December 28, 2015

Hiroshi Sato - Orient, 1979


Synth-funk exotica at its finest. Hiroshi Sato (sometimes "Satoh") seems to slip through the cracks, though he was arguably one of the most important Japanese keyboardists of his time. He played keyboards on almost every Tatsuro Yamashita record of the 70s and 80s, and contributed to much of Hosono's solo work, including the beloved Cochin Moon. Unsurprisingly, Hosono makes some appearances here on bass. Sato died in Yokohama on October 24th, 2012. His only daughter, Chirudo, had to say of her father:
His life’s work was pouring his everything enthusiastically into music. He also loved his studio in Yokohama, putting in speakers and installing the equipment and synthesizers one by one. He fell down and breathed his last breath in that studio while he was making music. He was sixty-five years old, and an acute dissecting aneurysm of the aorta was the cause of his death. However, this is the least important aspect of his passing. Despite an instant death, I believe he knew the time had come, because he was sitting cross-legged with his hands joined together, as if practicing Zen meditation. He was alone, but not lonely, because whenever he was surrounded by music he was happy, as if he were an innocent child. He lived life as a musician and lived as a musician with his whole life.
Orient is mostly instrumental, with vocals by Hiroshi Sato and Masaki Ueda on "Son Go Kuw," "Tsuki No Ko No Namae Wa Leo," and "Bright Wind." Cheeky and heady, with immaculate percussion. Lightyears ahead of its time. Thanks for everything, Hiroshi.

Note: Hiroshi Sato also makes an appearance on our OMG Japan mix.


December 23, 2015

Yoshio Suzuki - Morning Picture, 1984


This peaceful ambient jazz album from 1984 features the excellent taste of bassist and keyboardist Yoshio Suzuki. He steers away from showy musicianship, instead leaning towards sparsity. The drum machine and synthesizer programming lend momentum but leave plenty unsaid so your mind can wander, filling in the gaps and coming to your own conclusions.

Please share this wonderfully listenable album with friends and family as you gather this week. I'm hoping that it will promote clear and honest communication and pacify any familial angst that may arise during the holiday season.

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December 18, 2015

15 Favorite Releases of 2015

In the spirit of the season, I wanted to share my favorite releases of the year. Happy holidays!

Bryan Ferry - Boys and Girls, 1985
buy / download
Cocteau Twins - Lorelei 12", 1985
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Francis Bebey - Akwaaba, 1985
buy / download
Front 242 - No Comment, 1985
buy / download
Gervay Briot - Quintessences, 1985
Grace Jones - Slave to the Rhythm 12", 1985
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Haruomi Hosono - Paradise View, 1985
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Kate Bush - Hounds of Love, 1985
buy / download
Lena Platonos - Gallop, 1985
buy
Prefab Sprout - Steve McQueen, 1985
buy
Robert Wyatt - Old Rottenhat, 1985
buy / download
Sade - Promise, 1985
buy / download
Severed Heads - City Slab Horror, 1985
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Scritti Politti - Cupid & Psyche '85, 1985
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Zazou Bikaye - Mr. Manager EP, 1985
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December 14, 2015

Blue Feather - Shadows Of The Night, 1985


It's rare to come across a boogie or disco album as solid all the way through as this one from Dutch boy band Blue Feather. Although new to my library, its solid hooks and synth-soaked grooves have made it an instant favorite. DJs, rejoice: almost every tune is a bass-slapping dance floor classic.


December 10, 2015

The Tallis Scholars - Spem In Alium, 1985


Thomas Tallis (1505-1585) is considered by many to be one of the most important English composers ever to have lived, and is definitively one of the most important composers of early choral music. His crowning achievement, "Spem In Alium," is a ten minute long 40-part motet that borders on psychedelic: ceaselessly shifting, simultaneously hyper-precise yet almost shapeless. From Wikipedia:
The motet is laid out for eight choirs of five voices. It's most likely that Tallis intended his singers to stand in a horseshoe shape. Beginning with a single voice from the first choir, other voices join in imitation, each in turn falling silent as the music moves around the eight choirs. All forty voices enter simultaneously for a few bars, and then the pattern of the opening is reversed with the music passing from choir eight to choir one. There is another brief full section, after which the choirs sing in antiphonal pairs, throwing the sound across the space between them. Finally all voices join for the culmination of the work. Though composed in imitative style and occasionally homophonic, its individual vocal lines act quite freely within its elegant harmonic framework, allowing for a large number of individual musical ideas to be sung during its ten- to twelve-minute performance time. The work is a study in contrasts: the individual voices sing and are silent in turns, sometimes alone, sometimes in choirs, sometimes calling and answering, sometimes all together, so that, far from being a monotonous mess, the work is continually presenting new ideas.
I've been listening to this album for ten years and it's still disorientingly beautiful. The other works in this collection are gorgeous in their own right, with "Sancte Deus" and "Miserere Nostri" being personal favorites. Not included are his "Lamentations of Jeremiah," cited as his other masterwork; I'm also a chump for "If ye love me"...there are plenty of other compilations worth seeking out. Happy December, but also, listen to this all year round.

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December 8, 2015

Futuro Antico - Dai Primitivi All'Elettronica, 1980


Guest post by Dru Grossberg

Jetting out their debut album in 1980, this runs a neat sonic parallel to Jon Hassell's notion of fourth world music, melding minimalism, ambient and South Asian classical tropes. Futuro Antico are an Italian group interspersed with Indian and African members, rather than another distant westerner's constructed exotic fetishism. They live up to their name, which renders the sound timeless. Often, it's tricky to decipher whether this is a product of childlike, spontaneous vulnerability, or calculated engineering. There's a host of indigenous instrumentation present, as well as synths, vocals, and maybe even a didgeridoo. 

If cascading pianos, howls of swinging creatures in the distance, or labelmates of Franco Battiato peak your fancy, click away.


December 4, 2015

Judy Henske & Jerry Yester - Farewell Aldebaran, 1969


Guest post by René Kladzyk

"Come ride with me
We'll gallop through the sky
The stars our road will be
On racing winds we'll fly" 

Aldebaran is a giant orange star in the Taurus constellation, and is one of the brightest stars in the nighttime sky. Farewell Aldebaran, a singularly bizarre and captivating album produced by Jerry Yester and Judy Henske over a couple weeks in the summer of 1969, is appropriately titled, existing in a musical space located far outside of its time and the trodden terrain of planet Earth. Each song sounds remarkably different, widely-ranging in style, instrumentation (with Yester playing over a dozen instruments and contributions from Ry Cooder, Zal Yanovsky, and David Lindley, among others), and the disparate contours of Judy Henske's incredible voice. 

Henske, who was known as the "Queen of the Beatniks," had cultivated a style of powerful vocal delivery singing at clubs in Greenwich Village, and peppered her performances with wild jokes and vivid story-telling (live performance recordings from this era are hilarious and amazing). In Farewell Aldebaran, her poetics and nuanced vocal delivery are at their most transfixing. Her voice ranges from sweetly lulling to powerfully wailing, as she sings stories of a bewitched clipper ship named Charity, church fundraisers, and lands beyond the edge of death. 

The musical arrangements travel just as swiftly along these outer space winds, merging folk and psychedelia in an inventive array of instrumentation (including toy zither, marxophone, Chamberlain tape organ, hammer dulcimer, bowed banjo, and heavy use of synthesizers).

My obsession with this album was immediate and very potent, and has only grown with repeat listens. I had the pleasure of recently seeing Jerry Yester play at a small venue in Northwest Arkansas, where he performed unreleased songs from the Farewell Aldebaran sessions and shared stories of his incredible musical career (he also played in The Lovin' Spoonful, Modern Folk Quartet, and New Christy Minstrels, and produced for Tim Buckley, Tom Waits, The Turtles, and The Association, to name a few). He was even sweet enough to let me sing "Rapture" with him accompanying at the end of his set, a moment forever etched in my memory. If you're ever driving through Northwest Arkansas, consider a visit to the Grand Central Hotel in Eureka Springs to hear Jerry Yester play, and prepare yourself for pure wonder. Until then, listen to this!