Turning Japanese

Japanese experimentalism: my top five tracks

Originally published:www.clashmusic.com

Japanese artists from Tomita to Cornelius have always taken a hugely experimental approach to their music making and Bo Ningen are no different. So ahead of their highly anticipated show at the Relentless Garage tonight, we got thinking about the wonder that is Japanese music.

Secluded from the Western world for a thousand years, Japan retains a deeply individual outlook. And Japan’s identity is imprinted on its rich and diverse music scene. From slick J-Pop to outrageous space rock the country has produced some daring, groundbreaking groups.

From the days of Yellow Magic Orchestra onwards, Japan has garnered a reputation for crafting rich electronic music. Here are our top five sounds of the Japanese underground.

Isao Tomita-‘Bolero’
This glistening reinterpretation of Ravel’s ‘Bolero’ was so ahead of its time, it was practically futuristic. Japanese virtuoso Tomita took the humble synth and the modern compositional masterpiece and came up with something quite brilliant. His debut album ‘Snowflakes are Dancing’ can only be described as “revolutionary.”

Ryuichi Sakamoto – ‘Energy Flow’
Sakamoto is a world-famous, award-winning ivory twinkler and pioneering electronic musician, who is known best for his film scores and his work with Yellow Magic Orchestra. ‘Energy Flow’ shows the spectacular Japanese artist in all his classical finery.

Cornelius -‘Wataridori’
Bubblegum pop and forward thinking electronics meet head on with this experimental noise technician. A kaleidscopic reverie of musical titbits: sounds from natures, metallic bleeps, scuzzed up guitars, he’s got all bases covered. This particular track is an exercise in stripped down minimalism.

Cibo Matto – ‘Birthday Cake’
The Cheeky girls of Japanese experimentalism, Cibo Matto make saccharine-laced, funked-up magpie pop: ‘Birthday Cake’ is dripping with funk samples and beatsy hip-hop rhythms. Their New York expatriation clearly shaped this particular musical journey.

Kitaro – ‘Walk To the Village’
This epic piece of instrumentation sounds like it belongs on an Oliver Stone film soundtrack. And funnily enough, it does: ‘Heaven and Earth’ to be exact. One of the forefathers of the Japanese new-age movement, the subordinate synth never sounded so moody.

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