It’s Doopee Time! How does one describe a Doopee? One certainly can’t define it, one can only hear it. Led by master Japanese steelpan player Yann Tomita, the Doopees (featuring Caroline Novac, with special appearance by Auntie Kim) were a band conceived by Yann to attempt to do a brand new thing: create the ultimate “cute” album. Of course, when that idea gets filtered through Yann’s wonderful experimental vision this could mean all sorts of things. For me, it’s the ultimate culmination of everything that makes Yann, Yann, and what makes Doopee Time such an essential listen. 

Yann has a storied history. As a young man, he fell in love with the steelpan when he listened to Van Dyke Parks Discover America, an album just teeming with it. It’s this love for it’s sound that would take him to Trinidad to study and learn the instrument. Then this love grew into a new awakening. Back in Japan, Yann took to discovering and exploring all sorts of other genres: exotica, dub, funk, lounge, musique concrete, and jazz. In 1989, he became a pioneer himself by producing the first true Japanese rap record Seito’s MESS/AGE. Then in the early ’90s he conceived of creating his own blend of Space Age music, which would then be released under his own name or the Astro Age Steel Orchestra. By the mid-90s his thought experiments would come to a head.

If ever there was a modern Sun Ra, he is it. Doopee Time, is a special listen, it’s like transporting a young Martin Denny into our time and asking him to make sense of this future, then asking him to portray the next. At first what sounds ridiculous — the toddler-like lead vocals of Yumiko Ohno vamping into half-remembered velvety lounge music, which starts blending into cut-and-paste tape loop experiments, hip-hop, power pop, and jazz-fusion — tumbles into some forgotten genius, with naivety itself unfurling into a powerful message of some powerful, lost innocence. It’s something you wouldn’t expect for such an album to get you to. However, when it ends on the positively sublime cover of The Beach Boys “Caroline, No“, once you get there…the whole there makes powerful sense.

Damn, Yann, didn’t you know you already had me at “Doopee Time”?


– The Doopees on Doopee Time