Yukako Hayase

Where does one start with Yukako Hayase? That’s the question I asked myself when debating, for what seemed like forever, what would be the album I would recommend others to explore, to give them a better sense of why Yukako is such a deeply important artist (and one sadly lost to time). Thankfully, with time, I’ve settled on 1989’s 薔薇のしっぽ Roses’ Tails not because it has her highest highs, but because it gives you the most complete vision of what you can expect from Yukako, as you go back – which you should – to uncover the rest of her oeuvre. Stretching her roots in French ingenue pop to its limits, 薔薇のしっぽ saw her cement this transformation as a unique artist who found a way to breath new life into a certain, dead end.

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_..Behind the Gardens-Behind the Wall-Under the Tree...

…Behind the – Behind the Wall – Under the Tree…or right here, after a long scroll to the bottom of this post you might find my favorite release by Swiss-born Andreas Vollenweider. Now more widely known his placid work backing up Carly Simon or his milquetoast New Age, “fantasy” music, there was a time when what Andreas was doing was decidedly more special and unique. …Behind the Gardens – Behind the Wall – Under the Tree… is proof positive of that. Surprisingly underappreciated, it was his early work that ties many ideas (ambient, mediterranean, neoclassical, and minimal) in ways that still sound fresh to open ears. This release being the most fully-formed, sidelines the cheese that would creep up in future releases, for far more inviting and surprisingly complex arrangements that really get to a sound: the gorgeous electroacoustic harp tone, in full flight, that he’d be known for.

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Released on Wacoal Art Center’s NEWSIC label, Yoshiaki Ochi’s Natural Sonic shares some of the same magic heard in the music of fellow roster mates Yoshio Ojima, Motohiko Hamase, and Mich Live. This time the aural trick would be one of the most simple of them all. Largely composed, conceived, and performed on organic material — water, stone, found and created, etc. — Natural Sonic tries to draw out a ton of beauty and inventive experimentation from very earthly objects. It’s some of the beauty he would later provide to Miyako Koda’s wonderful Jupiter as well.

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psyche_masayuki

One name stuck out to me when listening to Japanese label Shi Zen’s wonderful Windham Hill-like compilation Shizen Collection ’87, it was Masayuki Sakamoto’s contribution “Psy’chy”. Even with other, like-minded Japanese New Age artists like Sojiro, Kiminori Atsuta, and the parent label’s creator Kitaro, there was always a high amount of cheesy aplomb in the Shi Zen catalogue. “Psy’ Chy” seemed far more influenced by Japanese folk music and Taoist-like experimentation than much of what the rest of those artists would create. Also, as much Berlin School-indebted as moved by Steve Reichian modernism, at least in that track, Masayuki showed he had more to contribute than simply “mood music”.

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Other than being a great proponent of why we need paid maternity leave in America, Tabo’s Project’s Eyes Of A Child is a great proponent of how many hidden gems in Japan’s musical history are still left to be rediscovered. A balearic masterpiece, or walearic (if we’re being pedantic), Eyes of a Child was conceived in 1986 by Takashi Omori, guitarist for gigantic Japanese rock group Southern All Stars and the late, great Japanese session musician Ken Yajima. Sometime, in 1985, when Southern All Star vocalist Yuko Hara was conceiving, all members of the group decided to launch solo projects rather than breakup the band, giving Yuko time to enjoy her maternity leave.

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6. FOND_SOUND

It took two guiding lights to shepherd me through this mix I created for Mexico City’s brilliant Mitamine cultural curation blog. First, I knew the beginning had to start with Lins & Ford’s “Fast Roads” and it’s end had to be with Kyoko Koizumi’s “Eastern Jungle”. They felt like thematic book ends to something bigger. What was it though? I kept thinking (and tinkering): how exactly do I tie those two songs together? That’s when an aha moment struck me. There is (or was) a beautiful call to action at the beginning, in “Fast Roads”. It was one so specific. This line: “Taking in, what flashes by me”, for some reason, struck me as something special. It was something beautifully loaded with symbolism, in a way anyone could understand.

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Nina-Maika

These are the kinds of albums that really live with you. Sao Paolo native, Edson Natale’s name may be the lead on the album cover, his visage may be the one seen folding in the background (with guitar in hand), but its those other small names around him that make Nina Maika such a beautiful piece of music. Bringing the sounds/ideas of Clube Da Esquina to there next phase, Nina Maika, was post-MPB, couching for new meanings by ruffling something to discover them. A product of Edson’s background as a half-Egyptian Brazilian, autodidactic guitarist, who fell in love with the music of Milton Nascimento and Lo Borge’s Clube Da Esquina, this release was a tenuous one that could only exist because of him and his spirited exploration of his influences.

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mitar

Some music you discover, and some simply grabs you instantly. For me, the music of Suba, the brilliant Serbian musician Mitar Subotić, is one of them. The line between atmospheric, ambient, New Age, and environmental music is so thin, that to render one type of music, a certain something misses the whole point. With Mitar Subotić and Goran Vejvoda’s The Dreambird, labelling it environmental music, I wager, goes right to the meat of what makes it special.

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/ September 22, 2017 / Comments Off on Steve Hiett: Down On The Road By The Beach (1983)

Steve Hiett: Down On The Road By The Beach (1983)

You can always hear music in Steve Hiett’s photography. You can definitely hear the music on the cover of his solo debut, Down On The Road By The Beach. Heavily saturated with color, mesmerizingly flash-lit, and warmly off-center, this image was like an Edgar Degas painting come to life – albeit one fashioned with Miami’s South Beach in mind. That image, an Elle Française snapshot taken from his Japanese-released photo book also titled “Down On The Road By The Beach”, was intensely-colored Modernism as Pop Art. On Down On The Road By The Beach were those blues, heavily saturated (a trademark of Steve), within and outside the album. We may not know it, but modern, as in at this moment, fashion, and editorial photography owes a lot to the techniques Steve Hiett pioneered in the late 70s and 80s. Yet on this album cover, you’re getting just a peek at his talent.

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/ September 20, 2017 / Comments Off on Tom Jobim: Matita Perê (1973)

Tom Jobim: Matita Perê (1973)

matita_pere

Lightness, sweetness, and melancholia those are things that define Tom Jobim’s career. You don’t need me to regurgitate a whole Wikipedia page to stress his heralded place in Brazilian music history. Together with João Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim allowed for things like space, quietness, and off-beats to have a place in pop music. Everything we here about Tom is always in the past tense, though. That man who worked with Frank Sinatra. That man who created bossanova. That man who sang about girls in Ipanema. That man was something for the past, right? Well, there’s power in discovery. There’s power in the music of Matita Perê. Unlike anything he is known for, it is everything he is known for, untethered from expectation.

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