which also came out in 1986. It’s never been re-issued and damn near impossible to find now. I did score a copy online though, and you can do the same here if you’re so inclined. It’s not bad, albeit a little uneven.

Cosmic Invention
Cosmic Surfing
The same blog I linked to above also has a page on this band, which also has a download link to their sole album, which came out in 1981. Outside of the information that page, I can find very little on this group. They were apparently a trio, they worked with Sakamoto at some point, and were able to score a couple hit singles before vanishing in the pop ether. This single, which is not on their album, is a cover of the YMO song of the same name. This was already a poppy tune, the jacked-up production and the cheery vocals make it even more upbeat. I need to add this to my jogging mix.

Susan
Ah! Soka!
サマルカンド大通り
Thanks to her incredibly generic stage name, it’s pretty hard to find information (especially in English) for this one. From what I can gather, mostly from Discogs information and an incredibly sloppy Wiki entry, Susan is a Japanese/French singer-songwriter who worked with YMO’s Yukihiro Takahashi to release two LPs and several singles in the early 80s. Sadly, nothing she ever put out really set Japan on fire, and it would appear that she hasn’t released much since. She does have a webpage, but I don’t think it’s been updated since 2007, so I don’t know if she’s really all that active today.

Too bad though, because these two songs are fantastic. Her voice has a squeaky-yet-haunting quality to it ala Kate Bush, and the fast-paced, energetic production is complex and layered enough to avoid sounding too terribly dated. There was a compilation released in 2005 that collected everything she ever released, I hope I can find that somewhere, I really want to hear more from her.

Yen Memorial Album

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

yen

I’ve written about Yen Records before, but in case you’re just joining us for the first time – Yen Records was a sub-label of Alfa Records, launched in the early-80s by Japanese electronic superstars Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO).

The label pretty much became a clearinghouse for YMO to release music by their friends and colleagues. YMO members Yukihiro Takahashi and Haruomi Hosono often performed on many Yen releases, as did Ryuichi Sakamoto, albiet to a lesser extent.

In 1984, Yen Records founder Kunihiko Murai passed away, and this record is a tribute to him – featuring many exclusive tracks and remixes by a wide variety of Yen artists. It’s a great record, and an excellent summary of the Yen label. I hope you like it.

Yen Artists
God Be With Us Till We Meet Again
Platonic Stochastic
I don’t know who the “Yen Artists” are, but if the rest of this album’s tracklisting is any indication, I suspect that these tracks include all three members of YMO, Tachibana, Koji Ueno and Jun Togawa, among others. The first track is, I think, an adaptation of an old hymn, and it was written by Yukihiro Takahashi and Haruomi Hosono. The second is a very unusual, almost musique conrete, composition that was written by Ueno.

Yellow Magic Orchestra
Rydeen (Remix Version)
I own 27 different versions of “Rydeen,” so I’m fairly confident in saying that this remixed version is exclusive to this album. It’s not all that different than the original cut, it actually comes off more like a single edit with some really random sound effects thrown in, but goddamn if it isn’t a great piece of synthpop.

Hajime Tachibana
Rock (New Recording)
Previous Tachibana I unearthed featured him sounding like Art Of Noise. This has him sounding like Art of Noise meets 80s-electro era Herbie Hancock. Robot vocals! Sweet keyboard riffs! Sequencers! Loving every minute of this.

I bet Daft Punk have this track on vinyl.

Sandii & The Sunsetz
Sticky Music (Remix French Version)
I posted some Sandii stuff a few months back. I’ll probably be deleting those links in a day or so. So if you’re interested in them, check that post out.

Sandii is fucking great though and I love her. So expect more Sandii on Lost Turntable in the near future.

Guernica
Maronie Dokuhon (Remix Version)
Guernica is Kenji Ueno and Jun Togawa. Seperately they released classical piano music, synthpop, prog rock and damn near everyting in between. Combined they sound like some bizarre fusion of opera, cabaret and YMO backing tracks. Like Klaus Nomi? You’ll probably like this.

Miharu Koshi
Petit Paradis (English Version)
One of the many idol-type singers who Haruomi collaborated with during the Yen years. I don’t know how popular she was during her peak, but she’s continued to be incredibly prolific, sometimes going through periods of releasing albums on a near annual basis. This is a cute song, very typical of the kind of stuff that Hosono was releasing with other artists at the time.

Inoyama Land
Pokala (Remix Version)
Inoyama Land were a duo comprised of Makoto Inoue and Yasushi Yamashita. In 1983 they put out their first album, Danzindan-Pojidon, on Yen Records. It’s a pretty great collection of ambient electronica, and if you dig Tangerine Dream, Diskjokke or The Orb, I think you might like it. It’s never been released on CD outside of the super-pricey Yen Box though, so it’s probably a bit hard to find. I’ll probably put it up here someday.

The group also has two other releases, both coming out years later in the late 90s. I think at least one is a compilation of unreleased material. Outside of Inoyama Land both Yamashita and Inoue were members of a group called Hikashu, one of the only Japanese synth-pop acts from the era who don’t seem to have any YMO connections.

Keiichi Ohta
Seean No Kodomoichiba (Remix Version)
This man only released one album, the utterly strange collaborative effort with no English title that is based on an obscure Japanese novel. This track is a remix of a song from that album, and features operatic vocals by Makito Hayashi, who never released anything on her own. The track was written by Keiichi, but was produced by Hosono and Takahashi, and features keys by Koji Ueno, practically making this a YMO track.

Koji Ueno
Adagietto (Remix Version)
Ueno is on so many tracks on this record that it’s nearly an Ueno LP. All this Ueno has left me wanting to know more about him, so I went digging on Discogs. Apparently this man is (or at least was) a goto studio player in Japan, and has appeared on dozens of albums, including many from YMO members and associates. From what I can gather, he’s an accomplished pianist, violinist and bass player – but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s an accomplished marimba, saxophone and flutist as well. Dude seems like the type.

This is a very mellow piece, unlike just about anything else on the album – classical almost. Very relaxing.

Yukihiro Takahashi
It’s Gonna Work Out (Remix Version)
This is a remixed version of a track that appears in its original version on Takahashi’s 1982 album What, Me Worry? Like pretty much all things Takahashi-related from the 80s, it’s pure gold. The more of Takahashi’s solo stuff I hear, the more I think he was the most talented pop musician in YMO. Sure Hosono and Sakamoto may be more technically gifted and diverse than Takahashi, but I’ve never heard pop music by either that’s as good as some of the stuff on Takahashi’s solo records. The man is incredible.

Super Eccentric Theater
Beat The Rap (Remix Version)
Super Eccentric Theater (Or S.E.T.) was a comedy troupe that was on Yen Records. I think I can hear Yukihiro on this track in the chorus.

This is their send-up of rap music.

It’s not funny.

Testpattern
Modern Living (Remix Version)
Testpattern released one album, 1982’s Apres-Midi, which I snagged a while back. I love it, even if they do sound a bit like YMO also-rans with a more mellow, easy-listening sound. This is a remixed version of a track from that album, and it’s better than the album version thanks to some nice added synths.

Jun Togawa
Do Not Renai (New Recording)
The singer of Guernica strikes again, this time with a nice synthpop ballad. This sounds like early Kate Bush. So those with a low tolerance for squeaky vocals may want to proceed with caution.

Interior
Hawks (Remix Version)
Interior put out a couple of records in the early 80s. I have one, and to be honest it’s nothing to write home about. Their instrumental tracks were okay, but whenever they tried to add vocals to the mix they just sounded bland and boring. This is an okay song, but nothing really memorable either.

Tamao Koeike
Kagami No Naka No Jugatsu (Remix Version)
The name may read Tamao Koeike in the LINER notes, but this is a YMO track. They wrote it, and they perform all the instrumentation on it. Koeike is just the singer. And she apparently didn’t really impress anyone at Yen Records, as the single for this track was the only thing she ever released. A shame, as it’s not a bad tune and she has a nice voice.

Haruomi Hosono
Yunemiru Yakusoko (Original Version)
Typical Hosono stuff from the 80s – meaning that it’s really damn good.

Random Selection of Japanese Music

Monday, April 7th, 2014

I wrote a thing about how I was sick for a fucking month. Read that then listen to these rad tunes that I picked up at some local record stores. Or don’t read it and listen to the music. Or read  it and don’t listen to the music. Or don’t read it and don’t listen to the music, turn off your computer and go experience the “real world.”

Fuck it, it’s your life. I can’t tell you what to do.

Hajime Tachibana
Chicken Consommé
One day I’m  just going to cave and post a whole Tachibana album. Until then, here’s another standout track from the manically eclectic artist, this one from his 1985 album Taiyo Sun, which is probably my favorite record of his after Mister Techie & Miss Kipple (although, let’s be honest, that album has a much better name).

Yukihiro Takahashi
My Bright Tomorrow
As I mentioned before, Yukihiro Takahashi is the lead singer of Yellow Magic Orchestra, and one of my favorite musicians on the planet. His 1983 release, Tomorrow’s Just Another Day, isn’t one of my favorites by him (a bit too slow for my tastes) but this song from that album might be one of my favorites. It’s such a wonderfully, beautifully sad song. An amazing ode to wanting for things to be better, hoping for a change while slowly and sadly realizing that it may never come. It’s a heartbreaking but gorgeous tune.

Towa Tei
Sometimes Samurai
Japanese electronic pop + Kylie Minogue = my jam.

Towa Tei was in Deee-Lite in case you’re a fan of gay club music from the 1990s and you’re wondering where you’ve heard that name before.