David Astri – Do It Right, 1983

Very mysterious record! The only release from Baltimore artist David Astri, and also the only release (I think) from PCM Records. Rereleased (I think) in 2014 on now-defunct Award Records, and not much information available about any of it.
This is essentially a boogie funk record, and for fans of the genre, it doesn’t get much better than “Get Down To It” and “Do It Right” (RIYL George Benson, RAH Band, etc.). The song that I immediately fell in love with, and has since wound up on an embarrassing number of mixes that I’ve made, is “Safe and Sound,” which sort of reads like a slow funk ballad, but between the inadvertently creepy lyrics delivered with saccharine little girl breathiness, the unexpected moments of warped dissonance, the impeccable percussion details, and the oddly muffled production, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever heard. The seven minute closer, “Dancing Digits,” is an ecstatic instrumental disco stomper, but with what sounds an awful lot like an acid house synth line riding on top. Oh, there’s also a five minute tropical steel drum interlude that sounds like it could score a ride at Disneyland. In a good way, sort of.

I really, really wish this record were 15 minutes longer. And speaking of, apparently there are four unreleased tracks floating around from these sessions–if anyone has them, I’d really love to hear, will bake you cookies, etc.

Cesar Mariano & CIA – São Paolo Brasil, 1977

Guest post by Paul Bowler (Universal Music / Twitter)

Cesar Mariano is best known as the producer, arranger, and one-time husband of Elis Regina, though he recorded a wealth of classic recordings as a pianist in his own right. Famed for his ability to swing, Mariano’s 1960s recordings with the Sambalanço Trio and Som Três masterfully paired jazz modes with bossa nova rhythms.

This 1977 album saw him shift towards jazz fusion, delivering an uncompromising take on the genre, full of dramatic tempo changes and neat Brazilian twists. “Metropole” begins with a hard-edged, Herbie Hancock-esque funk workout before slowing to a crawl of dreamlike synths, with the deepest of basslines and a dramatic, sprint-like finish. “Estação do Norte” switches from elegant classical piano to a Rhodes-led carnival of sunshine melodies, whistles, and manically charged percussion. Mariano’s unaccompanied, dextrous piano opens “Futebal de Bar” before a cavalcade of percussion is unleashed – cut frustratingly short. Standing toe-to-toe with the fusion greats, it’s little wonder that prices for original pressings are eye-watering. Grab a copy below.

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.

[Mix for Self-Titled] OMG Japan: Rare & Experimental Japanese Pop

cover image by whtebkgrnd

We’re so excited to release this mix of experimental Japanese pop, up today on Self-Titled Mag.

“This is a mix of Japanese pop songs, most of them with a synth funk backbone. The most exciting aspect of this era of music, though, is how unafraid these musicians were to push the limits of genre: They loved Van Dyke Parks, Kraftwerk and Martin Denny, but they were never confined by any one sound, nor were they afraid to poke fun at western constructs of the ‘oriental’ or Japanese fascinations with Western cultural novelties.”

Read more HERE, and if you like it, download it HERE.

1. Chiemi Manabe – Untotooku
2. Miharu Koshi – L’amour…Ariuwa Kuro No Irony
3. Hiroshi Satoh – Say Goodbye
4. Colored Music – Heartbeat
5. Minako Yoshida – Tornado
6. Ryuichi Sakamoto – Kacha Kucha Nee
7. Mariah – Shinzo No Tobira
8. Yukihiro Takahashi – Drip Dry Eyes
9. Sandii – Zoot Kook
10. Haruomi Hosono – Ohenro-San
11. Osamu Shoji – Jinkou Station Ceres
12. Kisagari Koharu – Neo-Plant
13. Inoyama Land – Wässer
14. Aragon – Horridula
15. Asami Kado – 退屈と二つの月
16. Tamao Koike & Haruomi Hosono – 三国志ラヴ・テーマ
17. Hiroyuki Namba – Hiru No Yume

Seaside Lovers – Memories In Beach House, 1983

Today is a celebration of internet access to amazing things. This one-off collaboration of chiller-musical-god Hiroshi Sato and the relatively unknowns Akira Inoue and Masataka Matsutoya — appropriately called “Seaside Lovers” — is some of the most succulent fruit of this access. It’s a trophy of Youtube’s intercontinental ubiquity, and these three musicians are pressing all the right beachy chilltime buttons in all the right ways. Soothing flute, funky bass riffs, and sweeping synths, all saturated in reverb.
On the flip side, this is one of the rare times where we’ll post an album with a few questionable tracks. The majority of the album is ridiculously listenable, especially the new age/funky soul/smooth jazz tracks, but there are 2 or 3 that require a very specific mood. If you are a jazz fusion fan, though, you will be PSYCHED. Plus, just look at this album cover! Below is their most famous track, but download to hear so much more…

Monsoon – Third Eye, 1983

Featuring the voice of world-pop-fusion queen Sheila Chandra, Third Eye was released a couple of years before the launch of her solo career. As in her later work, production is certainly slick, but Third Eye has an inspired raw, youthful quality and an impressive array of world, experimental, and rock-oriented instrumentation. Sitar, tabla, ghatam, shine, ektare, swarmandel timbali, gong, cowbell, roto toms, tom-toms, wasp, tambourine, cabasa, fire extinguisher, electric guitar, hurdy-gurdy, mandolin, santoor, flute, synth, piano, celestia, a gamelan ensemble…to name a few. Even Bill Nelson shows up on his EBow guitar in the cover of “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Music video for the hit “Ever So Lonely” below!

buy / download

Brenda Ray – Walatta, 2005

A personal favorite. Brenda Ray rolled around with a handful of musical projects in the UK post punk scene, where she explored African rhythms, dub, hip hop, and electro grooves. After hitting it off with the legendary Roy Cousins in the early 90’s, she helped him remaster and reissue titles from his label, Tamoki Wambesi. Legend has it that it was Cousins’ idea that she make an album using original tapes of Tamoki Wambesi roots reggae tracks. I think this was mostly recorded in the late 90s, released in limited numbers via Tamoki Wambesi, and reissued by Japan’s EM Records (we’re still working our way through their catalog, because holy cow it is good).
Unlike anything else. Ray draped her breathy, 60’s-chanteuse vocals all over some of the best dub and reggae tracks ever made (tracks which she quite literally jazzed up), resulting in what Forced Exposure called “very disturbing slices of psycho-dub/doo-wop/jazz-fusion/exotica music.” Grooving all over Turkey, West Africa, and of course, Jamaica. Alternately shimmery, bossa-nova-flecked, and funky, with appearances by Prince Far I and Knowledge. The sonic equivalent of pink plastic palm trees. A salve for a brutally cold February day. Enjoy!

buy / download

Haruomi Hosono – Cochin Moon, 1978

The soundtrack to a non-existent Bollywood movie. This was supposed to be a collaboration between Hosono and illustrator Tadanori Yokoo, but the story goes that during the trip to India that spawned the record, Yokoo had a prolonged and incapacitating bout of digestive woes and the project ended up as solo Hosono, with Yokoo illustrating a killer album cover. Interestingly, this came out the same year as YMO’s debut, but Hosono had already been making music for over a decade. Not only was he already a seasoned musician, but he had long been interested in musical subversion, in ways both flagrant and covert.
This is his first all-electronic album, and is one of his most progressive and expansive works. In 43 minutes he moves through swirling cosmic synth meditations, sputtering swamp glitch, and a krauty synth raga, and closes with a nine minute long proto-acid track, all bound up with the sounds of fountain bubbles, insect fizz, and harp swirls. A fair warning: a lot of this record, especially long stretches of the first three “Hotel Malabar” tracks, sound like meandering synth whine and bird screech, but listening through headphones is a gamechanger. This isn’t background music–give it at an attentive listen, loudly, on good speakers. It’s worth your time.
PS: We’re gonna try really hard not to turn this blog into a YMO fanblog, but it might turn into a YMO fanblog.

Milton Nascimento & Lô Borges – Clube da Esquina, 1972

21 tracks written and performed by members of the highly influential musicians’ collective Clube da Esquina. This record gained a massive following in Brazil, but doesn’t get enough love in the states in favor of tropicália and bossa nova. It’s a complicated record, effectively a patchwork of moods and styles; and it’s experimental and volatile to the core, evading traditional song structures (and even traditional song lengths). “Saídas e Bandeiras Nº 1” is 43 seconds of sunny, psychy guitar-pop, ending abruptly only to be picked up 11 tracks later…for a minute and a half. “Dos Cruces” is five and a half minutes of meandering, drum-studded ache, winding up to a paltry 45 seconds of blistering chorus, overjoyed to have finally arrived, only to be cut off there, too. Always leaves you wanting more. Check out the string interlude halfway through “Um Girassol da Cor de Seu Cabelo” for some Xenakis steeze, or “Pelo Amor de Deus” for wild organ glissandos. I found myself sobbing on the M train listening to “San Vicente” the other day. I think Lô Borges was like 19 when they recorded this thing. It’s a crazy ride.