[Mix for NTS Radio] Hosono Day

I’m very, very excited to share a two hour mix I made of Haruomi Hosono‘s work, which was a contribution to NTS Radio’s Hosono Day last weekend (here’s to hoping it becomes an annual tradition). As you might imagine, this was simultaneously a joy and a total nightmare to make, as Hosono has contributed to over 900 releases and has refused to be hampered by genre–so rather than trying to pick one vicinity and stay there, I instead tried to find a through-line between my Hosono favorites all over the map. Happily, this selection also gives proper airtime to his fascination with Indian instrumentation–Bollywood, Indian classical, folk, and everywhere in between. At the risk of sounding sentimental, I found myself moved to tears more than once while working on this, as it’s astounding to be confronted by the weight of his genius and innovation while sifting through his archives.

And–there’s more! The lineup of contributors to Hosono Day include some of my favorite artists, labels, and curators, so it was a real thrill to be included among them and to hear so many different expressions of Hosono–I would encourage you to listen to all of it. Happy listening, and a belated happy Hosono Day! You can download an mp3 version of it here.

1. Haruomi Hosono – Hum Ghar Sajan
2. Haruomi Hosono – The Animal’s Opinion
3. Yellow Magic Orchestra – Seoul Music
4. Haruomi Hosono – Luminescent/Hotaru (edit)
5. Susan – Ah! Soka
6. F.O.E. – Total Eclipse
7. Haruomi Hosono – Laugh-Gas (edit)
8. Love, Peace & Trance – Hush – A Mandala Ni Påli
9. Haruomi Hosono – 若紫
10. Haruomi Hosono – Muji Original Background Music
11. Haruomi Hosono – Air-Condition
12. Haruomi Hosono – Sunnyside Of The Water
13. Interior – Luft
14. Inoyama Land – Wässer
15. World Standard – Pasio (edit)
16. Haruomi Hosono, Shigeru Suzuki & Tatsuro Yamashita – スラック·キー·ルンバ (Slack Key Rhumba)
17. Akiko Yano – Tong Poo
18. Tatsuro Yamashita – Rainy Walk
19. Yukihiro Takahashi – Sea Change
20. Mickey Curtis – Tengoku No Yoru
21. Chiemi Manabe – ねらわれた少女
22. Dark Ducks – Dandy Dandy
23. H.I.S. – Nihon No Hito (Japanese People)
24. Hiroshi Sato – Jo-Do
25. Harry Hosono & The Yellow Magic Band – Worry Beads
26. Pizzicato V – The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)
27. Haruomi Hosono – Sports Men
28. Sandii – Zoot Kook
29. Hiroko Yakushimaru – 透明なチューリップ (Transparent Tulip)

CHBB – CH-BB, 1981

Compilation of four self-released cassettes (each with 50 copies made), recorded in 1981 from power duo Chrislo Haas (Liasons Dangereuses, Der Plan, Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft) and Beate Bartel (Einstürzende Neubauten, Liaisons Dangereuses, Mania D, I have a major crush). The compilation was released unofficially on vinyl in 1998 and to the best of my knowledge, hasn’t been released since. As it’s a compilation, there’s a lot of range–industrial, noise, bouncing new (no?) wave on closer “Go Go Go!”, and the incredible proto-techno “Neger Brauchen Keine Elektronik,” which I still can’t believe happened in 1981. Gritty and very, very good.

Panasonic – Kulma, 1997

Minimalist classic. Originally released under Panasonic, and then later as Pan Sonic for legal reasons. Not the most original thing to say, but this feels distinctly like people taking backseat and allowing machines to do the work. Ecstatic beats, long stretches of whirring, and surprisingly little abrasion. Good speakers, headphones, or not at all, since there’s nothing to hide behind here.

15 Favorite Releases of 2015

In the spirit of the season, I wanted to share my favorite releases of the year. Not exhaustive, just some personal highlights. Happy holidays!

Bryan Ferry – Boys and Girls, 1985
buy / download
Cocteau Twins – Lorelei 12″, 1985

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
Haruomi Hosono – Paradise View, 1985
Kate Bush – Hounds of Love, 1985
buy / download
Lena Platonos – Gallop, 1985
Prefab Sprout – Steve McQueen, 1985

Robert Wyatt – Old Rottenhat, 1985
buy / download
Sade – Promise, 1985
buy / download
Severed Heads – City Slab Horror, 1985
buy / download
Scritti Politti – Cupid & Psyche ’85, 1985
buy / download
Zazou Bikaye – Mr. Manager EP, 1985

Severed Heads – City Slab Horror, 1985

We try to focus on records that appeal to a wide range of people and are super listenable, on-repeat records. This is an exception. Severed Heads was (for the most part) the brainchild of Tom Ellard, and their early recordings are experiments in tape looping, distorted synth, and proto-techno drum machine backbones. The results are way ahead of their time, a body of work that belongs in the same sentence as Throbbing Gristle, Coil, and the Art of Noise. In addition to being musical pioneers, Severed Heads boasts a collection of bitingly clever song titles (“Hello Donald, Merry Xmas,” “Mambo Fist Miasma,” “Larry I’m Just An Average Girl,” “Now, An Explosive New Movie,” etc.) and a daunting collection of psychotic video work, largely thanks to Stephen Jones, who developed the analog video synthesizers that he used to make music videos and manipulate live footage of Severed Heads performances. (Hard to know where to start with these, but here are a few favorites.)
City Slab Horror features plenty of tape looping, but Ellard’s growing taste for pop structures and more cohesive rhythms make the record more song-centric and less noisy, though dissonance and gritty textures still run rampant. Standouts are “Ayoompteyempt” and the luminous classic “We Have Come to Bless the House,” though the record as a whole functions as a tunneling trip through a cynical morbid fascination. Buried in frenzy are moments of sublime joy (“Guests”), though I can confidently say that I’m happy to be a tourist and not a permanent resident in the deranged world of Severed Heads.
Note: This version includes additional tracks from a 1989 reprint on Canadian label Nettwerk, which are advertised as “tracks from Blubberknife,” though in actuality only “Umbrella” is taken from Blubberknife, with the rest pulled from the 1985 Goodbye Tonsils 12″ and the 1985 double LP, Clifford Darling, Please Don’t Live In The Past. I chose to share this version rather than the original release because it includes the monstrous “Acme Instant Dehydrated Boulder Kit.”

[RIP] Susumu Yokota – Acid Mt. Fuji, 1994

Guest post by Jon Williams (synths, Excepter)

I was disheartened to learn of electronic composer Susumu Yokota’s passing this past spring after a long illness. Like Florian Fricke – another musician who passed too young – Yokota’s works frequently evoked pastoral landscapes. Acid Mt. Fuji, in particular, marries the metronomic stomp of Robert Hood with the shimmering pads of Popul Vuh. Yakota’s palette of sounds was always distinctly his own, extending beyond the traditional acid staples found in the Roland TR series to include hand drums and animal noises.

This summer I took the occasion of my first solo hiking trip to listen to Acid Mr. Fuji, letting the drums set the pace as I struggled up the slopes of the Appalachian Trail, passing down swamps rimmed in Rhododendron bushes.

Arthur Brown & Craig Leon – The Complete Tapes of Atoya, 1984

A collaboration between performance artist and musician Arthur Brown and acclaimed producer (of The Ramones, Blondie, Suicide) Craig Leon. Originally released in 1982 under Arthur Brown’s name, Atoya was reissued two years later as a collaboration with Leon, who wrote, performed, and produced it. The songs bear his signature starkness and mechanical synthesized sound, while Arthur Brown’s vocals range between early rock-and-roll crooning, a Robert Plant-like style, and spoken word. With Leon’s techno drumming and epic synth groans, Atoya takes some getting used to, but it’s a beautifully bleak tapestry and weirder than the sum of its parts. The only purchases currently available are secondhand vinyl via discogs. Snag it!

Λένα Πλάτωνος – Γκάλοπ, 1985

Greek musician Lena Platonos (Λένα Πλάτωνος) has an impressive discography ranging from dark electronic rabbitholes to post punky pop to the straight-up bizarro theatrical. She’s an electronic music pioneer (and an aesthetic genius, having designed the cover above), so it’s really exciting that Dark Entries has recently reissued her second solo record, Gallop (Γκάλοπ), which she wrote, performed, and produced. Gallop is an exercise in dark minimalism, consisting mostly of analog synths, a roland TR-808 drum machine, and her voice, speaking and singing her own surreal poetry. It’s Greek to me, but I’m told that “lyrics deal with heartbreak, dreams, desires, and astutely predict the way that computers and technology would infiltrate our society in the years to come.” (A word to the ASMR-wise: listening to her softly-spoken voice in headphones might trigger some particularly tingly feelings.) Alternating between spiky techno beats and long stretches of unpunctuated dreamy synth sprawl, Gallop is a haunting and very progressive record. Enjoy!

LFO – Frequencies, 1991

Arguably one of the most important UK techno LPs ever. Just as happy to be heard in headphones as in a grimy warehouse. Gorgeous, heart-skittering, crunchy sci-fi futurism rendered in perfect detail. Perpetually surprising and joyful throughout. A fully-realized prediction of two decades of electronic dance music. Mark Bell died six months ago and I’ve been thinking about him a lot recently, partially because of the Björk retrospective (he co-produced Homogenic, among many others), but largely because of this record, which is a gift.

Baby Ford – Monolense, 1994

Not technically an LP, but enough of a world that I’m making an exception to our albums-only rule. I still don’t know how to talk about techno, so I’ll just say that this is a formative piece of minimal techno history and is as elegant as they come. Also, to state the obvious, Richard D. James album and Amnesiac probably couldn’t exist without this.