[Mix for Self-Titled] OMG Japan 2: Japanese Pop 1980-1989

cover art by Jeff Velker (SC / Twitter)

I’m very pleased to finally share Volume 2 of the OMG Japan mix via Self-Titled Mag.

That proclivity towards inventive genre splicing is all over this mix, actually, perhaps most noticeably as a reggae influence in three very different incarnations. First, Akiko Yano’s steel drum-flecked synth-reggae cupcake “Ashkenazy Who?” is replete with gleefully gnashed vocals, twisted and slung in the mouth as if to mimic warped synth pulses. Next, Junko Yagami leans even more explicitly into reggae fusion on “ジョハナスバーグ” (“Zyohanasubargu,” i.e. a Romanization of the Japanese pronunciation of Johannesburg), a thick synth-funk ode to a global love for reggae, winking with drum machines and synthetic accordian. Last is Pecqre’s “Kylyln,” a spaced-out dub rendition of a song originally written by Ryuichi Sakamoto for Kazumi Watanabe, which comes from one of the most slept-on records in the Japanese canon. It was largely recorded in Jamaica at Channel One and Tuff Gong Studio on a trip organized by Bob Marley himself, as the story goes, at the urging of drummer and diehard reggae fan Masahito Hashido (aka Pecqre). It’s an incredible lineup: between Aston Barrett and Robbie Shakespeare on bass, Carly Barrett and Sly Dunbar on percussion, Minako Yoshida’s lead vocals, and Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt singing back-up, one can only dream of being a fly on the wall during those sessions.

Read the rest HERE, and if you like it, you can download it HERE.

Tracklisting:
1. Tabo’s Project – Feel
2. Imitation – Narcisa
3. Jimmy Murakawa – Down? Down, Down! / Stay Outta My World
4. Zabadak – 蝶
5. Akiko Yano – Ashkenazy Who?
6. Junko Ohashi – I Love You So
7. Junko Yagami – Zyohanasubargu
8. Tatsuro Yamashita – Love Talkin’ (Honey It’s You)
9. Yukihiro Takahashi – Konchu-Ki
10. Sandii & The Sunsetz – The Serious Game
11. Pizzicato V – The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)
12. Pecqre – Kylyn
13. Joe Hisaishi – The Winter Requiem
14. dip in the pool – Rabo Del Sol
15. Masami Tsuchiya – Never Mind
16. Mami Koyama – Love Song
17. Toshifumi Hinata – サラズ・クライム
18. Ayuo Takahashi ft. Koharu Kisagari – 流れる
19. Hiroko Yakushimaru – 透明なチューリップ (Transparent Tulip)

[Mix for NTS Radio] Getting Warmer Episode 12

My newest mix for NTS Radio is meant for springtime walking around. (Mom, I think you might like this one.) I’ll be posting an mp3 download version in a week from now. I know it’s been a little quiet around here–I’ve been tied up with another project, but am looking forward to sharing more music next week. If you like this, you can download an mp3 version here. Thanks for listening!

Tracklisting:
1. Bill Nelson – Wildest Dreams
2. I-Level – In The Sand
3. Isabelle Antena – How Can They Tell
4. Phill & Friends Band – This Man
5. Ayumi Ishida – Bye Bye Jet
6. Gal Costa – Sebastiana
7. Ntombi & Survival – Think More About Me (Edit)
8. Wham! – Blue (Armed With Love)
9. UB40 – Don’t Break My Heart (Edit)
10. Herb Alpert – Rise
11. George McCrae – I Get Lifted
12. Boz Scaggs – Lowdown
13. Yasuko Agawa – L.A. Night
14. Stereolab – Dear Marge

Wally Badarou – Colors Of Silence, 2001

I shared Badarou’s Echoes a while ago, and will probably share Words of a Mountain at some point, but I think his most recent solo release tends to get overlooked. Though the title pegs it as yoga music, there’s very little conventional new age to be found here–it feels more like the hotel lobby music of my dreams. I’ve never used it as a yoga accompaniment, but I have done a lot of deep cleaning with it, and I would imagine this would be great driving music. Alternately playful, tropical, nostalgic, reggae-tinged, meditative, cinematic, and as one would expect, endlessly smooth. Badarou himself seems to be conflicted about the work, citing poor promotion and “intimate” distribution. He disavowed it as an instrumental record, instead calling it a compilation of high-quality demos that were put together quickly for a friend’s project. Nobody needs me to say that Badarou is a genius; this is just a reminder that his wizardry holds fast even under unideal circumstance. (If you also listened to CFCF’s Colours of Life a gazillion times, you’ll love this–the sonic palettes and titles are so akin that I suspect it’s a direct nod.)

Masumi Hara – Yume No 4-Bai, 1984

Experimental pop. Brooding ballads with Enya-like synth sweeps and sparse, kick-heavy upbeat tracks that playfully reference dub reggae, hip hop, samba, disco, and even polka. Lush atmospherics, vocal layering, and liberal delay effect. Most songs have several minute long intro sections before opening up.

A lot of people participated in the making of this album. Most are unknowns, with one big exception: Hideki Matsutake of YMO fame. I actually found this record by digging through his absurdly long list of credits on Discogs. You can check out more of his work by grabbing these albums by Mkwaju Ensemble, Miharu Koshi, or Ryuichi SakamotoYeah, I know…the album art is incredible.

Harry Case – In A Mood, 1989

An untouchable album from outsider American guitarist Harry Case. Clever drum machine programming and synth lines, effortless smooth jazz guitar, and a breezy, new age sensibility. Each song is uniquely crafted, hitting a funky hotel lobby samba on “Midnight Samba” and classical guitar/synth reggae on the album’s moody title track. “Chasing The Goon” and “Jam (At Your Party)” are high tempo party tracks where Case’s jazz guitar and drumming are in full force. The percussive new age-y “Native Drums” is reminiscent of Wally Badarou’s Echoes.

“Carry Me Home” (lyrics and song below) simultaneously gives me the chills and makes me smile, as it feels like the most positive song ever written. Just wish it were a bit longer..
I see the way to carry me home 
I see the way to home
Sometimes I am lost in sin I can’t find the power deep with me.
(I see the way to home)
I raise my voice up to the sky and things get better by and by.
(I see the way to home)
Don’t you know that I 
I see the way to carry me home 
I see the way to home
So don’t give up if you feel pain cause nothing ever stays the same
(I see the way to home)
If you think things are at an end, just turn around and start again.

I hope this album will be on lifelong rotation for you and yours. Many thanks to Contain Yr Brain for the tip. A perfect 10!

New Age Steppers – Action Battlefield, 1981

Second full-length from UK dub supergroup New Age Steppers. Incredible lead vocals from Arianne Foster, aka Ari-Up (The Slits), backing vocals from a teenage Neneh Cherry (The Slits, Rip Rig + Panic, work with the Notorious B.I.G., Youssou N’Dour, and Massive Attack, among others; also Don Cherry’s stepdaughter), bass from Crucial Tony (Dub Syndicate), and production by Adrian Sherwood (founder of On-U Sound, also the only consistent member in the N.A.S. lineup).

About as spacey as production gets, and more vocal-heavy than some of their other work. Mostly covers, including Horace Andy (“Problems”), Black Uhuru’s Michael Rose (“Observe Life”), B.B. Seaton (“My Love”), and the Heptones’ Leroy Sibbles (“Guiding Star”). Summer classic.

Dadawah – Peace and Love – Wadadasow, 1974


Guest post by Daniel Peters
Comprised of four long ruminative tracks, the classic Peace and Love – Wadadasow is probably reggae’s closest answer to Ash Ra Tempel — highly spiritual and free-wheeling, totally enveloping in its psychedelic nature with some of the brooding appeal of dub. 
It’s the second album by Ras Michael, released under the moniker Dadawah, and here his passionate chanting and singing is treated with expansive post-production effects courtesy of Lloyd Charmers. Willie Lindo provides incredible bluesy guitar improvisation. The rhythm section is held together tightly by a constant bass groove, and “Zion Land,” for instance, highlights the spiritual and emotional core of the album. It’s as much a spacey trip as it is an intensely devotional record. 
Dug Out’s 2010 reissue contains a slightly different mix, with more present vocals and heavier reverb, while the original pressing (provided here) focuses more on the spacious, atmospheric instrumentation.

[Mix for NTS Radio] Listen To This!

We made a two hour mix for NTS Radio. Tracklisting below. If you like it, download it here. Enjoy!
Tracklisting:
0:00 Richard Burmer – Physics
3:31 Masami Tsuchiya – Nevermind (Excerpt)
6:28 Carlos Maria Trindade – The Truth
9:09 Joe Hisaishi – The Winter Requiem
13:49 Bill Nelson – Pansophia
14:41 Anna Homler & Steve Moshier – Celestial Ash (Excerpt)
20:09 Toshifumi Hinata – Chaconne
24:45 George Wallace – Electric Night
31:23 Danyel Gérard – La Vieux de la Montagne
35:41 Steve Tibbetts – 100 Moons
40:50 Hector Zazou & Dead Can Dance – Youth (Excerpt)
42:26 Codek – Tim Toum
46:22 Şenay – Doy-Doy-Doymadım
51:57 Joan Bibiloni – Sa Fosca
58:45 Jaco Pastorius – Okonkole Y Trompa
1:03:00 Blue Gas – Shadows From Nowhere
1:06:58 Rasta Instantané – Kylyn
1:11:56 Boban Petrović – Zajedno Srećni
1:16:52 Saâda Bonaire – More Women
1:21:51 Christy Essien Igbokwe – You Can’t Change A Man
1:25:34 Hiroshi Sato – Awakening
1:29:06 Love, Peace & Trance – Hush – A Mandala Ni Pali
1:33:15 Asha Bhosle & Ghulam Ali – Roodad-E-Mohabbat Kya Kahiye Kuchh Yaad Rahi Kuchh Bhool Gaye
1:38:52 New Musik – Areas
1:43:00 CFCF – Vermont
1:47:45 Hiroshi Yoshimura – Time After Time
1:56:27 Gervay Briot – Science

Susan Cadogan – Susan Cadogan, 1976

An unusually romantic record from master Lee “Scratch” Perry. Sunny, sensual vocal layering from Susan Cadogan, whose voice I can’t get enough of. Perfectly gritty reverb. Apparently this didn’t attract much attention in Jamaica at the time of its release but it did well overseas, especially in the UK. I can’t really think of anyone who wouldn’t love this. Thank you Isabel for the tip!

Note that there are a couple small glitches in this copy–this is the highest quality I could find. Enjoy!

The Congos – Heart of the Congos, 1977

It’s a little weird for me to write about what is arguably the greatest roots reggae record of all time. I avoided reggae for most of my life after too much exposure to some pretty uninteresting reggae at the hands of my pretty uninteresting adolescent stepbrother. The Heart of the Congos is the first reggae record that I connected with, and while I’m no aficionado, this is unlike anything I’ve ever heard (more knowledgeable writeup here, nice interview here). It’s odd that the exaggerated stoner aesthetic that reggae got saddled with has clouded the recognition of the music itself as an intensely mind-altering experience, sans drugs. This serves as an excellent reminder of its psychedelic nature, in the more honest sense of the word. With dense, melted reverb, Heart sounds as if it was recorded under a few feet of water. Brilliant vocal interplay and amazing diversity of sound, from the sprawling aquatic bass groove “Congoman” to the sinuous, fizzed-out “Can’t Come In,” with the famous robo-cows lowing throughout. The range of emotion is equally bewildering, from cripplingly pointed mourning to the peaks of joy with intense spiritual potency in between. The title means business: this is thick, this plumbs deep.

Note: there are quite a few different versions of this floating around–apparently Perry himself was unhappy with the original mastering and made some dramatic changes, and of course there have been a slew of reissues. Of the versions I’ve heard, I’m pretty happy with this one.