These are the kinds of records that just mean the world to me. They’re the ones so full of potential, yet profoundly this…close to being lost in the cracks of history. What you’ll hear in 882 Studio is a very short and sweet compilation by three artists from the Japanese label Fitzbeat, a label mostly known as the home of Tsugutoshi Goto *huge thumbs up* and a metric ton of Rebecca releases *huge thumbs down*. Three bands, or units (as they’d dub themselves for the project), decide to help Yoshitaka Minami step out from his jazz singer shell to try his hand as New Wave producer/musician. Cutting-edge in a way that is still unplaceable, two of those bands – Takeshi Ohta and Kahn – produced some truly interesting work, for this project, that will make you wonder why this was the last we’d ever hear from them.
It’s not often that a song just leaves me floored the first time I hear it, but Takeshi Ohta’s “Iruka” is something truly special. Ostensibly a ballad, “Iruka” touches on so many ideas in it’s brief four minute run time – ambient, dub, funk, sophisti-pop, new romantic – that it quite possibly takes the its spacious Avalon-esque Roxy Music influence places only imaginable with some truly dedicated computer programming. The Takeshi Unit, helmed by multi-instrumentalist Takeshi Ohta (on vocals, guitar, and keyboards), was a band where his submerged, barely there, heavily reverberated Japanese vocals found a way to be the star of the music. More texture than lead, the two tracks that feature the vocal work of Takeshi Ohta, and the floating, rhythmic, electronic arrangements of the rest of his crew, still leave my head scratching trying to place them in 1985. It’s no wonder the whole shebang opens with their “Kitty” a gorgeous bit of music showing the other side of that sound.
A slight step below Takeshi’s work are the tracks by Kahn and Yoshitaki Minami. A three-piece, Kahn contribute two tracks that rely heavily on intricate sampling arrangements with ample amounts of hip-hop and electro influence. Largely sung in English, “I’ll Take You Away” and “Yang-Yin Totem” by Kahn up the tempo with EBM flourishes that dissolve from heavy dance grooves into meditative synth breakdowns very similar to the work of Urban Dance.
Yoshitaki Minami’s contributions “Mouhitotsu No Natsu” and “Mizu No Nai Kawa” find some kind of middle ground between the other crews, by aptly displaying the genuine input Yoshitaki added to the other songs. Flashes of floating pads, hard-panned drum machine work, and knocking electronic funk in his work. In a way, by going harder here, Yoshitaki was able to focus the mellow “floating” pop touches he crafted in Daydream = デイドリーム into new ideas and people, so that when this compilation ends on “Iruka” it maybe was serving to set the table for a unique sound that still sounds fresh to this day. The only shame in this is that it appears this was the end of the line for all of these groups and Fitzbeat was not able to capitalize on those ideas.
Note: A huge thank you goes out to iiurii for introducing me to this album.