Archive for the ‘Toru Hatano’ Category

Close Encounters of the Funk Kind

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

Some random covers of the theme from Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.

Because I just somehow accumulated all of these by accident.

I know, I have weird problems.

Hideki Matsutake
Theme From Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
Hideki Matsutake is a genius so it’s not a surprise that his version of the theme takes the most liberties with it, using the technology available to him at the time to really expand and divert upon the original in interesting and fun ways. At times, all this version has in common with the original is the basic melody we all know, using that as a backdrop for some smooth funky jazz. If you removed it, the song would become entirely unrecognizable. Great instrumentation and sound effect choices on here as well.

Electoru Polyphonic Orchestra
Theme From Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
Oh boy, this thing.

So I bought this record on a whim. Mostly for the cover, but also for the tracklist, which includes some severely oddball selections like the themes to “Zero Population Growth,” “Barbarella” and the cult classic, “No Blade Of Grass.” Although that one is spelled as “No Blade of Glass” because English is hard.

Was it worth it? Eh, not really. Humor derived from the cover and poor translations aside, there isn’t much to enjoy here. The covers far too faithful to the original versions. Instead of using the electronic technology to branch out from the originals, I feel like this album goes for mimicry far too often.

There is a bit to like in this cover though, the weird wah-wah bassline at the end is groovy as fuck.

Toru Hatano
Theme From Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
Talked about Toru Hatano last year in my last Star Wars post, so I’m not going to repeat myself. I dig his cover of the theme, even if it’s not all that out-there when compared to some of the others. I really like the effects on the synthesizer in the last minute. Got some good space funk going on there.

Close Encounters
Spectrum was a late-70s/early-80s Japanese funk/disoc/soul/electronic act who released six damn albums in just three years. Most of their stuff that I’ve heard is by-the-numbers disco and funk, with a slight jazz influence. Nothing all that special.

However, their second 1979 album, In The Space, is something else. Half of the record is your standard jazzy pop-funk, but the other half is made up of funky disco covers of sci-fi movie themes. They got Star Wars on here (of course) as well as the above version of the Close Encounters theme, but there are some oddities thrown in as well. There’s the theme to War In Space, a third-rate Star Wars rip-off by Toho, and also a cover to the theme of Space Battleship Yamato. Because holy shit that thing was popular in Japan. A take on “Also Sprach Zarathustra” aka “That song from 2001” is here as well. The best of the bunch is their version of “Close Encounters” though, good disco bounce.

But that’s not the best thing about this album. No, the best thing about the album is the DOPE AS FUCK art inside the gatefold.

Squad goals.

Japanese Versions Of The Star Wars Theme

Friday, May 13th, 2016

The best thing about living in Japan is finding 1970s covers albums of sci-fi films.

Okay, maybe it’s not the best thing, but it’s definitely in the top 10.

Toru Hatano
Star Wars Theme
Toru Hatano (aka Toya Hatano) is somewhat of a minor player in the progressive/jazz/electronic scenes of 1970s Japan. In the early 70s he was a member of the psych-rock band Brush!?, who only released one record as far as I can find. In 1977 he released his solo debut, a soundtrack called Love For You followed a year later by a collection of movie themes performed on synthesizer entitled Space Adventure. Since then, he’s worked behind-the-scenes and runs a company that sells insanely high-end audio cables.

As synth cover collections go, Space Adventure is an odd one, and features not only 70s soundtrack standards like Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and 2001: A Space Odyssey, but also selections from lesser known genre material at the time including Logan’s Run, Capricorn One, Solaris, and even Flesh Gordon (not Flash, Flesh).

It’s not bad, although as someone who has listened to probably over a dozen synth cover albums in his day, there’s not much to make it stand out aside from its slightly oddball song selection. The cover is pretty rad though.


Damn, it looks like they’re constructing the ELO spaceship.

Jun Fukamachi
Theme From Star Wars
One thing that I was surprised to learn about the 1970s music scene in Japan is how intermixed the jazz, funk and electronic music scenes were. Look into the discography of nearly any major guitarist or keyboardist from the era, and you’ll find that he or she probably got their feet wet in all three genres, if not more. Ryuichi Sakamoto’s first release as a collaborative free association jazz album, and both of YMO’s most prominent guitarists, Kenji Omura and Kazumi Watanabe, were accomplished jazz musicians before, during and after their work with the legendary synthpop group.

The same goes for Jun Fukamachi, digging through his back catalog I’ve found everything from J-pop, funk, folk, jazz, experimental avant-garde, synth-pop and pure electronic music. He even worked on a few of those “Digital Trip” anime soundtracks that I wrote about a couple weeks ago. His main focuses seemed to be jazz and funk though, using synthesizers in way that could be compared to the 70s output of Stevie Wonder, much more organically and with other instruments than his purely electronic counterparts.

And if you know anything about live jazz, with its heavy use of improvisation and free-association jamming, is why this live take on the Star Wars theme lasts over seven minutes. It goes places, man.

I’m crediting this to Jun Fukamachi because it’s listed under his discography at Discogs and I found it in among his solo records at the record store, but it’s really a collaborative effort. I think the band itself is called Space Fantasy. In addition to Jun, the group is also made up of Hideki Matsutake (aka Logic System) and the previously mentioned Kenji Omura. Joining them are Hiroki Inui, Shuichi Murakami and Shigeru Okazawa, all of whom have worked on countless albums in Japan as session players. So if you know anything about the jazz scene of Japan in the 70s and 80s, then this is kind of an all-star supergroup jam session.

To be honest, the album as a whole diverges into free-improvisation a bit too much for my liking, but their take on the Star Wars theme the only improvisational jazz/funk version of it I’ve ever heard, so they get points for originality if nothing else.