September 29, 2016

Masahide Sakuma - Lisa, 1984

Beautiful and diverse solo release from Plastics member Masahide Sakuma. The album traverses both mood and genre: ambient minimalism, modern classical, industrial, avant-garde, medieval, and...vaudeville? Acoustic guitar, synth, strings, electric guitar, synthesizer, vocals, samples, flutes and percussion. Some tracks have a sparse cinematic feel suggestive of Mark Isham's Vapor Drawings, which came out the year prior. Lisa is so diverse and strange, it could take years of listening to fully unpack.

Produced by prolific avante-garde jazz composer Seigen Ono, the album is another entry in the phenomenal Music Interiors series released from 1984 to 1985, including a couple albums by Ono himself as well as Yoshio Suzuki. Worth exploring!

September 26, 2016

Akiko Yano - Tadaima, 1981

Not for the faint of heart, although I think the cover art should give you a pretty good sense of what you're in for. Akiko Yano covers a lot of ground here, ranging from bubblegum reggae to pure, high-toned J-pop to the spronky sample relentlessness of new wave contemporaries like Devo, "Little Girls" era Oingo Boingo, and, yep, YMO. The dream team is in full force here: Haruomi Hosono on bass, Yukihiro Takahashi on drums, Ryuichi Sakamoto on synth, programming by Hideki Matsutake (and--bonus round!--Masami Tsuchiya on guitar). In addition to some masterfully psychotic vocals, Akiko Yano is also on piano, marimba, electric piano, production, and arrangement. Tadaima is best known for tracks like synthetic funk-reggae cupcake "Ashkenazy Who?" and the more unhinged classic "Rose Garden," where you can hear that signature Sakamoto churn in full effect, but I also love the gleefully gnashing opener "I'm Home" ("Tadaima") and the strung-out experiment "Iranaimon," in which Yano speak-sings from far away over a non-melodic collage of synth samples and whirrs that open up more generously with every listen. There's a lot here for fans of Miharu Koshi. Dense, rewarding, and not for laptop speakers.

September 22, 2016

Zann - Strange Ways / Inside Jungle, 1990

Something for everyone on this mysterious left-field self-release recorded in Germany in the spring and summer of 1990. An onslaught of percussion, wind, and string instruments from around the world (heavy use of tabla and gong), alongside excellent synth programming. Wide variation between tracks, but all contain Arabic harmonic modalities. Some tracks, like "Gaya's Gone," are quite percussive, reminding me of a rougher, more frantic, and more sinister Mkwaju. Also good for fans of Popul Voh and Tri Atma. A phenomenal work!

I included the track below in a mix I made for the Ambient Tent at this year's Sustain Release. Keep your eyes peeled for the entire mix available soon!

September 19, 2016

Roedelius - Wenn Der Südwind Weht, 1981

Hard to pick a favorite release from Hans-Joachim Roedelius, who’s contributed to 92 different releases, according to Discogs. Though most famous for co-founding Cluster and Harmonia, he’s been even more prolific as a solo artist. Wenn der Südwind Weht (“When the South Wind Blows”) was his seventh solo release, though he followed it up with a casual 35 more full-lengths, most of which I still haven’t heard. Of his earlier releases, this is both my favorite and the most exemplary of signature Roedelius. The most remarkable moments are when synthesizer acts as a vessel for his pastoral sensibility, with unabashedly sentimental lines of synthetic oboe, clarinet, organ, and something theremin-like sitting on top of rolling piano chord pulses muffled in golden-warm reverb. The title track, “Veilchenwurzeln,” and “Mein Freund Farouk” are the best instances of this kind of classical miniaturism--they're what make this record feel like a favorite sweater--but in very German tradition, a handful of the other tracks meander into more shivery, drawn-out synth meditations (and that’s certainly a good thing). Ideal rainy day music.

September 16, 2016

Yutaka Hirose - Soundscape 2: Nova, 1986

One of three records funded and released by Misawa Home Corporation for use in their prefabricated houses between 1986 and 1988. (The other two releases are both by Hiroshi Yoshimura; I've posted my favorite of the two here.) As with some of the other Japanese minimal records I've shared, Nova is an unabashed embrace of, as Spencer of Rootblog phrased it, "the illusion of nature in a hyper-urban environment." Judicious use of water, insect, and bird field recordings, sparse bells, piano, and synth. Somehow just as evocative of an idealized, imagined natural world as it is of the synthetic, heavily manicured interiors that seek, roundaboutly, to reference nature. Regardless of where this puts you, it's very good.

September 13, 2016

Ice Choir Mix for Designs In Rhythm

Guest post by Kurt Feldman (Ice Choir)

As an 80s J-pop obsessive, I thought it would be cool to share some tracks which inspired me while I was writing Ice Choir's recently released album, Designs In Rhythm. My bandmate Patrick South is even more of a geek about this stuff than I am and he actually turned me on to a bunch of the tracks on this mix. Ultimately, we compiled it together. Hope you enjoy! (If you like the mix, download it here.)

1. Michiko Shimazaki — クロッカス・ヒルで逢いましょう (0:00)
2. Kedge — Chime (4:02)
3. Taeko Ohnuki — Les Aventures De Tintin (8:39)
4. Tsukasa Ito — お願いスピルバーグ (13:10)
5. Tomoko Tane — ユーアー・ジ・ワン (17:21)
6. PSY · S — Woman · S (21:43)
7. Kyoko Endo — 夢見るスター (26:47)
8. 3dl — Uruwashi No Otome (Original Version) (32:17)
9. Jadoes — Heart Beat City (37:31)
10. Hiromi Ohta — ガラスの週末 (41:50)
11. Kyoko Koizumi — Fairy Tale (46:52)
12. Hi-fi Set — Bloomin’ Blue (51:00)
13. Nobuo Ariga — 雨色の僕と君 (55:32)
14. Reimy — 星のクライマー (60:42)
15. Momoko Kikuchi — Night Cruising (66:05)
16. Rajie — エスプレッソ (70:51)
17. Eichii Ohtaki — 君は天然色 (75:18)
18. Yasuhiro Abe — Kiss Mark (79:55)
19. Chika Takami — くちびるヌード (83:00)

September 9, 2016

[Mix for NTS Radio] Getting Warmer Episode 4

Listen to my fourth episode of Getting Warmer for NTS Radio below. I tried to make a make out mix, but I think it got too heavy-handed to be actually sexy and might be better suited for roller skating or something. Slo-mo disco, sleepy funk, breathy vocals. Lmk if anyone successfully soundtracks a make-out session with this. You can download an mp3 version here. Enjoy!

1. Vera -- Come With Me
2. Karen Carpenter -- Midnight
3. Andrea Lyn -- Hold On To Your Heart
4. Virna Lindt -- Underwater Boy
5. Zenit -- Waitin'
6. Marti Caine -- Love The Way You Love Me
7. Lustt -- Pillow Talk
8. Linda Di Franco -- The Look Of Love
9. Susan Cadogan -- Feeling Is Right
10. The Makers -- Don't Challenge Me
11. Hector Zazou & Barbara Gogan -- Dangerous
12. Rare Silk -- Storm
13. Craig T. Cooper -- Sweet Water

September 7, 2016

Randomize - ¿Como Se Divertiran Los Insectos?, 1986

Other-wild experimental electronic industrial ramblings from the Spanish group later renamed Mecanica Popular. A range of feeling, but the entire album sounds like the soundtrack to a film that takes place in a factory on an alien planet. This record (whose name translates to "How Do Insects Have Fun?") stands out on its musical merit, but this proto vaporwave/net art cover is also pretty amazing. This group was part of the same Spanish electronic scene as Orquestra de Las Nubes, who are featured on this Música Esporádica record.

September 2, 2016

Dolly Mixture - Demonstration Tapes, 1984

Really gorgeous, stripped-down new wave and punk-tinged pop rock recorded between 1979 and 1983 and then self-released as a double vinyl in 1984--the trio's only full-length. Though Dolly Mixture's sound hits a sweet spot between punk and girl-group pop (unsurprisingly, as the story goes that the band was born from a mutual love of The Undertones and The Shangri-Las), the three actively pushed back against Chrysalis Records's attempt to market them as a girl group, keeping their sound loose and lo-fi and their songs short and sweet.

This is more rock-centric than what we usually post around here, but that's what I grew up listening to, and I'll always love it. Demonstration Tapes has an immediate appeal: swooning harmonies, sophisticated top lines, and a room-tone warmth slightly ahead of The Vaselines and Beat Happening. Disarming in how dry and direct (but still irrefutably pretty) it is. Good for fans of Marine Girls. Kurt Cobain would have loved this. I'm always surprised it doesn't get tossed around more. Ideal late summer headphones music.