Jimmy Murakawa – Original De-Motion Picture, 1982

Deeply weird and cool record from Mariah vocalist Jimmy Murakawa, featuring Yasuaki Shimizu production. New wavier and more scronky than the usual around here, even veering into no wave on tracks like “Luci’s Small Hotel Part 2.” With an inclination towards cavernous metallic clanging, creeping synth lines, and echoey muttering, there are moments that feel more German industrial than Japanese–particularly on standout “Down? Down, Down! / Stay Outta My World,” except by the song’s end it’s morphed into what sounds very much like an unfinished Notorious B.I.G. track. A few other standout moments, like “Beauty” and “Vaporous Actor,” call to mind sparser and more percussive moments on Sakamoto‘s Left Handed Dream, which came out the same year. There’s a tunneling, cavernous sensibility to this that reminds me of Colored Music. It’s real good. If it’s for you, it’s definitely for you.

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Bill Nelson – The Love That Whirls (Diary Of A Thinking Heart), 1982

As the title suggests, this is a record about love, but in typical Bill Nelson fashion, it’s neither saccharine nor sentimental. It’s full-blooded, angsty, and churning, and the song titles are unabashed: “Eros Arriving,” “The Bride Of Christ In Autumn,” “Flesh,” “Flaming Desire,” and my favorite, “The Crystal Escalator In The Palace Of God Department Store.”

This was recorded the same year in which Nelson contributed to both Yukihiro Takahashi‘s What, Me Worry? and Masami Tsuchiya‘s Rice Music (alongside Ryuichi Sakamoto, Hideki Matsutake, and Steve Jansen), and you can really hear the Japanese pop influence on tracks like “Empire of the Senses,” “A Private View,” and “When Your Dream Of Perfect Beauty Comes True”–the dry, playful spronky synth whirr and scritching drum machines feel strongly YMO-esque. Elsewhere, it’s signature Nelson cinematic new wave, and a couple more brooding instrumental tracks (“Portrait Of Jan With Flowers” is a favorite).

As an aside, I’ll be tweeting favorite songs about love, lust, and heartbreak all day, so please unfollow and follow accordingly.

David Casper – Tantra-La, 1982

Snow day favorite from private issue new age icon David Casper. Drawn-out, weightless instrumentation: piano, glass harmonica, kalimba, sheng, xiao, cello, upright bass, oboe, flute, ocarina, pennywhistle, gong, and synth–but never particularly busy, in spite of all that. Enjoy!

Interior – Interior, 1982

A classic. Interior was first released on Yen Records, then later issued on Windham Hill with two of the more post-punky tracks omitted, and the addition of the excellent “Hot Beach.” Confusingly, both the artist and album title are written as “Interiors” in several of the later pressings, and when you try to purchase the mp3s on Amazon it presents you with an unrelated album by “The Interiors.” Because of the un-googleability of the album title, I’m not actually sure if there’s a current version for sale anywhere–please let me know if you know. The version you can download here includes all tracks from both the Yen and Windham Hill releases. As an aside, the group’s lineup includes Toshifumi Hinata‘s brother, Daisuke Hinata.

Having said all that, holy cow, whadda record. This seems to have one of the stronger cult followings of the Yen catalogue, and with good reason. Still feels bonkers that this came out in 1982. It’s about as icy slick as they come, with a synthetic veneer that steers just clear of being too cheesy. As the name would suggest, it’s particularly evocative of certain spaces: Hyatt lobbies, futuristic elevators, waiting rooms. (The cover art for the Windham Hill pressings seems well aware of that, er, interiority.) There’s enough acoustic guitar and piano to ensure that you can’t forget you’re listening to a Windham Hill release, although I don’t entirely follow the insistent categorization of the record as “new age”–it’s too plump and plastic, too winking and too done up. (All good things.) I can’t really think of anyone who wouldn’t like this. Enjoy!

Gino Soccio – Face To Face, 1982

Feeling heartbroken for peers, friends, musicians, and artists who have been affected by the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland. Like so many others, I’m unable to imagine what my life would be like without DIY, and often illegal, spaces for art, music, and living. These spaces are increasingly vital as cities become prohibitively expensive, and the news coverage that blames the victims of such a terrible loss is deeply upsetting. To echo others: this could have been any of us.

In the spirit of cultures that will, by necessity, continue to build beautiful things in marginal places, I wanted to share a favorite disco record (though to be fair, this record was a heavily produced chart-topper, not a homegrown experiment). This is one of my favorite records to dance to, and is also a rare instance of a disco LP that’s solid all the way through. Impeccably tasty production–hard to say no to this one. Please keep dancing!

Imitation – Muscle And Heat, 1982

A lot to be excited about here: dense, textural Japanese new wave with heavy funk and no wave influences. Tropical and African textures and a big band brassy sound bring Talking Heads to mind, while the playful cultural splicing and occasionally dubby production feel akin to Yasuaki Shimizu. In particular, “Watashi No Suki Na Kuni,” though much denser and more guitar-driven, suggests the relentless march and weightless, nonchalant vocal float of “Shinzo No Tobira.” While the bombastic and dance-oriented tracks are immediately attractive, I think the record’s hazier, more subdued moments are some of its strongest: the more pared down and moody “Exotic Dance” lets incredibly detailed percussion come to the forefront, and the closer, “Oriental Oriental,” despite acting as the final word on a very raucous record, has all the unhurried silvery chic of an Avalon-era Roxy Music instrumental. Try it; you’ll like it!

Note: though the music has held up very well, this recording is fairly beat up and will not sound good on laptop speakers.

Kiki Gyan – 24 Hours In A Disco 1978-82

I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of David Mancuso, founder of the Loft party, disco enthusiast, instigator of the record pool system, DJ, audiophile, activist, and New York legend. Mancuso devoted his life and resources to creating safe spaces for many, but especially for the gay community, to dance to the best music in the best possible environment. He rejected beatmatching and mixing in favor of respect for sound quality and unaltered recordings played in their entirety, he prioritized dancing by refusing to overcrowd his parties, he avoided slavishness to genre, and he pushed back against inflated alcohol prices and club profiteering by instituting a BYO policy. He also fought in the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs’ longest administrative trial to date against their insistence that he get a cabaret license (which he ultimately avoided by not selling food or beverages). He believed a DJ should have good taste, push the envelope, and use songs to spin narrative arcs, but not show off or get in the way of the music. He drew inspiration from time spent outside as a child, having grown up in an orphanage in rural upstate New York:

“I spent a lot of time in the country, listening to birds, lying next to a spring and listening to water go across the rocks. And suddenly one day I realized, what perfect music. Like with sunrise and sunset, how things would build up into midday. There were times when it would be intense and times when it would be very soft, and at sunset it would get quiet and then the crickets would come in. I took this sense of rhythm…”

In the spirit of David’s work, I wanted to share a record that, though not a canonical Loft favorite, embodies the ecstatic, high energy disco for which the Loft is known. I wish very much that I could share Feeling So Good, the original LP that produced one of Gyan’s more famous singles, “Disco Dancer,” but it’s all but nonexistent (jen@listentothis.info if you have a decent rip you’d like to trade!). Several tracks from Feeling So Good appear on this compilation, though everything I’ve heard from the record is excellent. I’m realizing as I write this that it’s a bit odd to make two very remarkable, very different people share one post, so I hope this comes off alright.

Kiki Gyan was a Ghanaian musician and child keyboard prodigy who went professional at the age of 12, dropped out of school (“There was too much music in me, I couldn’t stay in school”) and was recruited to the British Afro-pop band Osibisa when he was 15. He toured internationally with the band until beginning his tenure as a very in-demand and expensive session musician in the best London recording studios before he was 21. His musical skill earned him a reputation as Ghana’s answer to Stevie Wonder, and he went on to make a series of very ambitious disco records, aiming at international stardom. Drug abuse interfered, and despite numerous attempts at intervention and rehabilitation, Gyan quickly declined, became unable to make music, and died at 47 from AIDS and drug-related complications. It was a terrible loss in many ways.

24 Hours In A Disco is entirely long tracks, befitting Gyan’s style—his wicked musicianship and joy predisposed him to long-form relentless disco funk jams that were tailor-made for the dance floor. These are songs that impossible to sit still through.

Thank you Kiki, thank you David—here’s to hoping that love saves the day.

Satoshi Ashikawa – Still Way, 1982

The only available recordings from Satoshi Ashikawa, who passed away shortly after making this record. This was the second in a three record series called Wave Notation, which also included Hiroshi Yoshimura‘s Music for Nine Postcards and a collection of Erik Satie songs played by Satsuki Shibano–fittingly, fans of Yoshimura and Satie will find a lot to love here. Perfectly bare bones minimalism–just harp, piano, flute, and vibraphone. Crystalline, pastoral, picnic-ready. Midori Takada on both harp and vibraphone. Long out of print.

From the liner notes written by Ashikawa himself:

“Sound design” doesn’t just mean simply decorating with sounds. The creation of non-sound, in other words silence, as in a design, if possible, would be wonderful. There’s no question that our age — in which we are inundated with sound – is historically unprecedented. The Canadian sound environmentalist and researcher Murray Schafer warns of this state of affairs in the following: “The ear, unlike some other sense organs, is exposed and vulnerable. The eye can be closed at will; the ear is always open. The eye can be focused and pointed at will; the ear picks up all sound right back to the acoustic horizon in all directions. Its only protection is an elaborate psychological system of filtering out undesirable sounds in order to concentrate on what is desirable. The eye points outward; the ear draws inward. It would seem reasonable to suppose that as sound sources in the acoustic environment multiply – and they are certainty multiplying today —the ear will become blunted to them and will fail to exercise its individualistic right to demand that insouciant and distracting sounds should be stopped in order that it may concentrate totally on those which truly matter.”

We should have a more conscious attitude toward the sounds – other than music —that we listen to. Presently, the levels of sound and music in the environment have clearly exceeded man’s capacity to assimilate them, and the audio ecosystem is beginning to fall apart. Background music, which is supposed to create “atmosphere,” is far too excessive. In our present condition, we find that within certain areas and spaces, aspects of visual design are well attended to, but sound design is completely ignored. It is necessary to treat sound and music with the same level of daily need as we treat architecture, interior design, food, or the air we breathe. In any case, the Wave Notation series has begun. I hope it will be used and judged for what I had in mind as “sound design,” but of course the listener is free to use it in any way. However, I would hope this music does not become a partner in crime to the flood of sounds and music which inundate us at present.

Li Garattoni – Find Out What I’m Dreaming, 1982

I’ve been dragging my feet on this one for two years, both because it’s very dear to me and because I have no idea how to talk about it. There’s also very little information available about it anywhere, but from what I can cobble together, this is the only release from Jutta Li Garattoni. She produced Find Out What I’m Dreaming herself, and it features her husband Jean-Pierre Garattoni on drums alongside a slew of other musicians. As none of the listed credits suggest otherwise, I assume both piano and vocals are Garattoni. She passed away in 2004. She was a Taurus. That’s about all I know.

The range on this thing is remarkable. It opens with “Dornröschen,” a flanged-out synth lament featuring whispery, Blonde Redhead-esque vocals and a whole lot of doom. We then move through a piano jazz-rock ballad (“Lonely”), sing-songy pastoral (“Find Out What I’m Dreaming”), dusty electronic soul (“Friends,” which would have been perfectly at home on the Personal Space compilation), and some loungey art pop in between, before closing with a short reprise of “Dornröschen.” Garattoni’s vocals are similarly diverse, ranging from girlish naïveté to full-blown belting. Unabashed, capricious, sweet, a little unhinged. Even writing it out now, it doesn’t sound like much–there’s something quietly brilliant going on here that’s hard to identify. The only thing I can think to compare this to is Kate Bush. Has Kate Bush heard this? I see all y’all UK readers on our traffic stats; can someone please ask her?

Four of these tracks appear on a compilation called Relax Your Soul which has some very good album art and can be purchased on Amazon (linked below)–other than that, this is long out of print and fetching triple digit prices on the rare occasion that it surfaces on Discogs. Enjoy!

buy four tracks / (download removed)

Yasuaki Shimizu – Kakashi, 1982

Guest post by Ian Hinton-Smith

Jazzy, dubby, experimental, ambient, joyous, meditative and so much more. Fans of Mariah’s Utakata No Hibi will be visiting familiar territory here, as Shimizu is also the brain behind that long-awaited reissue from Palto Flats. There’s the same simplicity and attention to detail present on Kakashi and, having been released a year before Utakata, it appears to have been a learning exercise for Shimizu.

For starters, check out the repetitive marimba lines weaving throughout the space-jazz-dub of “Umi No Ue Kara” (a personal favourite) for a whole eight minutes, acting as bamboo scaffolding for drips of guitar and Shimizu’s sax lines which drift around it like a fine mist. Total masterful simplicity.

Elsewhere, expect ambient tracks that suddenly drop into a backstreet Chicago jazz club with dueling brass stabs and hand claps, only to drift out into smoke; abstract 8-bit sampling that could, frankly, send you a bit la-la until it flings you out into cosmic piano territory; uptempo psychedelic drama-ska; and, ultimately, the sound of Mongolian farmers having a stab at Arabic jazz!

Despite sounding a bit all over the place, there’s enough of a thread throughout Kakashi to bind it all together, and after only a couple of listens, I promise you the pieces fall into place.