Chocolate Milk & Brandy / March 2020

Attempting to recreate the golden yesterdays of Jose Padilla`s White Isle sunsets with the tunes of today. 

oto no wa front cover

I`ll begin with one last plug for our Oto No Wa compilation which is released today on Music For Dreams. The first of two cuts I’ve included here is Yoshi Ojima`s sublime Sealed – a classic piece of pioneering Environmental Music / BGM / Kankyo Ongaku – call it what you will. Originally recorded in the late 1980s as an ambient commission for the Spiral arts space in Aoyoma, it was released on CD at the time – collected on Une Collection Des Chainons: Music For Spiral Volumes I & II. Both volumes recently got a vinyl pressing from WRWTFWW if you’d like to hear more. The second track is Chillax` Time & Space. A previously unreleased piece of kinda new age / kosmische with a clear Detroit techno undertow, produced by Isao Kumano and Kenichi Takagi of Tokyo Black Star. There`s a 10 minute-plus version, that I lost in a hard-drive crash, that really needs to see the light of day at some point. 

Tokyo Black Star also have a fresh 12” in shops on World Famous. Two tracks taken from their 2009 long-player, Black Ships, and reworked for the new decade. The A-side features an unreleased OG mix, and a 2020, update of Blade Dancer. The former is banging big room house, that takes a classic Chicago piano riff and feeds it through Carl Craig-esque filters. Hypnotic and just a tad Maurizio around its margins. The latter is far mellower, but no less trance-dance-inducing. Full of buzzing electro detail, and shot through with peaking, emotive strings. On the B are the, again Detroit-influenced, highly strung, shining, shimmering, beatless arpeggios of Kagura – which is obviously the more Chocolate Milk And Brandy friendly tune. Its title refers to ancient Shinto ceremonies. Dances and reenactments of folk tales performed to lure the sun goddess Amaterasu out of her cave, and so return light to the world. 

These Shinto ceremonies also provide the inspiration for Hiroshi Watanabe`s Takachiho E.P. released on his own Molten Soul imprint. Watanabe, of course, is a Tokyo techno veteran who should need no introduction. Those of more ambient bent might know him by his Kaito alias. Back in the early 2000s he also produced some very deep house using the moniker Tread. The Molten Soul record takes its name from a town in Japan’s Miyazaki Prefecture – way down in the south – home to the Amanoiwato Shrine which is said to be the actual location of Amaterasu`s cave. The central piece is a reading of the traditional song Kariboshikiriuta, by Yūzuki Murakami. If you were a fan of Kuniyuki`s remix of Ikue Asazaki`s よいすら節 = Yoisura Bushi you`re gonna need this. It`s easily just as haunting. The record comes with a large booklet of photographs – landscapes and dancers – which is were I pinched the cover illustration from.

Something a little bit lighter comes from Tokyo guitarist, Leo Takami. His latest album, Felis Catus And Silence, on New York`s Unseen Worlds, consists of complex arrangements – fusing computerized classical with Pat Metheny`s jazz. Definitely chilled, these are songs of sunshine, the great outdoors, and clean, country air. There are occasional chanson-like harmonies and Garden Of Light, once more touching on techno, builds to a Strings Of Life-like crescendo. 

Oto No Wa co-complier Max Essa gets a look in with Fool In The Pool, a tabla-led tune from his The Great Adventure, on Hell Yeah! The title perhaps a nod to either Holger Czukay or Miyako Koda and Tatsuji Kimura – maybe all of three of them. Its submerged, ambience had me wondering if Max hadn’t taken a few cues from Kazuya Kotani`s Fatima – another of the tracks featured on Oto No Wa. 

Before we leave Asia, let’s stop off at Indonesia and Asa Tone. The NYC-based trio, with family ties to Jakarta, recorded their Temporary Music, released on Leaving Records, in the midst of the island’s equatorial jungle. Improvising jams hammered out on various idiophones – including a Balinese rindik – at a variety of tempos. The ripples accompanied by a suling ring flute, topped off with poetry, and processed through Hologram Electronics` Infinite Jets synthesizer. Transporting Jon Hassell`s fourth world further into the machine. Hassell`s 1978 sophomore LP, Vernal Equinox, the one that caught Brian Eno`s ear, by the way, finally just got a quality repress, care of Hassell`s own Ndeya imprint. Its almost worth picking up for the sleeve notes alone – its stories of voodoo, princesses, mushrooms and broken hearts. 

Alighting in London, Portico Quartet transform Fran And Flora`s La Obreja. Their`s being one of the deconstructions of F&F`s violin and cello compositions included on Unfurl Remixed, for Kartel Music. PQ fragment Fran And Flora – who supply the strings for Talvin Singh and Floating Points, amongst others – sampling a capella snippets and replaying them as sparse individual notes. Organ-like keys form a rising swell, cymbals blur, and the bottom end hums. So while the drums say “jazz”, the track as a whole is a rush – coming across as a cathartic, Cocteau Twins reimagining, somewhere between classic 4AD and Ninja Tune. The 4-piece actually released their 2015 LP, Leaving Fields, on Coldcut`s label, before signing to Matthew Halsall`s Gondwana Records.

I’ve included Ivory Playground by the group of the same name, perhaps the standout track from Volume 1 in Music From Memory’s new Music For Theatre And Dance Series. The German trio creating a dawn-like awakening of acoustics, electronics, percussion, and, of course, piano.  

There are two mini-symphonies from Seahawks` Island Visions, on KPM / Be With Records. To be honest I could have used any or all of them, but on Rolling Deep, a sax blows a blues to Tibetan bowl vibrations and a slowly slapped bass, while Sun Salute – the album’s closer – has all the textures of a tropical night. 

seahawks island visions

Then there`s a teaser from R_R_`s Train Of Thought. One of three great records forthcoming on Growing Bin. It`s not out until May – so I`ll wait a little while before posting a full review. 


R_R_ – Melodic Harmony – Growing Bin

Seahawks – Rolling Deep – KPM / Be With 

Asa Tone – River At Work – Leaving Records

Ivory Playground – Ivory Playground – Music From Memory

Fran And Flora – La Obreja (Portico Quartet Remix) – Kartel Music

Yoshi Ojima – Sealed – Music For Dreams

Leo Takami – Garden Of Light – Unseen Worlds

Chillax – Time & Space – Music For Dreams

Tokyo Black Star – Kagura – World Famous

Max Essa – Fool In The Pool – Hell Yeah!

Seahawks – Sun Salute – KPM / Be With

Hiroshi Watanabe – Kariboshikiriuta – Molten Soul

Reference Links

Carl Craig




Ikue Asazaki

Pat Metheny

Strings Of Life

Cocteau Twins

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