Music

YMO 101: The Protégés, Associates and Etc.

This is part six of my guide to Yellow Magic Orchestra.
Part 1: The Studio Albums
Part 2: The Live Albums
Part 3: The Compilations and Remix Records
Part 4: The Solo Records
Part 5: Pre-cursors and Side Projects

Yellow Magic Orchestra were a lot like Prince, (except less purple and horny – and I assume taller): they used their success as a means to launch a near-endless cavalcade of proteges, pop starlets, and associates into the the mainstream (or at least try). They even launched their own vanity label, Yen Records, the logo of which is featured above.

I couldn’t possibly write about every single artist that YMO was associated with, that would take far too long (and this ran long as it is). Instead, this focuses on acts who I found noteworthy in one way or another. Either they had impressively long discographies, a strong connection with someone in YMO, were a substantial success in Japan, or were just damn good.

Of course, this list is entirely subjective, so if you think I left out an act worth mentioning, please tell me about them in the comments!    Continue reading

Are Tapes Really “Big In Japan”?

Yesterday I was in one of my favorite record shops here in Japan, a wonderful little store in Nakano called Shop Mecano. It’s a store dedicated to new wave, synthpop and electronic music – all things that are right up my ally. His stock is pretty evenly split between CDs and LPs, although I suspect that the majority of his business is CD sales, as that inventory seems to cycle a hell of a lot more frequently than his LP supply.

One thing I never saw in his store was cassette tapes, that was, until yesterday, when I saw a sole copy of Kraftwerk’s The Mix up against the wall, ready to go to someone’s home for the low price of 2,000 yen (about $20). I told the owner that he should mark this up, as cassette tapes are big in Japan now – riding a huge comeback at the moment. With a look that I can only describe as “incredulous incredulousness” he scoffed at that suggestion outright, saying, almost with disdain that the cassette tape revival is “fake.”

I asked if he meant “fad.” But now, he was insistent on his usage of “fake.”

“No one is buying those,” he said with assurance. Continue reading

Tales Of Woe And Analog-To-Digital Conversion: Turntable Edition

Since appearing on Retronauts for the second time, I’ve discovered that a few people hold me in high regard as an audio expert/audiophile. I don’t know if that’s a fair portrayal of me and my expertise regarding audio equipment, but that sure is nice of people to think so. But on nights like tonight I feel like they sure as hell shouldn’t.

I tend to get a little obsessive about my turntable when things aren’t going right. Well, to quote an ex, I get “kind of scary and weird.” And I suppose that this instance is no exception. Continue reading

I Went To A Game Music DJ Show

West of Tokyo, about 10 minutes away from Shinjuku via the Chuo Line, is Koenji, a neighborhood called the coolest in Tokyo by many a magazine both foreign and domestic. This is thanks largely to the hood’s amazing bar and club scene. Take a stroll down any of Koenji’s dozens of sketchy-looking, but entirely safe, sidestreets and you’ll come upon any number of hip clubs and pubs, each with their own unique flavor and style. Want to eat hot dogs and down American IPAs? Koenji has bar for that. Want to watch YouTube videos of 80s hip-hop and play darts? Koenji’s got you covered. Want to dance the night away with otaku while rocking out to killer game music jams from the 80s to today? Apparently Koenji’s the place the for that now too. Continue reading

Game Music Revue – Sound Mario Bros.

Man, living in Japan in the 80s must’ve been dope as shit. Continue reading

Steve Winwood and self-realizations

Oh shit I accidentally bought a Steve Winwood album. I hate it when that happens. Continue reading

Game Music Revue: Famicom/Namcot Game Sound Museums

When I moved to Japan a few years back, my game music collecting habit really kicked itself into overdrive. And whenever I would go out looking for CD soundtracks of my favorite classic titles, I would occasionally stumble upon these strange tiny CDs of Nintendo game audio. I would pick one up whenever I saw them. They were cheap, and many of them were for some of my favorite games of all-time, so why not?

Next thing I knew, I had over 30 of them. Continue reading

Tales Of Woe And Analog-To-Digital Conversion

It’s eight o’clock on a beautiful Sunday evening. I worked a long day, time to relax.

And by “relax” I mean “work on dubbing a VHS tape to a DVD via a VCR/HDD/DVD combo unit I bought last week, while copying a new record to my hard drive via a USB phono-preamp, followed by copying an obscure ambient audio tape to my computer via the same device. I’m also ripping a concert DVD to my hard drive so I can convert it to audio and then into individual MP3s.

Sometimes I wonder why I can’t just stream shit like everyone else. Continue reading

Listen to Whipping Post

I didn’t go good on my last test. I’m going to listen to “Whipping Post.”

I can’t meet anyone and I’m lonely all the time. I’m going to listen to “Whipping Post.”

I can’t find a job. The market’s dried up. I’m going to listen to “Whipping Post.”

I’m working in a warehouse with no air conditioning. I’m going to listen to “Whipping Post.”

The place I just moved into has cockroaches, my roommates are assholes and I’m fairly certain my next door neighbor is a drug dealer. I’m going to listen to “Whipping Post.” Continue reading

Logic Exhibition – Vintage Synths Galore

Hideki Matsutake isn’t a household name in Japan, let alone the United States, but his influence on electronic music on both sides of the Pacific cannot be understated. He worked as the sequencer programmer on the first two Yellow Magic Orchestra albums, as well as many of the solo albums by Yukihiro Takahashi and Ryuichi Sakamoto. His skill with the notoriously difficult early synthesizers and sequencers of the 1970s no doubt helped YMO craft their sound. In turn, YMO served as a major influence to artists not just in Japan, but the world over. It’s hard to imagine a world with Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me Baby” without Yellow Magic Orchestra’s 1978 debut album to help lead the way.

In addition to his work with YMO, Matsutake is an accomplished solo performer under the name Logic System, and has also worked alongside countless musicians in Japan from the 1970s to present day. In celebration of his decades of accomplishment, he recently released the five disc retrospective Logic Chronicle, which demonstrates his amazing versatility across genres and sub-genres of electronic and rock music, from synthpop and dance music to avant-garde and prog. It’s an incredible collection and I highly recommend it.

To help promote its release, Matsutake held a major exhibition over the weekend, which included interviews and a concert performance. Sadly, I couldn’t make it to either of those, but I was able to swing by the pop-up store for it. I came there hoping to snag some obscure Japanese electronic music. I didn’t expect to see the actual instruments used to help invent synthpop. Continue reading

Subscribe