If Far Out and Mr. Bongo are leaders in the field of Brazilian releases, in 2017, Switzerland`s WRWTFWW set out to claim Japan for themselves. In collaboration with Palto Flats – who`d had that “smash” with Mariah`s Utakata No Hibi last year – they commenced with a heavy hitter. Midori Takada`s Through The Looking Glass. A timeless beauty of Classical percussion. Which shifted so many copies – even in these days of Spotify and streams – that you`d be shocked. Later they would release Takada-San and pianist Masahiko Sato`s, Lunar Cruise. A set that incorporates machines, Jazz and world music rhythms. Also in partnership with Palto Flats, WRWTFWW reissued Avant-Saxophonist, Yasuaki Shimizu`s (the man behind Mariah) Kakashi. Then there was Kenji Kawai`s never officially released Ghost In The Shell soundtrack, and Jun Fukamachi`s Nicole `86 sessions.
Midori Takada – Crossing – Palto Flats / WRWTFWW
Yasuaki Shimizu – Umi No Ue Kara – Palto Flats / WRWTFWW
Kenji Kawai – Making Of A Cyborg – WRWTFWW
Jun Fukamachi – At The Cutting Edge – WRWTFWW
I might be biased as far as WRTFWW is concerned. Since none of these projects would have been possible without my old friend, Ken Hidaka. Ken was the first Japanese person I hooked up with when I moved to Tokyo, eleven years ago. Phil Mison kindly gave me Ken`s email address, when I admitted to being more than a little lost.*
Phil Mison toured Japan this year, and remixed the Japanese “Balearic” of Okinawa Delays for Paul Murphy`s Claremont 56. A young band discovered by Max Essa. I had the pleasure of sharing the decks with founder member, DJ Mizuki, this Summer at Bonobo.
Okinawa Delays – Nariyama Ayagu (Phil Mison mix) – Claremont 56
Max Essa kept his talent scout / A&R hat on and signed Karel Arbus and Eiji Takamatsu. Their cassette of Electro-Acoustics causing a stir and helping to relaunch Max`s Jansen Jardin imprint. Eiji is a resident of my current hometown, Karuizawa. So the connection provided me – after seven years – with my first local “boozing buddy”. I`m not sure if that`s a good or bad thing.
Karel Arbus and Eiji Takamatsu – One Wheel On My Dragon – Jansen Jardin
An old Tokyo boozing buddy moved back to the city. Returning from a stint in Hong Kong, armed with crates of Asian Pop oddities. One of which he edited for Hammam House. Pi Po Pa honestly hasn’t left my box and always elicits dancing and ID requests.
Tokyo Matt – Pi Po Pa – Hammam House
Through another Tokyo-based friend, digger extraordinaire, Jerome Qpchan, I managed to interview Biwa / Oud master, ex-Electrofunker, Minoru “Hoodoo” Fushimi. Who`s musical archives were given a thorough retrospective by Qpchan and Left Ear Records.
Minoru Fushimi – Furarete Nambo – Left Ear
If Qpchan is “digger extraordinaire”, then Chee Shimizu is “Sensei” or “Guru”. As far as I`m concerned the current global fascination with underground Japanese releases, is down to Chee, and his Obscure Sound book / bible. Non-Japanese folks cherry-picking the tome, based on album sleeves alone. All knowledge of these things started here.
In 2017, Chee secured the rights to Ambient pioneer, Hiroshi Yoshimura`s Pier & Loft album for his 17853 label. Light In The Attic`s off-shoot, Empire Of Signs, also issued Yoshimura-san`s debut, Music For Nine Postcards. “Environmental Music” originally designed as BGM for Shinagawa`s Hara Museum. A collection so stately that it barely moves. But for my money Pier & Loft is the more accomplished work.
I hope that in 2018 someone will be able to restore Yoshimura-san`s sublime, Shiseido-sponsored Air In Resort.
Hiroshi Yoshimura – Tokyo Bar Area – 17853
*Anybody who might be interested in licensing music from Japan. Please get in touch. I would be only too happy to put you in contact with Ken.