Masayoshi Iimori

Masayoshi Iimori is a name gaining attention in the electronic music scene. The Japanese track maker from Saitama prefecture started off with a modest following on SoundCloud, and gradually expanded towards greater milestones that include grabbing the attention of electronic enthusiasts across the ocean and online platforms such as NEST HQ.

Living in Tokyo means that Iimori gets to experience many aspects of the vivid and cosmopolitan city, but is also a cultural hotspot in which musicians embrace styles from outside the Japanese border, which is perhaps reflected in his rainbow-coloured tracks such as ‘Break It’. One cannot sleep through this enticing trap number constantly changing in atmosphere and sonic intentions. It is full of in-your-face vocal samples, alluring synth harmonies, pounding beats, laser-coloured timbres, and unashamedly echoing glimpses of viral tune ‘Harlem Shake’.

Badly’ sees a vibrant palette of sounds and riffs collide with each other to coax a gritty and downright seductive electronic number. Taken from his Futon EP, Iimori brings elements of trap, hip-hop and techno music under one creative filter. Perpetuating synth phrases, a meticulous drum line, sporadic vocal particles cast a sonic spell under a relentless rhythmic propulsion.

Whirlwind’ is the track that marks NEST HQ’s enthusiasm for Iimori’s unique creations. No two bars or phrases are the same – the track has a relentless energy that galvanises a “whirlwind” of sonic ideas from the quirky laser-tinged synth lead, pounding drumbeats, intense dynamic shifts, skittish vocal fragments and complex rhythmic lines woven with precision-engineered craft.

Other Listening:

  • Super Mellow Beat
  • Papapa
  • Justice – Stress

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (24) – HAMMER ‘Field’

The album sampler of HAMMER’s new record Field gives listeners a preview into a vivid sonic landscape of celestial spirits. Produced by Watanabe Wataru, the album includes an array of ambient, techno and chillwave numbers from him and three remixes by other practitioners. ‘Elysian Field’ proves to be one of many highlights with an undeniably seductive RnB groove, while the cinematic sonic experience of ‘beautiful starry sky & no name river’ and the mysterious angles of ‘psycho field’ and ‘zyuin’ are equally spellbinding.

Other Info/Context

  • Field was released on January 9th.

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (20) – yuichi NAGAO ‘White Wind’

yuichi NAGAO’s attention towards various sonic palettes is spoken clearly through his spellbinding music. Evocative of the dream-like sound world of Slow Magic, ‘White Wind’, the latest track to come out of PROGRESSIVE FOrM record label’s SoundCloud, speaks for both the futuristic and nostalgic. The track is laden with a rich array of cosmic synth colours, hazy ambient effects, heart-pounding drumbeats (drawing from techno, dub and downtempo influences) and heavenly vocoder samples, all weaving through each other to radiate a beam of polyrhythmic sonic bliss.

Other Info/Context

  • yuichi NAGAO studied under Japanese jazz musician 菊地成孔 Kikuchi Naruyoshi.
  • His music’s inspirations stem from things like surrealism art and the soundtrack to the anime film 銀河鉄道の夜 Ginga Tetsudou no Yoru (‘Night on the Galactic Railroad’).

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (10) – Perfume ‘STAR TRAIN’

Japanese techno-pop trio Perfume released their new single ‘STAR TRAIN’ this late October as part of their 15th anniversary. Known for their relentless, energetic synth-laden dance pop, this song conveys more of their delicate personality, while retaining some of their musical character that made them popular in the first place.

Among the characteristic android-tinged vocals of the trio and the vibrant synth patterns, the presence of pounding piano chords and guitar strumming in the verse conjure up subtle glimpses of Munford and Sons-esque anthemic expressions. A sparkling chorus lifts the mood instantly with a chorus melody (evocative of an anthemic Coldplay or U2 number) powerful enough to conduct a sing-along with an audience. The word play Perfume makes between ‘Star Train’ and ‘Start Line’ in the lyrics adds a nice personal touch, perhaps conveying the message that although they have been in the business for 15 years, this is just the beginning and there is more excitement to come.

Other Info/Context

  • This song was written as the title track for their documentary WE ARE Perfume – WORLD TOUR 3rd DOCUMENT, celebrating their 15th anniversary.
  • Check out my post on Perfume here.

© Isaku Takahashi

80KIDZ

80KIDZ, consisting of duo Ali and Jun (formerly a trio when Mayu left in 2009) have caught the attention of various global musical hubs with their exhilarating music that pertains both to the conventional principles of electro/dance/rave styles and the ever-growing interest and appetite for original and innovative musical personalities.

Their first album This Is My Shit back in 2009 is a seminal work of the Japanese duo, most notably for attracting the eye of Pete Tong from BBC Radio 1 leading to a segment of his radio show In New Music We Trust dedicated to a closer exploration of 80KIDZ’s music. ‘She’ and ‘Miss Mars’ were two of three tracks to feature in the segment. ‘She’, featuring the fluid vocals of AutoKratz is a piece of seductive electroclash, motored by a powerful four-on-the-floor drumbeat, recapitulating piano arpeggios and a dazzling array of synth patterns and textures. ‘Miss Mars’ induces a similar irresistible foot-tapping groove, but is tinged with shades of chiptune timbres in the choppy synth lines. Both of these tunes would be equally harmonious in a laser-filled rave atmosphere.

Weekend Warrior, their second album has a captivating quality that is equally impressive as their previous effort. Subtle contrasts in character between individual songs gives a fine variation when one is navigating through the musical labyrinth. As a comparison, ‘Prisma’ with its neon-tinged synths perpetuating through a bright melodic phrase coordinated with an equally infectious squelchy bass line and bustling drum rhythms and samples provoke a rhapsodic sensation. One track later, ‘I Wish’ intrudes the album with a much more contorted, dizzy affair with quirky vocal samples manipulated tonally and texturally stirring up a spectral undertone, and seesawing synth layers, bass lines and fluctuating drum patterns making the listener endure a more volatile sonic experience.

Some of 80KIDZ’s most recent material has seen the duo occasionally venture into introspective territories, such as ‘Apollo 80’. A ghostly ambience from the piano figure laced with quivering echoes in the backdrop introduces the track, and this sense of long-windedness stretches through the whole journey with a gentle propulsion hardly associated with the duo’s trademark electro-pop aesthetics. Perhaps this piece is emblematic of their different creative intentions surrounding the album TURBO TOWN, in which this piece features.

The appeal of 80KIDZ’s intoxicating music has not only enriched the Japanese electronic music landscape, but transcended cultural boundaries as audiences of various cultures look forward to the Japanese duo embarking on more fresh and exciting sonic adventures.

Other Listening:

  • Esquire
  • Flying Buttress
  • Nautilas
  • Red Star
  • Lightwaves

© Isaku Takahashi

Daisuke Tanabe

Music is its own special world where innovative thinking and creative breakthrough is celebrated. The Red Bull Music Academy graduate Daisuke Tanabe exhibits a unique sound world that intertwines between the infectious beats of hip-hop and techno, the seductive melodies of jazz and the innovative and abusing sonic textures that is indebted to electronica and IDM.

The intricate details Tanabe feeds into his creative output in tracks like ‘Paper Planes‘ is enough to engross the audience in an exclusive, otherworldly realm. This particular track from his latest album Floating Underwater glorifies in glittering bell samples, a stumbling and stuttering beat line that somehow manages to keep a consistent momentum, and ripples of woozy, alien-like synths fluctuating through the stereo field at the end, giving an inconclusive effect to the tune.

While he is creatively engaged in the same periphery of the musical universe as similar artists like Lapalux, Shigeto or Shlohmo, Tanabe retains a keen eye for groovy energy in his tunes. ‘Night Fishing’ opens with an unwinding audio sample that rustles through the first minute, with the one-off interruption from a chirpy flute motif and interjecting distortion samples. The groove of the track kicks off suddenly with an array of enchanting synths, multi-layered samples with a subtle metallic quality, short, ethereal vocal utterances and a foot-tapping trip-hop drum beat.

His long-term relationship with the UK music scene (fostered by his time spent in London and at the RBMA) has made him a well-known figure in the UK electronic music environment, leading to collaborations with British producer Kidkanevil (Gerard Roberts). Kidsuke, the name of the project they created takes the listener through a journey where childhood recollections and a distorted ‘film noir’-esque setting run in parallel. There is the apparent use of a music box sample in ‘Frogs in a Well’ that meanders through the track, and is continuously disturbed with sonic reprimands (in the form of sporadic vocal breath and pixelated glitch samples and riffs). It’s trailblazing music that paints a childlike reflection voyaging across a mythical sound world with malformed sonic creatures.

The name Daisuke Tanabe is surely part of the modern-day canon of radical and challenging popular music in Japan. His highly individual sonic inventions embrace a variety of stylistic branches from hip-hop to electronica to avant-garde to create a unique blend of relentless, sedative and teasing music.

Other Listening:

  • Artificial Sweetener
  • Alice
  • Singing Grass
  • Vestige

© Isaku Takahashi

JEALOUSGUYS

‘Intelligent Dance Music’ (whose origins come from underground electronic styles of the UK and American Detroit Techno) in the Japanese musical landscape is somewhat in the minority. Luckily, artists like JEALOUSGUYS are here to cultivate the position of electronic music in the wider popular consciousness.

Creative urgency is a prerequisite for any artist or band of the present day, but plays a particularly important role in a genre that sells itself upon sonic experimentation and individualism. Masami Takahashi’s skilful musical and sonic treatment in tracks like ‘Animals’ stirs up a cosmopolitan audible cosmos, emulating the rhythmic complexity, intertwining textures and cryptic soundscapes that is more associated with the output of Warp Records (a British label specialising in electronic music).

With so many modern electronic artists, we can find in JEALOUSGUYS’ music crossovers between the traditional aesthetics of popular music and the more transgressing nature of contemporary and experimental styles. On one hand, songs like ‘Mystery’ and ‘Guitar’ show strong affections to hip-hop and jazz inflections that draw evocations of the music of Flying Lotus. On the other hand, both songs emit riveting sonic waves (whether that’s a burst of euphoric or woozy synth pads, or gripping mechanical noises) and stuttering rhythmic patterns that seem to hurl out of control like a hallucinogenic Lapalux or Autechre number, yet it retains a consistent beat line that makes it equally infectious.

It is often the case that most experimental and electronic music evokes an otherworldly sonic landscape. What makes JEALOUSGUYS special is her ability to impart some of her heritage in the tracks she produces. What initially sounds like an unearthly, woozy ambience, ‘Rem1’ encounters a brief cameo appearance of the sounds made from a Japanese pedestrian traffic light, perhaps as a way to depict Takahashi’s personal perspective.

JEALOUSGUYS shows boundless ingenuity in her latest offerings in the burgeoning electronic music scene in Japan. Her music doesn’t obliterate the listener’s audible senses into a cluttered noisy sound world, but instead considers a balance between sustaining the catchy and pleasing image of pop, and exploring the potentials of throwing an unpredictable curveball in the sonic universe.

Other Listening:

  • BRDG
  • Hydra
  • Real

© Isaku Takahashi