Vinyl Review: The Adventures Of Kohsuke Kindaichii

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It’s Saturday, which means I’m in HMV minding my own business looking for new wave records.

I got a routine going when I’m not working.

Anyways, so I’m in HMV, browsing the alt rock section when I start to hear some strange 70s mid-tempo disco/funk. It’s cool. I’m grooving to it. Then traditional Japanese instruments start to kick in over it. I’m hearing what sounds like a biwa and a koto mixed in with some radical wah-wah guitar and a groovy bassline. I’m digging it hard.

I decide to buy the record right when the slide whistle and flute kick in.

I’m pretty happy with this purchase.

Allow me to present to you The Adventures of Kohsuke Kindaichi. Originally released in 1975, this is a soundtrack album to a book, which was wildly popular with young Japanese people in the mid-70s. Despite what the album cover depicts, no, the novel is not about a flutist vampire with some slick George McFly hair. It’s a detective drama, although that’s all I can really tell you. However, if it is anything like this soundtrack, then I can only surmise that it is the greatest novel of all time, and the titular detective Kohsuke Kindaichi is the Japanese equivalent of Shaft and Kojack rolled into one.

This is one of the most wholly original albums I have ever bought, a wonderful and amazing amalgamation of two wildly different genres; traditional Japanese music and 70s funk, two genres that are apparently the chocolate and peanut butter of the music world. Who knew that traditional Japanese instruments would go strikingly well with a wah-wah pedal and a nice funky beat. And make no mistake about it, this record brings the funk. It has more funk-per-minute than some classic blaxploitation soundtracks of the era, and the traditional Japanese trimmings serve wonderfully to make it sound just all the more unique.

On top of that crazy cross-genre combination is the strange supernatural vibe that some of the tracks have, thanks largely to the flute and whistle accompaniment on numbers such as “Yatsuhakamura” and the appropriately named  “Devil Blows The Whistle” (although the book itself had no supernatural elements). What’s most impressive about the album’s turns to the macabre is that it still manages to be funky throughout, and never delves into cheese like many other “spooky” records.

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I did some digging as to who was behind this record, and most of the performers are relatively unknown and mostly session musicians. About the only name of note that any westerners might recognize at all would be Kentaro Haneda, who composed the soundtracks to several well-known anime and games, including Wizardry and Ys. Here he plays the keys. Too bad he didn’t pursue his funky side more, he may had been the Japanese Isaac Hayes.

This record does have quite the cult following among vintage funk fans, and I can sure as hell hear why. This is a truly incredible album, and is as great as it is original and surprising. If you like obscure grooves, 70s funk, or just plain weird out-there shit, then you need to track this baby down. The record itself even sounds perfect, my copy played literally flawlessly, without a pop hiss or crackle to be heard.

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So how do you find this record? Well, if you’re like me and you live in Tokyo, then I recommend making a trip to the HMV in Shibuya. They had at least a dozen in stock last I checked. It’s a brand new re-pressing that just came out this month as well, so they should all be just a great sounding as mine.

If you can’t go that route, I did some digging and you can find them online via Discogs or occasionally eBay as well, and usually under $50. Considering that only 500 copies of this recent re-issue were made, that’s a good price. This has been issued on CD and LP in the past, however, so if you really want to find a copy and can’t get your hands on this new edition, I suspect you could probably dig one up online. I’m usually not one to condone piracy of legally available material, but there are only 500 of these in the world, and most are in Japan. I’m sympathetic.

Whatever you do, just listen to the damn thing. Japanese horror funk. It’s the the latest hottest.

3 Responses to Vinyl Review: The Adventures Of Kohsuke Kindaichii

  • Brian says:

    Firsty, I want to thank you for turning me onto this amazing record. If I hadn’t stumbled across your webpage I may have gone the rest of my life without it. I found a copy on Discogs, shipping from Germany, however it seems to be possibly a different release from yours: Released on the ‘Chat Noir’ label, and with a second disc of bonus tracks. Limited edition of 300. I’m wondering if there are two 2015 reissues now- one European and one Japanese.

  • Anja K. says:

    Wow, based on the linked clip, this is seriously amazing stuff! I might have to track this down ASAP.

  • Brilliant record! Thanks James.

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