Thursday, October 28, 2010

Tomo Akikawabaya - 1985 7" (Castle, 1985)


Side A

Side B
A Dream of No Pillow

Some of you might have already heard the A-side to this fantastic single over at the Habit of Sex tumblr (which I hope all of you are following), but I thought I'd post it here at SD because #1 - it would be a little bit redundant to post it on HOS, and #2 - you wanna hear the B-side, right?
I had completely blown off (i.e. didn't add to my eBay watch-list) the works of Tomo Akikawabaya for a while, mostly due to the kinda cheesy covers (all featuring the same 80s-lady), but the huge prices they were fetching weren't helping to catch my interest either. Being not entirely proficient in determining the gender of some Japanese names, I had assumed it was some synthy dance-pop with female vocals, so you can imagine my surprise when I finally heard the song Mars on YouTube. I thought it must have been either a mistake, a guest vocalist, or a woman with a hell of a deep voice. When I eventually obtained 1985, I played it first at 45 and it confirmed my suspicions. But wait! The label says 33!
Now confident that what I was hearing was a crooning dude, I began to really enjoy this Akikawabaya stuff. The corny New-Romantic conviction in Tomo's voice as he delivers the fantasy-themed lyrics of Diamond strangely affected me, drawing me in to his no-doubt mirrored and fog-machined world. Becoming hooked on the song, I eventually moved past that sort of tongue-in-cheek nostalgia-loving and developed a full-on love of Akikawabaya's records. This stuff is moody, languid, brilliant minimal synth/New-Romantic music - possibly the pinnacle of it's certain sector in the genre.
A certain mystery develops when one really enjoys these records too. Who is this girl that appears on all the cover art? Her name shows up on the back cover as Rena Anju, credited as model. In fact, Anju is the title of another Tomo 12" from 1985, so did these two share a close relationship? It's possible, but for some reason I can't imagine this attractive woman going for the kind of guy who self-produces his own synthesizer records to complete obscurity. It's possible that she acted as sort of muse. Another curious tidbit is that the 12" immediately following Anju is the only cover that doesn't feature the titular model, but instead a woodcut. This 12" is titled Kojiki to Onna, translating to "Beggar and Woman," which one can certainly read into...
If you enjoy this one, keep an eye on Habit of Sex in the next few days, as I'll be posting Tomo's masterpiece: The Castle!

P-Model - One Pattern LP (Alfa, 1986)


Side A
Oh Mama!
Licorice Leaf
Astro Notes
Möbius Band

Side B
Oyasumi Dog
Another Day

Here's P-Model's nearly-as-good follow-up to Karkador and their final album before going on a 6-year hiatus. Some really wonderful, spastic technopop production going on here, especially on tracks like Licorice Leaf and Oyasumi Dog. Those of you who are anime fans might recognize some of the melodies from Zebra, which is practically a blueprint for singer Hirasawa's later work for Satoshi Kon's Paranoia Agent series.

Monday, October 25, 2010

P-Model - Karkador LP (Alfa, 1985)


Side A
On the Organ-Yama
Dance Subomp

Side B

7th album from this long-running and much revered new-wave group. This one really grew on me after first being disappointed with how normal it seemed next to the zolo oddity of Perspective or the Devo-ish doink of their first two outings. Smart, sophisticated songwriting prevailed, and now I consider this to be one of the high-points in the P-Model discography. Cyborg and Piper are gems among gems...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pale Cocoon - 黄金時代 7" picture disc (Pafe, 1984)


Side A
Side B

More gauzy, blurry melancholy from the great Pale Cocoon, this time on a pretty cool looking picture disc (sorry hi-fi fans). I think it's just as brilliant as the Secret Sounds 10" I posted earlier. 黄金時代 is a glittering, cosmic shoegazer with a weird sort of constant tinnitus effect to it as the song warps and swells. Side B's 街燈 ramps up the morose factor with a similarly warbling piano and synth piece. Definitely check this out of you enjoyed Secret Sounds or the Funeral Party 7" over at Habit of Sex.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Rorie With A*T*H - Door Dream 7" EP (Altamira, 1982)


Door Side

Dream Side
Momently 1
Just 2 Minute

Brain-damaged free-rock clamor from this group with connections to Luna Park Ensemble, A-Musik, and Daisuck & Prostitute. Definitely recommended if you enjoyed the Phew and Amaryllis posts, or any of the aforementioned groups.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Return of Video Game Music LP (Alfa, 1985)


Side A
Fanfare From Pole Position II
Dig Dug II
Dragon Buster
Metro Cross (Part I)
The Tower of Druaga

Side B
Mood Organ #27
Meta Magic Game
Merry Goes Around (Dedicated to Mariko Kunimoto)
Standard Theme
Mechanism of Vision
Metro Cross (Part II)

This LP is the sequel to the "Video Game Music" album arranged by Haruomi Hosono of YMO. This time around, arrangement duties fall in the hands of Koji Ueno of Guernica fame, who does a pretty alright job. It can't be a simple, really, as most of these early arcade compositions were meant to be looped indefinitely until the player succeeds or loses, cueing another soundbite. Ueno (and Hosono before him) don't ignore that fact, and admirably present the music in all its incessant glory, with in-game sound effects, chance deaths, and subsequent victories disrupting any sort of logical song-structure. This sort of video game music is actually pretty bizarre taken out of context...
Side B get's a bit bogged down with some original (non-video game) compositions, but the wacky "Meta Magic Game" is a highlight.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

月光慰問客 - 月がでたので 7" EP (Pafe, 1986)


Side A

Side B

Charming europhilia from Gekko Imonkyaku, another Pafe Records group. Comparable to Kumiko Suyama and possibly Bernthøler, Antena, etc., as it has a bit of that Crepuscule vibe to it. I imagine the heavy dose of accordion here will cause opinions to vary, but I hope we can all agree that the closing track (青空, produced by labelmates Funeral Party) is pretty cool.

Pale Cocoon - 青空の実験室 / Secret Sounds 10" EP (Pafe, 1982)


Side A

Side B
水たまり (Brain To Vain)

I first heard about this band from a collector who named them as one of his top 3 favorite bands from Japan - the other two were Wha-Ha-Ha and Picky Picnic. Well, if Wha-Ha-Ha is a bunch of highly-trained adult lunatics, and Picky Picnic is a daycare gone wrong, then Pale Cocoon is the brooding middle sibling locked up in his room reading Edgar Allen Poe. All sorts of weird stuff going on here: warbly synths, rickety, metronomic percussion, field recordings, alternating between pastoral and cloistered without ever losing the consistency of a very private sonic universe. One of the great unknown bands of the 80's, if I do say so myself.