Tokyo`s Alixkun is set to release a second volume of Japanese gems, under the title of 雲の向こう(Kumo No Muko), on his label, Jazzy Couscous. With one major exception, to my ears it`s an even mellower selection than Volume One. That first compilation mined the ambient outskirts of jazz fusion, synth and city pop, but this second edition really is for anyone / everyone into Dip In The Pool, Jun Fukamachi`s Nicole Sessions, Sth Notional, Toshifumi Hinata, or Light In The Attic`s Kankyo Ongaku collection. With Alixkun cherry-picking Nippon obscurities – a few from majors like JVC, but many from smaller imprints with names such as Mu Land, Hypnotique, and Green & Water. Where the pop songs come with classical arrangements. Like largely electronic translations of chamber music. Gentle machine manipulations topped by picked acoustic guitar, music box chimes, solos on piano, or violin. Aural watercolours from an 80s Avant-Garde edge made by artists experimenting in an area kinda jazz, kinda new age. For example the melody on Ayuo Takahashi`s Mizu Iro No Kagami, taken from his 1985 LP Memory Theatre, is a ringer for Seigen Ono`s Cafe Del Mar classic, Julia.
Yoshio Suzuki`s Touch Of Rain and Hiroko Kokubu`s Barcarolle add double bass to the mix and dance `round midnight. Throughout these pieces, fragile female vocals are either politely treated, or whisper like half-remembered childhood lullabies. One of the standouts, Masanori Sasaji`s Rune, sets a sitar to a slow ceremonial tempo. Another Tomoko Yasuno`s Sur La Terra was produced by Haruomi Hosono. Its afro cosmic percussion punctuated by bright synths. Parping like car horns.
The compilation`s at its most abstract on Akira`s Essence Of Beauty, lifted from the 1986 LP, Marine Flowers. Its bleeps and bass pulses buzzing and whirring like busy clockwork. Its oriental theme, Kitaro-esque. But the exception to all this calm, that I mentioned at the start, is Shi-Shonen`s Harvest. Fretless bass flaunting new wave that incorporates the sawari of a bachi-plucked shamisen. Like Okinawan folk made punk. A Japanese Rip Rig & Panic. Packed with massed – Pigbag – horns.
雲の向こう(Kumo No Muko) Volume Two is due to be released on September 16th. The best place to keep up to date is the Jazzy Couscous Facebook Page.