Power can manifest itself in many ways. Power isn’t always in the density of something but in the lightness of it. Kenji Omura’s spirited take on funk, sophisticated pop, and so many other smooth genres comes together into one powerful album: Gaijin Heaven. The late, great Kenji Omura, one time or some time YMO guitarist, draws from his background in jazz to create a delectable mix of styles cropping up in Japan in the early ’80s influenced by the sophisticated American urban music being created at that time. What you’ll hear in Gaijin Heaven are ultra-funky groovers slotting alongside ingenious soul covers. What you also get are his own chrome-plated sophisti-pop wonders that help it rise among nameless West Coast-influenced Japanese artists. Huge tinges of Roxy Music’s work in Avalon make Gaijin Heaven a not so distant cousin of it, with its different sort of sublimity in its own expertly polished luster. Perfect for the summer, Gaijin Heaven seems to have been made to soundtrack a gorgeous day outside your friendly confines.

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When conceiving my latest mix all I could think about was the works of master Impressionist painters. Where other painters try to highlight the contours and contrasts shapes, objects, and environments have between each other, these Impressionists tried to understand connections found among still and moving life. It’s an understanding of the beauty of gradients meeting their inherited boundaries together. To that end, producing studies in light and color not to present life as it was, but as the true essence of every conceived thing. The mix below crosses genres, moods, languages, and time periods but there is a focal point where some musical astrolabe is no longer necessary to place you. It’s summer and who needs to do so much heavy thinking. Just feel it man. We’re all in this together…

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We might not all be able to know the way to get on that righteous path but there are signals that could help us get there. These are ones found merely by observing that walk to it, in others. Adrian Sherwood’s experimental reggae and dub label On-U Sound wouldn’t have been what it came to be if he hadn’t felt divine inspiration from other sources. “Songs of Praise”, released a decade after the label’s creation, was the culmination of Adrian putting faith in an idea of a “psychedelic Africa”, one inspired by the visionary Fourth World music of “My Life in the Bush” by Brian Eno and David Byrne. That only gets you halfway. The true work and effort that allowed On-U Sound to reach that peak was derived from the hard toil of percussionist Bonjo Iyabinghi Noah who set a goal: create a new kind of experimental African music that could come from “a hole in the ground”, within the most humble places.

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Takashi Toyoda’s Big Bang promises in the back cover “total spiritual stability and stress relief” through 40-odd minutes of Japanese New Age music. What really stands out, though, is the word “BIG BANG” in the album title. Attempting to provide some respite from a stark external world, Takashi tries to create the first 1/f fluctuation or alpha wave music to do so. Thankfully, all the bad pink noise one expects out of modern YouTube-based pseudo-healing music doesn’t make its appearance here. What makes an appearance is Takashi’s overwhelming sense of dense musical space. One that has rooted those ideas into genuinely captivating musical ideas.

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So cool and forgotten. Very little is explored from such an integral member of the Art of Noise, that’s what makes this work enticing and exciting. Anne Dudley’s bite-sized background music for audio visual, television, radio, films, jingles, slide presentations, and advertising – part of a larger, less interesting “muzak” series – achieves exactly what it states on the cover: provide Melodic Lightly Rhythmic Underlays. More a collection of really fascinating snack size ambient, minimal, and New Age music, than background music, somehow Anne’s musicality takes what could be a very boring and injects it her own awfully pretty sentimentality and emotion.

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There is a time in any good musician’s life when they absolutely nail down whatever they had to place. Akira Ito, one time keyboardist for influential Japanese psych rock outfit The Far East Band, could have stayed with that group rehashing “out there” musical troupes – variations on psychedelia with The FABs or Kitaro-like, Jean-Michel Jarre-aping electro-prog as in his early, solo career – or he could, you know, grow the hell up, and accept that music evolves, and so must he. There’s only so much Ummagumma aping one can do in a lifetime. That’s what makes Marine Flower his first release under his own Green & Water record label truly interesting. It shows his shift to a particular electronic aesthetic that his country was cultivating at the time. Read More


Heavy, shamanic, tectonic Fourth World music from French-American composer, of Cherokee descent, Steve Shehan. Primarily a percussionist, Steve developed his own improvisational recording method to be able to capture the moody, spiritual, polyrhythmic music of his favorite Indonesian music tradition, working to translate it to modern environs and add other non-Western influences from the Middle East, Asia and elsewhere.

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/ June 20, 2017 / Comments Off on Dan Gibson: Harmony – Exploring Nature With Music (1989)

Dan Gibson: Harmony – Exploring Nature With Music (1989)


There are so many sides this next recording could fall under: New Age, ambient, environmental music, muzak, tone poems – I choose to give Dan Gibson’s Harmony: Exploring Nature With Music a personal tip of the hat in the direction of worthwhile music. A native of Montreal, Dan Gibson was the internationally renowned wildlife film-maker who basically created and popularized the whole nature soundtrack industry. Irv Teibel may have pioneered environmental music through his “Environments” series but Dan truly was the person who took field recording as a serious artform, pioneering various recording techniques and tools (the parabolic microphone for one…) to actually capture nature sounds as they weren’t possibly before. It was his own “Solitudes” series which convincingly – through your hi-fi stereo turntable system – put you in the woods of the Pacific coast, by the raging waters of Niagara Falls, or among the mountain canyons and valleys of the American southwest.

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/ June 16, 2017 / Comments Off on Mich Live: Plant Planet’s (1988)

Mich Live: Plant Planet’s (1988)

Plant Planet's

Let’s try a little tenderness from Mitsuru Sawamura, otherwise known as Mich Live, one-time member of Japanese band Interior (with whom he wrote songs like “Luft” and “Park“) and brilliant session musician for others like Yukihiro Takahashi, Hajime Tachibana, Pierre Barouh, and Mari Iijima. In 1988, Mitsuru released under the Newsic label (home of Yoshio Ojima) something that straddles the lines of cool jazz, New Age, and electro-acoustic minimalism floating around Japan in that time. Plant Planet’s sounds like someone’s precious origami creation, a delicate, intricate thing from very simple material.

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/ June 13, 2017 / Comments Off on Morgan Fisher: Look At Life (1984)

Morgan Fisher: Look At Life (1984)


I’m truly thankful I live in a world where circumstances led Londoner Morgan Fisher to visit Japan, fall in love with country, and proceed to sell nearly all of his life’s work to make his living there. Some would say it was a foolhardy move but it’s a move that proved essential to his reinvention as the rare Japanese New Age/minimalist artist that is decidedly not Japanese. Veetdharm (his Buddhist spiritual name you see on the cover) serving to underscore this important change in his life and that gorgeous album conveying a dramatic change in his life.

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