Episode 20 – Cocoon

Lose yourself in an atmosphere of allied electronic artistry from collaborators in turn-of-the-millennium Japan.

Cocoon (“Maju” in Japanese) features work by artists who played in Audio Sports, Maju, Neina, Hosomi, Kangaroo Paw and Synapse, with particular focus on musicians Aki Onda and Sakana Hosomi. Their overlap outlines a scene that paralleled Nobukazu Takemura and the Childisc label, and resulted in some of the most innovative, glitchy ambient and post-rock music of the time. Listen up below, and let the sonic boundaries break down.

Stream it here or listen on iTunes.

Lineup: Aki Onda (Audio Sports, Maju, Synapse), Sakana Hosomi (Maju, Neina, Hosomi), Kohsuke Nakamura (Kangaroo Paw, Neina, Dill; mastering for Tujiko Noriko and Suppa Micro Pamchopp), Masaki Narita (Maju, Neina, Hosomi) and to a lesser extent Hikaru Sekine (Maju, Neina) and Syunsuke Sakamoto (session musician for Maju and Yoko Kanno).

In 1991, Aki Onda began to collaborate with Eye Yamatsuka and Nobukazu Takemura in the rap/trip-hop/experimental lounge group Audio Sports. On their 1992 debut, Eye manned the mic, Nobukazu scratched records and Aki Onda produced. On following releases the project fell into Onda’s hands completely and became more collage-like in style, which would inform the sound of his next few solo records.

In 1988, Onda had begun to collect field recordings on cassettes from locales as far flung as Morocco. Over the next twenty years Onda would accumulate more and more tapes from around the world and make use of them in the fascinating Cassette Memories trilogy, as well as in live performance. During that time he worked with Tujiko Noriko and Maju on several tracks including Noriko’s “Tablet of Memory” with Lawrence English, and with Japanese avant-garde figures Ikue Mori and Haco as Synapse for John Zorn’s Tzadik label. He now works in NY as an improvisor, sound artist and curator.

In 1999, Maju leader Sakana Hosomi collaborated with Sekine, Narita and Sakamoto on the first of five self-titled releases for Extreme Records. Over time, the project ventured further into atmospheric glitch and digital ambience under Hosomi’s guidance. Maju 2, which features Onda, stands as a benchmark release in Japanese electronic music (and is severely underrated and overlooked). Between Maju albums, the group’s members worked together under the moniker Neina for the Mille Plateaux label. Neina sounds somehow similar to their work as Maju, but glitchier and a tad colder. Other solo projects sprang up, such as Nakamura’s psychedelic pop/gonzo electronica material as Kangaroo Paw, and Hosomi’s works of thick, glacial electronic ambience released eponymously.

Tracklist:

Audio Sports – So, That Was the Beginning
Maju – Eyelids Not Yet Open
Kangaroo Paw – Phlizz
Audio Sports – Banana (Joy Mix)
Aki Onda – Cattleya
Hosomi + Ryo Miyashita – nog
Neina – Quit Elegance
Maju – Within Time, Without Words
Kangaroo Paw – Cat’s Cradle
Audio Sports – Never Personal
Tujiko Noriko – Tablet for Memory
Aki Onda – Fish Don’t Know it’s Raining
Hosomi – sp
Maju – Yawning in an Afternoon’s Monotony
Synapse – Soap Bubble
Maju – Once Again, I Revert to That Perspective
Neina – Symmetry
Aki Onda – Chrysanthemum
Kangaroo Paw – Osusowake
Audio Sports – I Met You On the Street
Maju – Dust it Off and Make Sure Which Way is Up
Aki Onda – It’s Gone
Hosomi – bl-ib
Maju – Chabashira
Audio Sports – Return to 1 More
Aki Onda – Orange
Neina – iris-in
Maju – Facing Backwards
Aki Onda – Mellow
Maju – Meguro
Aki Onda – Eclipse
Aki Onda – I Tell a Story of Bodies That Change
Sakana Hosomi + Chihei Hatakeyama – Collapsing Huge Glaciers and the Sun

Episode 19 – Trattoria Tastes

Keigo Oyamada’s vibrant Trattoria Records, a Polystar-owned imprint that lasted from 1991 to 2002, stood out among the core labels of Tokyo’s Shibuya-kei scene. It also provided a home to Oyamada’s brilliant Cornelius project, in which counterpoint, syncopation and sampling invaded — nay, parasitized — the sunny alt-rock sound of the ‘90s. If Cornelius could encapsulate Shibuya-kei’s eclectic, hyper-pastiche type of retro-chic and its flair for experimentalism on a single record, Trattoria reflected a broader vision where sounds like baroque pop, noise rock, psych, shoe-gaze, trip-hop, lounge and J-pop soccer anthems would all live on one roster.

Trattoria accomplished a lot before going defunct after the release of Point, which many consider the creative peak of Cornelius (Oyamada’s stayed busy since, but little compares to his creative arc from 69/96 to Point). First, Trattoria was an Eastern hub for Western groups, being the first to re-issue ‘60s artists like The Free Design, The Millennium, Bill Wyman and Margo Guryan. It also distributed The Apples in Stereo, Louise Philippe and many other American and European groups, engaging with Shibuya-kei’s thirst for everything Western.

As well as putting out Cornelius records, the label released many of Oyamada’s best productions and collaborations with artists like Kahimi Karie, OOIOO, Pizzicato Five’s Yasuharu Konishi and Takako Minekawa (his wife at the time). His influence didn’t end with studio credits, either: many of the best releases by Salon Music, Hideki Kaji and Indian Rope on Trattoria bear the mark of Oyamada’s Beck-like, Gainsbourg-esque, Stereolab-ish eclecticism.

This mix pairs Cornelius tracks with Oyamada’s production work, while setting aside Trattoria’s Western artists — and its more overt J-pop, alt-rock and avant-garde sounds — in favor of the label’s most inclusively adventurous (adventurously inclusive?) Japanese material, showing off what Shibuya-kei was truly capable of.

Stream it here or listen on iTunes.

Tracklist:

Cornelius – 1969
Cornelius – The Micro Disneycal World Tour
Dots + Borders – 7 Juillet
Salon Music – Golden Brown
Cornelius – Smoke
Indian Rope – Lovely Dada
Flipper’s Guitar – Southbound Excursion
Yasuharu Konishi – Opening Theme
Takako Minekawa – Plash
Cornelius – Star Fruits Surf Rider
Hideki Kaji – Kanojyo Ga Yoko Wo Muku Riyuu
Citrus – Your Building
Kahimi Karie – Son of a Gun
Cornelius – New Music Machine
Venus Peter – Walk Out
OOIOO – Be Sure to Loop
Salon Music – Wanna Be Tied
Takako Minekawa – Lullaby of Gray
Yoshie – Espacio Verde
Cornelius – Point of View Point
Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her – Sister Sister
Indian Rope – Go West
Citrus – Everysong Landed Near by His Fire Place
Cornelius – How Do You Feel
Kahimi Karie – Le Roi Soleil
Hideki Kaji – Ivy Ivory Ivy
Hiromix – Yume Wo Yoku Miru Hito No Hanashi
Luminous Orange – Ken-Ban
Cornelius – 69/96 Girl Meets Cassette
OOIOO – Asozan
Salon Music – Sleepers
Buffalo Daughter – Great Five Lakes (Cornelius Remix)
Yoshie – 7 Colobe 8 Oqui
SKYEYE – 7EYE7
Rovo – KNM!
Cornelius – Fly
Indian Rope – Purple Mania
OOIOO – Mountain Book
Citrus – Big Day Coming from Northwest
Cornelius – Thank You for The Music