If You Haven’t Heard It, It’s New To You: WAX – Itsumo Sou

いつもそう

This came out in 2010, but the sentiment lives on. Aren’t we all just tryna chill like these guys?

AJICO Cover Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five”

The death of Dave Brubeck one month ago generated lots of Internet traffic to touching Youtube videos and blog posts about memories that were soundtracked by Take Five. One such touching video:

"They only tell you you great when they reminiscin' over you."

“They only tell you you great when they reminiscin’ over you.”

You could fill an 8-Disc CD changer (if they still existed) with cover version of Take Five, and I only recently discovered this version by AJICO off their live album, AJICO SHOW. AJICO was a short-lived (one year!) group built on the foundation of two j-indie artists: UA (née Kaori Hasegawa) and Kenichi Asai of Blankey Jet City fame.

AJICO

For as hype as Japan is on jazz music, I expected to see more J-covers of the song from a number of artists – I’m lookin’ at YOU, Hiromi!

This version takes the iconically baffling time signature from Take Five and places it under some freestyle stadium guitar expressions courtesy of Asai. Meanwhile UA mumbles (and then belts, as she is prone to do) some lyrics that perhaps no one will ever decipher. As you may know, I really go in for UA, but I’m not sure her rendition will do anything for people who are not already fans of her…unique sound.

But don’t let me tell you what you like. Listen below.

AJICO | Take Five (Download)

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Chiyori Double Feature – “Call Me” x “Easy Blues”

Draco 2012

It’s winter again, which means I spend most of my time cultivating an escapist fantasy where I’m back in San Diego and my car is not buried under a foot of snow. To that end, I’ve been eating way too many fish tacos, drinking beachy beers (Tecate + lime/salt) and listening to Japanese dub-type R&B. And when it comes to Japanese dub-type R&B, there’s only one name I know, and it is Chiyori.

Normally, I’d run your through a tiny biography and explain how I learned about this artist etc. etc. but it’s the holidays and you have the Internet, buddy.

A little summery JRNB goes a long way to staving off winter blues, so if you’re in a similarly afflicted climate stop reading and press play to join in my Summer Fantasy®.

An alternate (better?)  version of  “Call Me” appears in Jet Set Radio #4.

End of line.

AKB48 x Wreck-It Ralph and the Impending Jpop Tsunami

When Gangnam Style galloped into hearts across the world and became a bonafide phenomenon, inquiring minds wanted to know: has Kpop finally been wrestled from the  fingers of those really nerdy outcasts in middle school who were fascinated with Asian culture (1999 Bryan says hi) and placed into the sphere of global popular music? In short, could Kpop finally sell big numbers in America? It’s a good question, and J-capitalists want to know the same thing about Jpop.

Jpop has made several overtures to capture the American market but none have been wildly successful. Utada put out This is the One, which turned out to not be the one, but satiated her frothy stateside fan base and brought us, “Merry Xmas, Mr. Lawrence – FYI”. Puffy Amiyumi managed to eke out a few albums and were rewarded with a cartoon for their efforts. None of these albums were bad, nor were they popular.

Enter AKB48:

I was a lil surprised to hear some nihongo as I was leaving the theater for Wreck-It Ralph. As it turns out, AKB48 got the honor of closing the movie out with “Sugar Rush“, a song that at once evokes the fictional kart-racing game it’s named after and the popular American idea of what Jpop is.

In any case, Sugar Rush is the song attached to the end of a major Disney picture and as such, will carry the seeds of jpop across the wind and hope they land in some fertile minds.

From Tokyo Hive:

“Sugar Rush” was written by Akimoto Yasushi and composed by Jamie Houston, and the song has been picked up as the ending theme song to the film for the worldwide release.  The members who are participating in the song are, Itano TomomiOshima YukoKashiwagi Yuki, Kawaei Rina, Kojima HarunaShinoda MarikoShimazaki HarukaTakahashi MinamiMatsui Jurina, and Watanabe Mayu.

It was also revealed that the PV was directed by photographer/movie director Ninagawa Mika.  She commented, “I was happy to be able to direct the PV which will be watched by people all over the world. I wanted to introduce the charm of Tokyo or even Japan, and tried to make it as the cutest PV ever in AKB48 history.”

The cutest PV in history? I suppose that’s high stakes. The matchup makes sense for the obvious reasons (oversweet jpop soundtracking a world made of candy). A media handler for the group has this to say:

 “We’ve always thought of Sugar Rush—with its nod to anime—as a game that may have originated in Japan,” said Spencer. “So we went to Japan and got the hottest J-pop group to perform the song that really sets the tone for this ’90s-era cart-racing game: young and hip.”

It’s safe to say that Sugar Rush will never be Gangnam Style. “Ue wo muite arukou” is going to be the most famous j-song in America for a time to come. But globalization is real and if Japan is salty about Kpop’s global success, you can be damn sure they’re gonna start squeezing Jpop into American culture wherever they can fit it. Wreck- It Ralph  may not be the most effective vehicle for that shift, but it’s a pretty big step.

 

Spooky, Scary: Kansai Witchhouse Mix

First order of business:  ハッピーハロウィーン!

As a kid, my go-to Halloween CD was the joint that came with Killer Instinct on the SNES. Kids would approach the house and hear that bone symphony ringing out, and re-evaluate their whole strategy. Like, “I love candy, but is it worth getting SLICED MY A SKELETON for??” Nowadays, Halloween is the new Xmas in terms of downloadable mixes. I’m on my third one today and it comes from Kansai artist, Eadonmm.

This cut features unsettling music (and FF7 snippets) that you probably don’t want to play on your walk home from the train. Witchhouse (a real genre) meets 808s and even a lil soulful wailing; its 29 minutes pass pretty quickly (can’t say that for the 3-hour Diplo offering) and the ride, while definitely Halloweeny, is pretty pleasant. Best played in a dark interior and betwixt conscious states. Hold on to these for next year’s trick or treaters and/or costume parties.
(via @jt_sloosh)

Track List:
1. Final Fantasy VII – The Gold Saucer
2. The Knife – Still Light
3. Nonchelee – thani wanita
4. Twink – The Coming of the One
5. Mater Susupiria Vision – Seduction of the Armageddon Witches
6. Salem – Sick
7. Trackman – Rhth
8. ▼▲▼ – Duke Dumont Streetwalker Drag Edit
9. Antnna – Back Home
10 .How To Dress Well – Ready For The World
11 .Anthony Ellect – Vases
12 .The Drum – SYS
13 .XXYYXX – Alone
14 .Eadonmm – Sklave
15 .Bird By Snow – The Sound And The River Within The Sound
16 .サン・ピエール・ド・ソレーム修道院聖歌隊 – キリエ 第9番
17 .Holy Other – Nothing Here
18 .Peter Broderick / Machinefabriek – Rain

UA – Amnesia (記憶喪失)

One of my favorite songs from Kaori Hasegawa also happens to work as a nice soundtrack to the beginning of fall. Stay warm, people.

UA – 記憶喪失 | Download

Blackanese: Mbira Takes Tokyo

The African lamellophone, thumb piano or mbira

The African lamellophone, thumb piano or mbira (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once upon a time, Erika Hayashi traveled to Zimbabwe and found herself completely surrendered to the irresistible charms of mbira music.

Back in my wily youth, my mom had an mbira, an instrument also known as a ‘hand piano’. Additionally, there were a few djembes and some wind instruments lying around the house that I was not allowed to touch because they were there as part of a Back to Africa thing she was going through at the time, not as musical instruments. Luckily, the mbira was playable and over the course of an afternoon, I taught myself how to play one short song: the Nickelodeon fanfare, because duh. I was pretty proud of the accomplishment, but never thought to take it any further.


(hit Play, then continue reading, if it please you)

Not so for Erika Hayashi. She was touched deeply by the mbira’s sweet sound – and probably also the Zimbabwean culture it represents – so much so that she went back to Japan and opened two mbira schools, obviously.

WONDER GUCHU explains:

She has quit her nursing job to goose up Zimbabwean music by performing for tourists visiting the 333-metre broadcasting Tokyo tower where tourists come to view the city.

“I used to admire Florence Nightingale when I was growing up hence I became a nurse, but certainly mbira has become an integral part of me,” Erika explained.

Apart from goosing up the mbira, Erika has also written a book titled ‘Ngoma in Japanese’, which is used as a learners’ guide to mbira music.

You could fill a bathroom or a small backpack with books about alleged Japanese appropriation of Black culture. Is j-jazz REAL jazz? Is j-rap REAL rap? The question of authenticity has started many “intellectual” arguments and ended as many friendships. Everyone has their own opinion on whether music come from place or race, and I wonder what those types think about something like this.

Perhaps the appeal lies in ancestral sounds handed down from the distant past. Perhaps the simultaneous simplicity and complexity of the instrument and its sounds appeal to the collective consciousness of many Japanese people. Whatever the case, if Katsuhiro Otomo lost his mind and directed another Akira film, the mbira doesn’t sound like it would be out of place in the cacophony of choral arrangements, shamisen grinding and gamelan insanity.

What do you think? Is j-mbira an AUTHENTIC musical form? Crass imitation? Does it even matter? Perhaps this man’s message to Japanese people will offer some insight!

Perhaps not.

BIzarrely, another Erica, this one American, has a similar story reported by WONDER GUCHU. Coincidence or glitch in the Matrix. YOU DECIDE.

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