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2024 WORLD TOUR - #1 JAPAN

2024 WORLD TOUR - #1 JAPAN

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Tujiko Noriko - Cr​é​puscule I & II

Crépuscule 

by Tujiko Noriko

Released 20 January 2023

Editions Mego

****-

Crépuscule in the French describes the uncertain light immediately preceding sunrise or following sunset. It's a perfect title for Tujiko Norito's mesmerising collection of sonic landscapes.

The dozen compositions on the album vary in length from two minutes to twenty four, and moods shift often, though always maintaining a sombre, often gentle, ambience.

Most tracks are instrumental, but on the occasions where she sings Norito's ethereal vocal and production ventures past territory explored by Baldementi & Cruise for Twin Peaks.

The synthesised instrumentation is  monumental in scale and cinemescopic in effect.

Go ahead, get lost in it.

GEZAN with Million Wish Collective - 「​あ​の​ち​」ANOCHI

「​あ​の​ち​」ANOCHI

by GEZAN with Million Wish Collective

Released 1 February 2023

13th Records

****-

ANOCHI, GEZAN’s sixth studio album, opens with bagpipes. This fact in and of itself is unremarkable, until you consider that the Osaka-based quartet evolved out of the Japanese noise rock scene, previously recorded with Steve Albini, collaborated with Merzbow in the past and have a catalog of tracks with titles like “SCHOOL Of FUCK.”

It represents a shift from their biting 2020 album KLUE, which included lines like “Tokyo is causing congestion of trouble under the democracy which has never functioned,” or their takedown of Shinzo Abe’s COVID-19 protections.

ANOCHI repurposes this aggression into battered joy, thanks in large part to Million Wish Collective’s vocal contributions. Here, GEZAN elude classification; even though “rock” is as apt a term as any, the fact is that, in reality, noise rock, experimental music, punk and tribal music circulate through their veins. It’s therefore best to discuss ANOCHI for what it is; unapologetic.

Read more... Spectrum Culture

Hiroshi Yoshimura - Surround

Surround

by Hiroshi Yoshimura

Released 1986 (reissue 6 October 2023)

Temporal Drift

*****

 

Originally released as an album in January 1986, Surround was recorded by Yoshimura as a commission from home builder Misawa Homes, intended to function as an “amenity” designed to enhance the company’s newly built living spaces.

In his original notes for the album, Yoshimura recommends that Surround be placed in the same family of sounds “as the vibration of footsteps, the hum of an air conditioner, or the clanging of a spoon inside a coffee cup.” And, as he suggests, “with the addition of city noise from outside the window,” you may hear Surround in a completely new way.

Read more... Bandcamp

Ryuichi Sakamoto - 12

12

by Ryuichi Sakamoto

Released 17 January 2023

Lee Ufan / Avex Entertainment

*****

As delicately beautiful ans anthing you're likely to hear this year, Ruichi Sakamotos's "12" comprises a dozen compositions titled only by the date that they were composed, and arranged in chronological order, from 20210310 to 20220304.

Thus, this is a diary of sorts, the beauty of which is underscored by the revelation that these pieces were written and recorded in temporary lodgings, while in convalescence after cancer surgery.

Over the years, I have often wondered whether and how the generation of musicians and pop stars of our youth would age - whether with dignity, good humor and poise, or as embarrassing, 3rd-rate self-caricatures. There are many examples of the latter, playing to audiences forever trapped in the aspic of nostalgia. Fortunately, many others, like Ryucihi Sakamoto continue to create new music that draws deeply from their lives.

The album is subtle in its gradual change of mood, presumably a reflection of the composer's recovery. The opening seven pieces, from 20210310 to 20220214, become progressively longer (from five to nine minutes) and are low in tone.

However, midway through the album on "20220302 - sarabande" (a slow, stately Spanish dance in triple time) there seems to be an awakening - the pieces now become progressively shorter (from three minutes to one) by 20220304 and more structured. 

The final track, the shortest of all, consists of only a naturalistic tinkling sound, perhaps of (wind?) chimes. It as if confinement is finished and the patient is enjoying the garden.

Akiko Yano & Soichi Noguchi - I Want to See You So Badly

I Want to See You So Badly

by Akiko Yano & Soichi Noguchi

Released 1 March 2023

Victor Entertainment

****-

Akiko Yano is a Japanese pop and jazz musician and singer born 1955 and compared to English singer Kate Bush.

She has recorded with Yellow Magic Orchestra and its members Ryuichi Sakamoto, Haruomi Hosono and Yukihiro Takahashi, as well as with Swing Out Sister, Pat Metheny, The Chieftains, Lyle Mays, members of Little Feat, David Sylvian, Mick Karn, Kenji Omura, Gil Goldstein, Toninho Horta, Mino Cinelu, Jeff Bova, Charlie Haden, Peter Erskine, Anthony Jackson, David Rhodes, Bill Frisell, Thomas Dolby, the band Quruli, Rei Harakami as Yanokami and her daughter Miu Sakamoto.

Yano was initially married to composer Makoto Yano, the producer of her first recording and father to a son Fuuta Yan. She later married Ryuichi Sakamoto, with whom she had a daughter, Miu Sakamoto. 

Musically adventurous and with a deep interest in space and space exploration, Yano approached International Space Station astronaut Soichi Noguchi to write lyrics while in space, while she would compose the music.  Akiko Yano wrote and recorded the music between tours in Japan.

Read more... Far Side Music

Miu Sakamoto - Birds Fly

Birds Fly

by Miu Sakamoto

Released 21 October 2021

Folky House

****-

Miu Sakamoto's album ``Birds Fly'' was her first under her solo name in about six and a half years. With pianist Mamiko Hirai and cellist Seigen Tokuzawa as co-producers , this work was not recorded in a studio, but instead recorded all six songs live in one day at Jiyu Gakuen Myokikan (a Frank Lloyd Wright designed girls school, designed while working on the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, in collaboration with his Japanese assistant, Arata Endo), not a recording studio.

In addition to the original songs created for this work, there are a total of 6 songs, including ``hoshi no sumika'' co-written with haruka nakamura and ``shining girl'', which Sakamoto expanded on from Mamiko Hirai's piano song.

Read more... Miu Sakamoto

Liquid Stella - Authentic

Authentic

by Liquid Stella

Released 5 April 2023

Playwright

****-

Formed in 2019, Liquid Stella is a rising instrumental band with an average age of 22. Their unique music combines influences from black music with catchy and dramatic melodies, garnering attention from a wide range of age groups. Their fresh energy and immense potential, typical of an average age of 22, drive them forward as a Neo-Fusion band of the Reiwa era (the current era of Japan's official calendar, from 1 May 2019, the day on which Emperor Akihito's elder son, Naruhito, ascended the throne.

Liquid Stella are
Kenshin Sugimura (Guitar)
Sota Yamasaki (Piano, Keyboard)
Rintaro Kondo (Drums)

Read More... Bandcamp

TRI4TH - CALM&CLASH

CALM&CLASH

by TRI4TH

Released 15 February 2023

Sony Music Japan

****-

With the concept of "danceable jazz," Japan's leading live jazz band travels both domestically and internationally. Although they are jazz, they continue to captivate audiences with their intense performances that rival rock bands. Their musical style, which incorporates punk rock and ska, has been well received.

TRI4TH is a band that continues to make leaps beyond the boundaries of instrumental music, and is gaining even more attention in the current scene.

Read more... TRI4TH

 

Miki Yamanaka - Shades of Rainbow

Shades of Rainbow

by Miki Yamanaka

Released 8 September 2023

Cellar Live / La Reserve

****-

Miki Yamanaka is a New York-based pianist from Kobe, Japan. She moved to New York City in 2012 and has studied Piano with Jason Lindner, Jeb Patton, and Fred Hersch, and Organ with Sam Yahel and Larry Goldings. In 2015 she was one of three pianists selected to participate in “Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead”, an intensive composition residency at the Kennedy Center.

She writes:

Tyrone Allen and Jimmy Macbride have been playing with me fairly often for the last few years. I had never felt this much comfort playing with other musicians before, in the sense of being truly me, feeling free ...

(They) make me feel like I can do anything.

Adding another voice in such a comfortable band could be trick...Mark Turner was kind enough to join me on my last record, Stairway To The Stars, which was recorded at my apartment during the pandemic. It was very casual - we played some tunes that we all like to play

When I thought about recording a new project, I immediately thought of asking Mark to join us again.

Miki Yamanaka - piano
Mark Turner - tenor saxophone
Tyrone Allen - bass
Jimmy Macbride - drums

Read more... Bandcamp

Shinya Fukumori - Another Story

Another Story

by Shinya Fukumori

Released 20 December 2020

nagalu

****-

Recognised internationally and domestically as one of Japan’s most ingenious musical talents, drummer and composer Shinya Fukumori is now fulfilling his long-awaited ambition of starting his own music label, “nagalu” and its first full album “Another Story”.  

After spending a decade in the United States after leaving his home in Osaka at the age of seventeen, Fukumori relocated to Munich, Germany in 2013.  In the winter of 2018, following the legacy of Masabumi Kikuchi, known as the first Japanese jazz musician to ever release an album as a leader from ECM Records, Fukumori, too, awes the world with his debut album “For 2 Akis” for the label. Not merely a drummer, Fukumori is also a gifted composer and an arranger, highly regarded for his translucent timbre and elegant artistry.  

For the first album off of his new label, Fukumori unsparingly shows such aesthetics through all of his original compositions which are enclosed in two discs, named “Tsuki” (moon) and “Hana” (flower) respectively. Each song, with individually altered instrumentations, comes together to form one cinematic story, flowing from one enriching sound to another, from a stream of bewitching vocals on an improvisation piece to a thrilling ensemble featuring a traditional Japanese bamboo flute called shakuhachi.

Read more... nagalu

Koichi Sato - Embryo

Embryo

by Koichi Sato

Released 30 November 2021

nagalu

****-

Koichi Sato's wonderful album "Embryo" is the second release for the "nagalu" label,  established by ECM recording artist Shinya Fukumori.

It is a two-disc album that captures the essence of Sato as an emerging musical talent in the Japanese music scene - a performer, composer, and arranger expressing a strong worldview.

As a pianist, Sato has collaborated with Fukumori, Miho Hasama, Goro Ito, Tomoyo Harada and is also deeply involved in film music, including playing the piano for the songs in the animated movie "Violet Evergarden".

"Embryo" is broken into two parts, comprising “Water” (Disk 1) and "Breath" (Disk 2).

For the former Sato uses a classically tuned Bösendorfer piano applying the Vallotti temperament: a tuning devised by Francesco Antonio Vallotti, an 18th century organist, composer, and music theorist, in which each chord shows a different expression, which creates a fantastic sound image that resembles ripples of sound spreading forever on the surface of water.

By contrast, the suite of twelve songs presented as “Breath” are ensemble pieces, eight of which are variations of songs from "Water", their moods shifting from breathtaking tension to fiery passion to delicate and gentle scenery,

Read more... nagalu

Remboato - 星を漕ぐもの

星を漕ぐもの

by Remboato

Released 20 December 2021

nagalu

****-

 The group name is Remboato, which means "rowing boat" in Esperanto, and includes Kazuma Fujimoto, Sumire Kuribayashi, Toru Nishijima, and Fukumori, who are said to be the best in the current jazz scene not only as performers but also as composers. This is the debut work of a super group that brought together the four members of Shinya Fukamori's bands.

Although each of them has experience performing together, their first live performance in March 2021 produced original music with a level of perfection that even the members themselves were surprised by. Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the band refined its clear, lyrical band sound into something even more delicate and robust, and retired in the summer of 2021 to record. This work is a special work that crystallizes the "surprise" and "joy" that music is born with. The two albums titled “Nordo (North)” and “Sudo (South)” contain 10 pieces that can be called masterpieces by four composers and are full of emotions unique to Japanese people. By respecting each other's songs and playing with a deep understanding of each other, they brought out the potential of the songs to the utmost, creating truly Japanese music.

Read more... nagalu

SMOKIN'theJAZZ - Fervid Focus for the Fourth

Fervid Focus for the Fourth

by SMOKIN'theJAZZ

Released 3 November 2021

Loud Minority Productions

****-

 

``SMOKIN'theJAZZ'' is a jazz hip-hop trio from Tokyo featuring permanent members Sugames Japon (piano), Shu Fujiyama (guitar) and NOBUdaDREAD (turntables)  who have collaborated with featured guests & co-writers including Canadian rapper BlizzyB, Japanese rapper Okami:OHGA, US born rapper Marchitect (aka Marcus Slade Watkins, ex The 49ers) and vocalist JUDY. 
As the album's title suggests, "Fervid Focus for the Fourth" is the group's fourth album - an engaging eleven-song mix of free-form jazz, hip hop, R&B

Read more... DiskUnion (Japan)

Tatsuro Murakami - An  Imaginary Autumn

An  Imaginary Autumn

by Tatsuro Murakami

Released 16 September 2023

Whitelabrecs

*****

Whitelabrecs is a record label established in 2016, specialising in highly limited runs of vinyl-effect CDrs and occasional digital-only editions. The discography focuses on contemporary Ambient music, including Drone, Modern Classical and Electro Acoustic.

Tatsuro Murakami is an artist originally from Tokyo, Japan, who spent several years Brazil before returning home, to rural Japan. After emerging from his earlier work as part of a progressive rock band, Tatsuro began to make Ambient and Experimental music. In the year that he graduated from a conservatory in São Paulo, he released his debut album on La Petite Chambre, a label from Belo Horizonte in Brazil. A few years later ‘The Sound of Living Things’ followed, on Italian imprint ROHS! Records. He has also headlined with many well-known compatriots including Shuta Yasukochi, Rhucle, Ken Ikeda and Ayami Suzuki.

Read more... Bandcamp

Tatsuro Murakami - in/naka

in/naka

by Tatsuro Murakami

Released 15 December 2023

ROHS! Records / Lontano Series

*****

The album expresses the cross-relationship between the idea of inner work and farm work, which was inspired by Murakami's experience in the Japanese countryside, where he stayed for several months in 2022, learning from organic rice cultivation and forest restoration.
Each song is based on stories and teachings he learnt from the farmers, as well as the existence of the living creatures and plants he observed. Daily activities in the field are full of repetition and unpredictability, which inspired him to think of the countryside ("inaka”, in Japanese) as a place of internality, or inner place.
The sounds are composed of a combination of acoustic instruments with an experimental texture process generated by some guitar pedals and a tape loop process. The music constructions are a mixture of some drone/ambient texture and the influence of jazz/ Brazilian choro chord progressions, using Brazilian classical/steel 7 string guitar, electric guitar, bass, analog/digital synth and voice

Read more... Bandcamp

Shin Sasakubo, Jamael Dean - Convergence

Convergence

by Shin Sasakubo, Jamael Dean 

Released 18 October 2023

chichibu label

*****

Japanese (independent guitarist" Shin Sasakubo was born in Tokyo in 1983, but for almost 20 years the guitarist has specialized in classic and contemporary Andean and Peruvian music, a knowledge that he deepened through a three-year stint in Peru between 2004 and 2007.

During his time in Latin America, he played live in Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia, and researched the works of Peruvian novelist, poet, and anthropologist José María Ar-Guedas. He also loves movies, painting, photography, writing, and theater - artforms that constantly influence his music on many different layers.

Since his return to his hometown Chichibu City in the japanese Saitama Prefecture, he launched the "Chichibu Avant-Garde School”, a college that looks through art and lectures on the Chichibu region, and his environmental and folkloristic history.

As a sincerely driven composer, he released three guitar leaning albums in the past ten years. His latest sensation “Chichibu”, originally only released in Japan, now travels the globe via Studio Mule, making his fantastique listening voyage available for all those souls that seek joy through the sound of guitar strings."

Sasakubo's 38th album "Convergence" is a collaboration with Jamael Dean, a gifted jazz pianist and beatmaker from Los Angeles. The meeting and fusion of these two creative individuals with their unique musical worldviews is a masterpiece that radiates a wide variety of musicality that captivates the listener!

Jazz pianist Jamel Dean and his Alter Ego, beatmaker/rapper Jira, connect LA jazz and hip-hop to the traditional Yoruba songs of Nigeria. Then they connected with the music of Shin Sasakubo of Chichibu.

The result is the most realistic and beautiful music ever created by the encounter of these two roots.

(Masaaki Hara, producer)

Read more... CDs Vinyl Japan ​and Boomkat

Hako Yamasaki - Tobimasu

Tobimasu

by Hako Yamasaki

Released 1 January 1975

Reissued 24 February 2023

1975 Elec Records Japan

2023 WRWTFWW Records

*****

Official reissue of the debut album from fabled Japanese folk singer / songwriter/actress/writer Hako Yamasaki, released in 1975, at only 18 years old, on legendary independent label Elec Records.

Tobimasu is a masterpiece of melancholy carried by one of the most beautiful, emotional, melodic, and haunting voices in the history of Japanese music.

Hako Yamasaki is considered a pioneer in both the creative boom and the rise of feminism of 1970s Japan.

This album is released in conjunction with her follow-up Tsunawatari, also available on Geneva, Switzerland label WRWTFWW Records*

Read more... Bandcamp

* wereleasewhateverthefuckwewantrecords

Hako Yamasaki - Tsunawatari

Tsunawatari

by Hako Yamasaki

Released 1 January 1976

Reissued 24 February 2023

1975 Elec Records Japan

2023 WRWTFWW Records

*****

Official reissue of the sophomore album from fabled folk singer-songwriter/actress/writer, and one of the most gorgeous voices of Japanese music, Hako Yamasaki, originally released in 1976 on the legendary Elec Records, one of the first independent labels in the country.
Tsunawatari is a perfect follow-up to her classic debut Tobimasu, immortalizing the bitter beauty of heartache with tearful performances and nostalgic empowerment..

Read more... Bandcamp

Atsuki Yoshida Emo Strings, Masaki Hayashi - Echo

Echo

by Atsuki Yoshida Emo Strings, Masaki Hayashi

Released 30 October 2021

****-

Atsutaka Yoshida EMO strings is made up of first-call players in various scenes such as classical, jazz, tango, and pop. String sounds that crystallize the essence of all kinds of music transcend the boundaries of genre and make you feel the vitality of "music" itself.
EMO strings' long-awaited second album is a collaboration album with pianist Masaki Hayashi.
Despite the classical composition of string quintet + piano, the music by two composers, Atsuki Yoshida and Masaki Hayashi, combines meticulously crafted delicacy and dynamic improvisation, giving the impression of the birth of a new chamber music sound full of color. Let me do it.
In M2 and 6, an expanded string orchestra of 12 people envelops the piano, adding grandeur to the fresh clarity unique to this collaboration, creating a breathtaking visual ensemble sound.
Recording at Studio Tanta, which has a reputation for recording live instruments and has the latest equipment, is a hot topic in the industry, resulting in highly accurate sound that delicately captures dynamics and three-dimensionality.
You can read the liner notes for this work by Atsuki Yoshida and Masaki Hayashi as online liner notes using the QR code on the back of the product's obi.
This is the second album from S/N Alliance, a label newly launched this year by Shinya Fukumori, one of Japan's leading drummers, following on from ``nagalu,'' which delivers ``pure music from Japan and abroad that should be heard now.''

(Translated from Japanese via Google Translate)

Read more... Bandcamp

Yutaka Hirasaka - Almost Blue

Almost Blue

by Yutaka Hirasaka

Released 13 October 2023

Keep Your Eyes Open Records

****-

Yutaka Hirasaka is a Tokyo based guitarist and composer with an extensive back catalogue of releases. His Bandcamp informs that "...this album is a reworking of the "element" released in 2019, consisting of songs re-recorded in my current tone as of 2023 and new songs written on the theme of Blue.
I feel that I was able to incorporate some of my pursuit of blue romance and longing for that beautiful sky into the sound of this album".

Read more... Bandcamp

Hitsujibungaku - 12 hugs (like butterflies)

12 hugs (like butterflies)

by Hitsujibungaku

Released 6 December 2023

FCLS

****-

Japanese post-punk trio hitsujibungaku consists of two female members Moeka Shiotsuka (vocals & guitar) and Yurika Kasai (bass), and one male member, Hiroa Fukuda (drums).

"12 hugs (like butterflies)" is the band's third studio album from a major label.

Fukuda: Having popular appeal has been our goal since we started the band. Balancing mainstream and underground. Our music is influenced by various genres like alternative rock, shoegazer, and post rock, and we want people who aren’t familiar with these genres to find out about them. The Jujutsu Kaisen ending theme, “more than words,” is included on our new album, and we’re glad that the people who discovered us through this song will listen to our other stuff as well.

Kasai: Since we’ve had more opportunities to appear in the media, we’ve been able to meet artists of various genres. There’s a lot we can take in from the outside world, and we’re now more aware of reaching “outward.”

Read more... Billboard

Ikuko Kawai, Orchestra Hibiki - Hibiki-Hibiki

Hibiki-Hibiki

by Ikuko Kawai, Orchestra Hibiki

Released 21 March 2023

IK Office

****-

This is the debut album of Orchestra Hibiki, a Japanese-Western mixed orchestra founded by Ikuko Kawai. The program, which skillfully incorporates a wide variety of instruments, is filled with the creative world of Kawai, who has been involved in a variety of genres since her debut. The ensemble of Japanese and Western instruments, coupled with the high quality 11.2 MHz recording, will captivate you with its remarkable sound. This is a monumental album that can be called the culmination of Kawai's career.

Kawai Ikuko (violin) Orchestra Hibiki - Hibiki is a mixed orchestra of mainly young players of Western and Japanese instruments, established by Kawai Ikuko on the occasion of her 20th anniversary concert.

The orchestra is attracting attention from all quarters as the one and only entity that embodies the "crossing of borders" that is the axis of Kawai's activities.

Read more... CD's Vinyl Japan Store

Masahiro Takahashi - Humid Sun

Humid Sun

by Masahiro Takahashi

Released 31 March 2023

Telephone Explosion Records

****-

For the good part of the past decade, Japanese composer-musician Masahiro Takahashi has been crafting gently spellbinding pieces that simultaneously embrace electronic abstraction and a palpable, even brittle, humanity. His delicate and evocative landscapes always seem to be illuminated in vibrant magic hour tones as golden synth lines emanate from between soft flickers of acoustic instrumentation.

Since moving to Toronto in 2020, Takahashi has swiftly become a local fixture'

Humid Sun proudly exhibits connections that he has cultivated in both his new and former homes. Recorded between January and August 2022, the record lives up to its title and sunset-hued cover, unfolding a kaleidoscopic, vaguely tropical calm over ten luxuriant tracks. All but one of the pieces features contributions from guest artists (including) several from back home

Read more... Bandcamp

Koki Nakano - Oceanic Feeling

Oceanic Feeling

by Koki Nakano

Released 13 May 2022

Nø Førmat! 

****-

Koki Nakano’s new album, Oceanic Feeling, is a celebration of ambiguity. The album’s title is borrowed from an expression coined by the French writer and musician Romain Rolland in 1927. In a letter written to Sigmund Freud, Rolland described the oceanic feeling as “the sensation of eternity, a feeling of being one with the external world as a whole”.

While this concept of oneness permeates Nakano’s whole album, the music also deals with his inability to fully live in this so-called "oceanic feeling", capturing thus the composer’s longing, frustration and ultimately search for harmony within his own limitations.

In September 2022 Nakano created the soundtrack for Issey Miyake's Spring/Summer 2023 collection, his performance captured live during the iconic fashion designer's 17-minute runway show during Paris Fashion week. (This was the label's first show after Miyake's death in August 2022, supervised by  Satoshi Kondo, who had taken over as creative director since 2019).​

A visit to the Koki Nakano’s carefully curated website reveals an interesting discography, numerous stylish music videos and some intriguing  collaborations with other artists including choreographers Benjamin Karim Bertrand (for Bouffes du Nord Theater, Paris), Damien Jalet (for Paris Opera), Nach Van Van Dance Company and Japanese multidisciplinary artist Kohei Nawa, 

Read more... Bandcamp

Yen Town Band - Montage

Montage

by Yen Town Band

Released 1996 (2 December 2015)

Oorong-sha

****-

Montage (モンタージュ, Montāju) is the concept album by Yen Town Band, a fictional music group from the 1996 motion picture Swallowtail directed by Shunji Iwai.

The album was actually recorded by a Japanese singer-songwriter Chara who played the starring role in the film.

It was released by the Sony Music Entertainment Japan in September 1996.

Yen Town Band is the name of the band featured in the film. Glico, the character Chara plays, is the main vocalist of the band, made up of residents from the Shanghai section of the Yentown slum. The concept album was a collaboration between Chara and the producer Takeshi Kobayashi. Kobayashi elaborated a Beatlesque sound on the whole album.

Reception
The theme song for the movie, "Swallowtail Butterfly (Ai no Uta) (あいのうた)", was released in July 1996, two months prior to the film's release. It was a slow hit, selling over 70,000 copies between July and August. In September, when major promotion for the film began, the single finally broke the top 20 (at #18).

The album was released simultaneously with the film in mid September. It debuted at number-one the Oricon charts for 2 weeks (selling 227,400 and 127,290 units in each respective week), becoming the performer's first chart-topping hit. The album eventually spent 18 weeks on the top 100, with cumulative sales of 785,000 units just in Japan.

Read more... Wikipedia

Lunatic Equinox - Evening Fragments

Evening Fragments

by Lunatic Equinox

Released 4 May 2022

Airplane Label

****-

Lunatic Equinox is a drum-less jazz trio comprising

Hiroshi Minami – piano 南 博(ピアノ)

Eiichi Hayashi – sax 林 栄一(サックス)

Daisuke Ijichi – bass 伊地知大輔(ベース)

Without drums, the musicians come to the foreground, sharing and invigorating the musical space in intriguingly exquisite ways. Using their own inner rhythms, the overall sound becomes more textured reflection than a foot-tapping adventure, each song filled with measured beauty.   With a mix of four original songs and two standards - as Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman", J Fred Coots "For All We Know" - this is music for an afternoon of calm reflection, when there’s time to really listen. The recording quality is high, so it’s easy to hear how comfortably the trio works together. The end of the CD seems to already lead to the next, which hopefully will come soon. Very highly recommended. 

Read more... Jazz In Japan

Maya Ongaku - Approach to Anima

Approach to Anima

by Maya Ongaku

Released 26 May 2023

Gunguru Brain

****-

THailing from the seaside communities surrounding Enoshima, a small island located 50 km southwest of Tokyo, maya ongaku is a ragtag collective of local musicians whose brand of earthy psychedelia transcends widely beyond the roots of their inner souls. The name derives not from any kind of ancient civilization, but rather a neologism defined as the imagined view outside one’s field of vision.

The band - currently a trio of Tsutomu Sonoda, Ryota Takano, and Shoei Ikeda - finds sanctuary at the Ace General Store, a beachy vintage shop and salon-like space just hidden from sight from the bustling, touristy riverside Subana Street. Between discussions on music and art, curating the vinyl section and manning the register, and chatting up with locals young and old, the members find time to jam and record their spontaneous ideas in the studio tucked away in the back. It’s in this unlikely setting where maya ongaku finds its origins, the culmination of what Sonoda describes as 自然発生 (shizen hassei), meaning spontaneous generation, or the supposed production of living organisms from nonliving matter.

Read more... Bandcamp

Still Caravan - Indigo Gravity

Indigo Gravity

by Still Caravan

Released 21 October 2020

Goon Trax

****-

A production group from Chiba Prefecture. Formed in 2007, centered around HiGASHi. Initially, the group consisted of a track maker and 2MCs, but later shifted to a crew centered around a band. Their activities are based on the concept of a "quiet brigade" that continues to explore organic sounds that combine "live sound" and "sampling." In 2014, she gained attention when she participated in the popular compilation "IN YA MELLOW TONE" series, and released her first album "Departures" the following year. After releasing “EPIC” in 2017 and EP “Taking Our Time” in 2018, they released their third album “Indigo Gravity” in 2020.

Read More ... Tower Records (Japan)

Yusuke Nakamura - Peace St. The Revival

Peace St. The Revival

by Yusuke Nakamura

Released 1 February 2023

Yusuke Nakamura

****-

This is another release for which the available information in English. From his Spotify bio we learn only thet Yusuke Nakamura was born in Yamanashi prefecture in 1997, played electric organ since age 6 and gravitated to jazz in his early 20's.

He has released  a dozen singles since 2020, including previous versions of the Peace St., the title track of this, his first album, which opens and closes with two more takes on the song. From a rare social media entry we gleaned that "Peace Street" is inspired by Heiwa Dori, a roofed shopping street in Nakamura's hometown.

He is joined on this occasion by Yuki Aikawa and Naruoshi Sano. The music here is entirely composed by Nakamura, who displays a masterful command of traditional jazz, with seemingly- authentic flavours of New Orleans and even Ragtime.

 

Yusuki Shima - Wind Loop Case 1

Wind Loop Case 1

by Yusuki Shima

Released 13 September 2023

Playwright

****-

Yusuke Shima, a notable trumpet and flute player/producer in Japan's contemporary jazz scene, has been the project leader of the "Silent Jazz Case" series released since 2010.

He has now embarked on a new project focused on sound production as a track maker, titled "Wind Loop Case," and has released a new album.

In this project, Shima handles everything from trumpet and flugelhorn performance to programming.

Joining him in this project are:
Yusuke Kono (piano) - a rising star who won the Grand Prix at Sapporo City Jazz 2015.
Riku Sugiura (bass)
Ayuko Namihira - female vocalist
Makoto Otsu - multi-instrumentalist

Read more... Bandcamp

賽(SAI) - FAMILY

賽(SAI) - FAMILY

by 賽(SAI)

Released 16 November 2024

SAIKORO Records

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Japanese outfit “Sai” started out in February 2021 as a drumless trio consisting of Taihei Sakurauchi (Keyboards), Yusuke Sase (Trumpet, Flugelhorn), and Keigo Iwami (Acoustic Bass).

The band's formation coincided with the announcement that Taihei's established band Suchmos, which was formed in 2015, would be on indefinite hiatus.

While focusing on jazz, the band incorporates a wide range of music such as Blues, Classic, House, and Ambient, their stated objective: "creating new sounds that blend into everyday life".

Their initial offer consists of two albums: "Family" and "The Bottle", each with a distinct narrative.

Even with the help of translation*, the song titles don't reveal much of the narrative behind the first album, "Family" it is an engaging collection of tunes of varying mood and intensity, that demonstrate the virtuosity of each of the three band members.

Tracklist:  1 ほとり(waterside), 2 Family, 3 賽 (dice), 4くろ (black), 5 Ballet, 6 It was all too much,  7 Good Work.

Read more... The First Times

賽(SAI) - The Bottle

The Bottle

by 賽(SAI)

Released 16 November 2022

SAIKORO Records

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``The Bottle'' is a work that mainly features featured songs and incorporates sounds other than the members without restriction. Nagan Server, Stuts, Ippei Sawamura (Sanabagun.) and Maki Nagata (Zainichi Funk) are among the featured artists.

aro Kubo, editor-in-chief of "Music Magazine" commented: "SAI is an instrumental trio with a drumless formation that is based on jazz, but each song has a narrative and lyricism that feels like a short film. In just one year, through repeated live performances and recordings, these three members have created a delicate, groovy. unparalleled sound".

Compared to "Family" "The Bottle" develops a fuller  ensemble sound with denser, sometimes intense rhythms that are underpinned by hip-hop beats - an altogether more contemporary set.

Read more... The First Times

賽(SAI) - Yellow

Yellow

by 賽(SAI)

Released 22 November 2023

SAIKORO Records

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For their third album “Yellow” Japanese trio SAi has added drummer Chino Matsuura to the lineup, further evolving the band's increasingly contemporary output.
“ Yellow” offers a story that unfolds expressively throughout the album, Sai once again infuses their jazzband aesthetic with techno, ambient, blues, and classical music influence and delivering their most satisfying album to date.

Tracklist: 1. Hajimari, 2. ILa, 3. 30, 4. Heee, 5. Child's Eye, 6.Rabbit's, 7. Orb, 8.Speculate, 9. NAKE

Read more... Bandcamp

Elle Shimada - Home ≠ Location

Home ≠ Location

by Elle Shimada

Released 29 July 2022

The Jazz Diaries

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嶋田会希–Elle Shimada is a violinist, producer, curator, DJ and multi-instrumentalist from Tokyo based in Melbourne.

For Shimada, the concept of home is ever-changing; it is the current which flows through her debut album, ‘Home ≠ Location’.

Across eight dizzying tracks, ‘Home ≠ Location’ contains lean, skittish skeletal beats upon which Shimada’s shimmering falsetto climbs. Lithe and loose, marrying incisive political commentary with deep introspection, the album folds in blends of house, bass and candied keys to showcase why Shimada is one of Australia’s most exciting talents
A unique combination of thickly layered string lines making tender love to heavy new-jazz influenced beats creates a cinematic and other-worldly atmosphere while keeping the dance floor pulsing with visionary and edgy production.

Fluidly fusing between Tokyo’s futuristic underground scene, Melbourne mellow-jazz and influences from jazz, house and traditional music from around the globe, Shimada’s production and live sets are a kinetic succession of dance beats and abstract compositions.

Elle Shimada Band’s live shows often feature multicultural and diverse artists of various mediums of arts (dance, fashion and fine arts etc.). Her curation is a politically charged peaceful protest, and emphases on exchanging knowledge and energy between stage, dance floor and the community.

Read more... National Gallery of Victoria

Yumi Kurosawa - Metamorphosis

Metamorphosis

by Yumi Kurosawa

Released 24 March 2023

Zoho Music

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The refined jazzy elegance of Yumi Kurosawa’s Metamorphosis is certainly a pleasure beholden. Born into a koto-playing family, she won several first prizes at Japan’s National Koto Competition.

Now based in New York, Kurosawa is focused on original music, and she blends her compositional style with other cultures and traditions to create new, vibrant and borderless music.

Her first album since 2015’s Looking Up at the Sky, Metamorphosis also features Naho Parrini (violin) and Eric Phinney (percussion, tabla).  Four tracks incorporate the Latin percussion of Carlos Maldonado with “Oneday Monday” and “Departure” serving as bookends to the set.

Commissioned by the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art in 2019 to celebrate a special exhibit by Tomioka Tessai, “Restless Daydream” is particularly evocative with the colorings of guest artist Zac Zinger’s shakuhachi and alto saxophone.

The duality of the yin and yang in her music incorporate call and response, tension and release, notes and space in a dynamic and expressive way that creates many moods as she weaves traditional Japanese forms with threads of other neo-classical genres.

Read more... Roots Music Report

TAMTAM - Ramble In The Rainbow (EP)

Ramble In The Rainbow (EP)

by TAMTAM

Released 19 January 2024

PPU Peoples Potential Unlimited

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A four-piece band based in Tokyo.
Initially playing reggae/dub music, the band gradually developed into an innovative fusion of diverse musical influences, such as jazz, soul, psyche pop, new age, and exotica.
The sound is based on groove and euphoria, with nostalgic melodies.
They have performed at iconic events in Japan such as Fuji Rock Festival, and also have been looking overseas since they performed in Canada (Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver) in 2019.
"Ramble In The Rainbow"is their first international release on the US label Peoples Potential Unlimited.
The work shows their musical maturity, drawing inspiration from Sun Ra, Lee "Scratch" Perry, and Yasuaki Shimizu.

Read more... Bandcamp

Shinya Fukumori Trio - For 2 Akis

For 2 Akis

by Shinya Fukumori

Released 15 February 2019

ECM

*****

For 2 Akis presents the ECM debut of drummer Shinya Fukumori. Born and raised in Osaka, he learned to play violin, piano, and guitar before relocating to the United States at 17 to pursue the drums. Yet after graduating from Berklee College of Music and immersing himself in the jazz canon, he became so inspired by classic ECM recordings, including Eberhard Weber’s Silent Feet and Keith Jarrett’s My Song, that he resolved himself to one day record for the label. Toward realizing that goal, he moved to Munich - a risky decision encouraged by this album’s dedicatory Akis, both affiliated with Osaka’s Interplay8 jazz club.

In a categorically unmatched trio with fellow itinerant spirits Walter Lang (piano) and Matthieu Bordenave (tenor saxophone), Fukumori reimagines history as a process of ongoing revision.

Much of that revision is drawn through evocation of Japan’s Shōwa era (1926-89), a time marked by economic collapse on either end, between which unthinkable traumas transitioned into golden-age prosperity. Although his own life overlaps it a mere five years, he understands its nostalgic power as if through firsthand experience, expressed in his introverted approach to virtuosity. Such restraint indicates an artist unafraid to humble himself in silhouette against the movie screen of time on which montages of compassion flicker by. Thus, each tune of Fukumori’s selected corpus extends a narrative devoid of antagonists and bound by regressive politics of interpretation.

During the interwar period (1918-39), a concerted emphasis on delineation and preservation of folk customs infused all aspects of Japanese cultural life, including crafts, farming, and music. And it is perhaps with this timeline in mind that Fukumori begins his artful set with “Hoshi Meguri No Uta” (The Star-Circling Song). Written by literary icon Kenji Miyazawa, its original lyrics depict Polaris guiding readers on a tour of the visible universe. Fukumori likewise takes listeners by the gentlest of hands on a journey through bygone eras, along the way establishing a precedent of communication with his bandmates. In this context, Lang’s lyrical curiosity and Bordenave’s vulnerable yet integral tone are nothing less than the light to his stardust.
By the 1960s, Japan had recovered from World War II and poured renewed effort into rural development as a means of reforming national identity. It was also a time when nihon-chō kayōkyoku, or Japanese-style popular songs, infused public consciousness with their airs of better times. Presciently enough, the solitude and hardship so commonly examined in those songs foreshadowed the bubble whose burst would mark the end of the Shōwa, ushering in an era of hypermodernism and recovery. Before that key transition, however, songwriter Kei Ogura planted his “Ai San San” in the popular imagination. Its evocation of perseverance through rough times gifted an anthem of recovery before one was even needed. Made famous by actress and enka queen Hibari Misora when she released it as a single in 1986, it continues to feel premonition-worthy at a time when we could use a little calm from the storm.

The oldest song here is Rentarō Taki’s “Kōjō No Tsuki” (The Moon Over the Ruined Castle). Written in 1901, it’s a timeless meditation on the fleeting nature of things. As people and their traces come and go, it seems to say, only their love lingers, reflected in the waters of mortality. Jazz aficionados will recognize the tune by way of Thelonious Monk, who arranged his own version as “Japanese Folk Song” on 1967’s Straight, No Chaser. Says Fukumori of the version at hand: “Every Japanese child learns this song at school. The melody of the song is very Japanese, so it stands out and still sounds very authentic even though I have re-harmonized it and arranged it.” So begins a three-part suite, in which mallets elicit a soft vocabulary from the drums, shifting into pianistic shadow cast by a glowing saxophone before blending into Fukumori’s “The Light.” Like the title track, it showcases his compositional ability to activate dense reactions from delicate chemicals, proving that he and his trio are no strangers to urgency when needed. In that precise regard, the rounded peaks of emotional transference in “Silent Chaos” and “Spectacular” are emblematic of his optimism and gratitude.
All the more reason for listeners to hold in mind the timeline being explored therein. What appears to be another beauty in the form of “Mangetsu No Yube” (Full Moon Night) reveals itself to be a prayerful reaction to tragedy. Composed by Takashi Nakagawa and Hiroshi Yamaguchi in response tothe Great Hanshin earthquake of 1995, it speaks the very language of connection that makes this band so transfixing. Lest we forget the potency of said language, we find two offerings by Lang (“No Goodbye” and “When The Day Is Done”) and one by Bordenave (“Émeraude”). All three are memories folded and unfolded, each more soulful than the last, as part of a collective dream.

It’s impossible to regard Fukumori as anything less than a rightful heir to Paul Motian’s legacy. His attention to detail, unflinching musicality, and penchant for understatement are rare in a musician so young (being 33 at the time of this recording). As when encountering Motian, this is music that demands the night. Anything less than total darkness would obscure its poetry against a market too often shouting with exposition.

Easily among ECM’s finest of the decade. Don’t miss it.

Read more... ECM

Masabumi Kikuchi - Hanamichi

Hanamichi

by Masabumi Kikuchi

Released 15 April 2021

Red Hook Records

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Hanamichi is the final recording of Masabumi Kikuchi (1939-2015), a pianist whose fingers left indelible prints on many a keyboard. Produced by Sun Chung, a former ECM producer and now head of Red Hook Records (of which this is the debut release), the album drops like a stone into the ponds of our hearts. The resulting ripples take form as six tracks, yet it is in the unquantifiable rings of space between them that Kikuchi plants his notes as seeds for a crop that has outlived him. What distinguishes Kikuchi’s agricultural process is his refusal to prune away a single sunburnt leaf or dying plant. He takes care to describe those apparent imperfections as beauties in their own right because they are real, honest, and unmanufactured.

The not-quite-standard “Ramona” and the more-than-standard “Summertime” brim with such regard. The introductions to both breathe with a lived sense of geometry. Kikuchi tends to every stem like an ikebana master who works with his eyes closed. Just as the visual impact ceases to matter for one so accustomed to flowers, the sonic impact recedes for Kikuchi, who turns every contact of flesh and ivory into an emotional prelude beyond the confines of melody. His willingness and ability to capitulate to these moments come out of an understanding that intimacy has little to do with isolation but is just another name for connectivity. In the spirit of Paul Motian, the drummer with whom he played for more than two decades, the technical abilities required to evoke so much with so little are obscured. It is their shadows we encounter, if not also a hint of the light that casts them. He is the bird who flies for no other reason than to glorify the wind.

Unlike jazz players who unpack a thematic statement to expose hidden messages in even the most familiar tunes, Kikuchi reverse engineers them to unfamiliar origins. Two cases in point are his starkly different versions of “My Favorite Things.” Where the first molds nostalgia into a knotted internal dialogue of ringing chords, the second is the dream to its waking, performed in fearless slow motion. From these contemplations comes an “Improvisation,” which Kikuchi smooths into an altar for relatively percussive offerings.

“Little Abi,” a ballad he wrote for his daughter that was a cornerstone of his repertoire, concludes with a tear-inducing farewell. The pacing here is so cinematic that the listener cannot slide so much as a piece of paper between one movement and the next. How he accomplishes this while still allowing for so much breadth is unfathomable. A contradiction in words, to be sure, but an organic comfort in his sound.

To the details of said sound, Chung’s ears are lovingly matched, and Rick Kwan’s engineering seems to elucidate two inner songs for every outward one rendered. As in Kikuchi’s use of the sustain pedal, the recording team allows notes to inhale deeply before they exhale their songs into the ether. Thus, the studio functions as an extracorporeal lung—and perhaps by no metaphorical coincidence, given that the pianist had survived cancer of that very organ.

The term hanamichi (花道), literally “flower path,” is a Japanese idiom of kabuki theatrical origins that signifies an honorable end to one’s career. Listening to the session it titles, however, one could be forgiven for thinking of this as a beginning, given that final recordings are often new listeners’ entry point into the intangible wonders of great artists. Hence, the vintage Steinway on which he plays. While the family name is synonymous with world-class instruments, its literal meaning of “stone path” reveals another secret. The way of stone is an immovable trajectory from birth to death, raw and astonishing in its lack of repetition. All of which reminds us that every recording is a ghost of its creator, of whose soul we are but temporary hosts.

Read more... ECM

Takuya Kuroda - Midnight Crisp

Midnight Crisp

by Takuya Kuroda

Released 21 October 2022

First World Records

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Takuya Kuroda is a highly respected trumpeter and arranger born in Kobe, Japan and based in New York City. 'Midnight Crisp' is Takuya's seventh studio album, entirely self-produced and following 2020's highly acclaimed 'Fly Moon Die Soon', also released on UK label First Word (winner of the Worldwide Award's Label of the Year in 2019). Consisting of six new tracks, this once again sees Takuya displaying his unique hybrid sound, blending soulful jazz, funk, post-bop, fusion and hip hop.

After following the footsteps of his trombonist brother playing in big bands, he relocated to New York to study jazz & contemporary music at The New School in Union Square; a course he graduated from in the mid-noughties. It was here that Takuya met vocalist José James, with whom he worked on the 'Blackmagic' and 'No Beginning No End' projects.

Following graduation, Takuya established himself further in the NYC jazz scene, performing with the likes of Akoya Afrobeat and in recent years with DJ Premier's BADDER band (also including acclaimed bass player, Brady Watt). Premier said "The BADDER Band project was put together by my manager, and an agent I've known since the beginning of my Gang Starr career. He said, 'What if you put a band together that revolved around a trumpet player from Japan named Takuya Kuroda? He's got a hip-hop perspective and respect in the jazz field…"

Read more... Bandcamp

Manami Kakudo - Contact

星を漕ぐもの

by Remboato

Released 20 December 2021

nagalu

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Born in Nagasaki, JAPAN. Musician and Percussionist. Kakudo graduated from the Percussion Course, at the Department of Instrumental Music, Tokyo University of the Arts. Beyond sound performances she presents her work in various forms including sound installations and socially engaged art projects. Her solo work focuses on sound specifically using handmade instruments, the marimba, percussion in general, her voice and spoken word, the piano, guitar and other things and objects that attract her. Beyond her solo projects, she plays and conducts as “Manami Kakudo and the Taco Mansion Orchestra”. Since summer 2016 she has also been active as a vocalist and percussionist in the band “cero”.

Manami frequently collaborates with a variety of musicians such as Keiji Haino and Ikuko Harada among others. In the commercial field she has performed in various TV programs and has accomplished recording work for TV programs, commercials and movies. In addition she has been composing and producing contemporary music for dance performances and video works.

Read more... MUTEK Montreal

cero - e o

e o

by cero