Music

YMO 101: The Pre-Cursors and Side Projects

This is part five 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

If you get big enough into any band that had any kind of success, you’ll start to look out for side-projects, pre-cursors and follow-ups. Sometimes this can lead you down a great road of musical discoveries. I’m sure many a young Zeppelin fan didn’t get into The Yardbirds until they found out Jimmy Page was in the group. And Pearl Jam fanatics of the 90s got to discover the entire foundation of the grunge genre with Green River and Mudhoney. But charting a band’s musical tree doesn’t always work out so well. I pity the Slipknot fan who bought anything by Stone Sour expecting anything resembling actual music. And while they’ll always have “Genius Of Love,” anyone who thinks that Tom Tom Club are a worthy companion to Talking Heads are just fooling themselves.

Luckily, the YMO fan looking to explore the various bands that Yukihiro Takahashi, Haruomi Hosono and Ryuichi Sakamoto have called themselves members of is in luck; those groups include some of the most influential and important bands in Japanese rock history, fun upbeat pop music, easy-listening jazz, and some interesting experimental electronic offshoots.

Only one of them is godawful horrible. Continue reading

Game Music Revue: Rez Infinite (iam8bit Edition)

  • Credited Composer: Various Artists
  • Released February 15, 2017
  • Label: Nippon Columbia
  • VGMdb Information Page

The Rez soundtrack is the dopest shit.

It’s the soundtrack to the future, if your present is the mid-90s. It’s what you listen to when you’re in The Matrix. What you put on your headphones if your Angelina Jolie in Hackers. It’s the top 40 radio of the Ghost In The Shell universe. Continue reading

Game Music Revue: The Legend of Zelda 30th Anniversary Concert

  • Credited Composer: Koji Kondo with additional artists
  • Released February 15, 2017
  • Label: Nippon Columbia
  • VGMdb Information Page: Deluxe Edition, Standard Edition

 

Last year, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda, Nintendo held a short concert series featuring orchestral arrangements of Zelda tunes performed by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra. Now, less than six months later, the concerts have made their way to CD, and in a swank deluxe edition to boot. Continue reading

David Bowie Is Rare Vinyl

 

David Bowie Is was originally an exhibition at the V&A in England. It was massively successful, and since then it has gone on the road around the world. Now, it has made its way to Tokyo. I went there just the other day. It was amazing, breathtaking and at times nearly reduced me to tears. It’s the end all be all experience for any David Bowie fan, an audio/visual smorgasbord of memorabilia, rare video, behind-the-scenes footage and various Bowie ephemera from his birth to now.

You should go. That’s all I really have to say about that. Besides, photos weren’t allowed inside so writing anymore about it would be rather pointless. So instead, let’s talk about the records you can buy there, because vinyl. Continue reading

YMO 101: The Solo Records

This is part four of my guide to Yellow Magic Orchestra.
Part 1: The Studio Albums
Part 2: The Live Albums
Part 3: The Compilations and Remix Records

Before Yellow Magic Orchestra released their first album in 1979, all three members (Ryuichi Sakamoto, Yukihiro Takahashi and Haruomi Hosono) were already accomplished solo musicians to some degree. And their penchant for releasing music on their own continued on both during their time in YMO and after.

And I don’t mean they would occasionally release an album once or twice a decade. For a while, all of them were seemingly putting out music non-stop. Continue reading

Game Music Revue: Toy Music – Dancing Super Mario Brothers

  • Credited Performer: Akihabara Electric Circus
  • Released September 15, 1988
  • Label: Eastworld/Toshiba
  • VGMdb Information Page

In 1988 a group by the name of Akiharbara Electric Circus released two arranged game music albums. One featured nothing but reworked version of music from Super Mario Bros. 3. It’s a weird record.

The other is this, Toy Music: Dancing Super Mario Bros.

It’s fucking batshit. Continue reading

A Year Ended, Let’s Make Some Lists

I usually don’t do year end lists. For one, I don’t like lists. I think they’re lazy. Give me a 2,000 word essay on the state of music in 2016. Don’t give me a list of albums you thought were neat.

But I relented this year, for a few reasons. One, I bought a shitload of new music this year, which is something I really haven’t done since I moved to Japan three years ago. And a lot of it was really, really good.

Additionally, a lot of it was either Japanese or, for other reasons, the kind of stuff that flies under the radar for most people. And I’m not under the illusion that my taste in music is somehow better or more important because so much of what I like isn’t popular, it’s just different. And since none of the year end lists or articles I read mentioned damn near any of these albums (save for one obvious exception) I thought I’d go ahead and write up my own for a change.

But I didn’t stop there. Like any other year, I bought a lot of old music too, much of which in the form of reissues. And again, a lot of them where fantastic. So, in addition to “Best New Music,” I’m also including a list of “Best Reissues.” Because the old shit is always better.

So let’s get down to it. The first list is numbered, the second is not. Continue reading

The Biggest Guide to Tokyo Record Stores on the Internet

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This all started because my boyfriend gave me his old MiniDisc player.

We were watching Techmoan on YouTube, some video about an obsolete tape format, and I mentioned how I wished he would do an episode on MiniDiscs, because they always interested me. Then, my boyfriend told me that he actually had a MiniDisc player (that he never used) and would give to me. It was a wonderful gift from my wonderful little man, but unfortunately he didn’t have any discs for it.

I went to my regular record store haunts scoping the back shelves for used MiniDiscs, but to no avail. After that, I decided to branch out and search some lesser known shops. Still turning up empty-handed, I reached out even further, doing research online to dig up as many record stores as possible, figuring that at least one would have used MiniDiscs somewhere.

It was at this point I realized that I had probably been to at least half of the record stores in and around Tokyo so I figured what would be the harm in hunting down the other half.

So if you find this useful and want to thank someone, thank my boyfriend. It’s all his fault.

And in case you’re wondering, no, I never did find a damn MiniDisc. Continue reading

Game Music Revue: Ghost In The Shell Megatech Body Co. Ltd (Playstation Game Soundtrack)

ghost1 - Copy

 

For all its acclaim as an anime action epic, the original Ghost In The Shell film is actually a pretty quiet affair, peppered with only a scant few minutes of solid action. The majority of the film is a drama, that alternates between police procedural and meditative discussions on technology and what it means to be alive in a world where humanity and machine seem to be one in the same. The whole thing climaxes not with a giant battle, but with a conversation between a robot and a cyborg, discussing if life has a point without mortality.

Accompanying all of this is a legendary score by Kenji Kawai, which combines modern technology and traditional Japanese instrumentation with an end result that resembles something that Philip Glass or Dead Can Dance might compose. Just like the film itself, the score to Ghost In The Shell is haunting and beautiful, a work of art that is nearly unrivaled.

Got all that? Good. Because the Ghost In The Shell game that appeared on the PS1 is a third-person shooter where you take control of a tank and blow shit up real good. And the soundtrack is non-stop pulse-pounding techno, all of which has the subtlety and nuance of a jackhammer. Continue reading

Boom Boom Satellites Push Eject

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It’s August 31st, 1999, just hours before my 20th birthday and I’m in St. Andrews Hall in Detroit, waiting for Moby to take the stage. Play, his soon-to-be-defining album, had just been released earlier that year, and buzz was starting to build around him.

But before Moby would perform a set that would end up blowing my mind, another group would appear on stage, some weird Japanese act called Boom Boom Satellites, delivering a blistering set of uninterrupted insanity composed of electronic beats, frenetic drumming and a pair of hyper-intense frontmen who obviously knew how to shred on guitar. Continue reading

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