Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Special: Japanese Techno-Pop

Let me begin with a bit of back-story. Growing up in the 80s, with synth-driven music and its strong and catchy melodies, I spent most of the 90s thinking good music had come to an end. I listened almost exclusively to music from the 70s and 80s during that period, with few exceptions. Music TV and radio were my only sources for discovering new music, and try as I might, I just couldn't enjoy anything current.

Then, in 1999, Eiffel 65's 'Blue' was played on the TV. I'd never heard anything like it. I remember thinking that dance music had suddenly risen to new heights. The odd thing is, it's a very simple song - almost too simple. But the impact it had was enormous. Thanks to the internet, which was new to me at the time, I discovered that bands like Eiffel 65 were thick on the ground overseas. The problem was they weren't played on Canadian radio, nor were they likely to be unless they had a crossover hit.

Eiffel 65 - Blue, courtesy of blisscorporation

Another band that changed my outlook was Canada's Front Line Assembly. They too were absent from the airwaves. Nevertheless, I picked up a compilation of theirs called 'Reclamation.' It proved to me that good music had not died. They'd been making music since the early nineties, but was it being heard? Certainly not by me. And they weren't the only band out there making industrial synth-music.

Front Line Assembly - Provision, courtesy of MetalKael

A world of new music opened up to me. I no longer had to wade through angst-ridden 'alternative' bands pushing swaths of distorted fuzz around and singing dirges over the top of it. Thanks to these two bands, and the internet, I discovered electro-house, EBM, trance, funk, and many genres in-between.

Now, ten years later, I feel I've discovered the next 'revolution' in my musical tastes: Japanese Techno-Pop. My love for Anime has exposed me not only to the Japanese language, but also to the quirky, happy theme tunes. I knew about 'J-Pop' but never really heard anything that caught my attention. I'd been listening to Vocaloid music, specifically Hatsune Miku, and it was via Miku Channel blog that I discovered the band Perfume.

On the surface of it, Perfume are a 'girl group' that sing happy bubblegum songs. But beneath their auto-tuned voices lies a bed of exquisitely-produced techno-pop. The man responsible for writing and producing these songs is Yasutaka Nakata. A little research revealed that Perfume is just one of many acts he writes and produces for, and that his primary project is called 'capsule.' Capsule, as of this writing, have produced 12 albums since 2001. How Nakata-san manages such an incredible output on top of writing and producing entire albums for other groups is amazing enough, but the songwriting remains consistently good as well.

For your enjoyment, here is a selection of Nakata's works, starting with the first song that caught my attention:

Perfume - Night Flight, courtesy of missvlk

Perfume - The Best Thing, courtesy of FairySweety

Perfume - One Room Disco, courtesy of millionstarleaf

Perfume - Fushizen na Girl, courtesy of cedrique30

capsule - Jumper, courtesy of shizukao

capsule - The Mutations of Life, courtesy of asquimandape

capsule - Love Or Lies, courtesy of Mrazerty1

capsule - Stay With You, courtesy of itbeganinwuhan2

MEG - Heart, courtesy of xMoonGoesDown

Ami Suzuki - Can't Stop The Disco, courtesy of ElectricHorseman003

This last track isn't by Nakata, but sounds like something he'd do and I like it a lot:

Aira Mitsuki - China Discotica, courtesy of otarutomoe13

The only problem with these bands is tracking them down. Capsule's most recent albums are available on iTunes Canada, but everything else has had to be sourced from either eBay or at great expense. They're worth every penny, though.

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