Ambient soundtrack for Japanese consumers: Light In The Attic compiles “environmental music” and feature visionaries of the genre

Kankyō Ongaku  translates as “environmental music” and collectively describes the soundscapes and acoustics – as well as incidental music – that soundtracked the spaces and experiences of 1980s Japan.

During Japan’s booming export of manufacturing and design products, corporations began to invest in art and music to enhance the user and consumer experience. A rage of artists subtly infused the everyday world with their avant-garde musical forms – from in-store music for the Japanese high-end retailer Muji, to the companion music for a Sanyo Air Conditioning Unit.

Fumio Miyashita

This genre-defining collection of ambient and sculptural music features internationally acclaimed artists such as Haruomi Hosono, Ryuichi Sakamoto (Yellow Magic Orchestra) and Joe Hisaishi (Studio Ghibli, Totoro), as well as perhaps lesser-known but equally pioneering artists like Hiroshi Yoshimura, Yoshio Ojima and Satoshi Ashikawa, who deserve a place alongside the undisputable giants of the genre such as Brian Eno and Erik Satie.

Takashi Kokubo

“As this music continues to echo in modern times and resonate with a new generation of listeners, I’m very happy to help present a window into its universe,” says compilation producer, Spencer Doran, curator of the set and label head of Empire of Signs (Hiroshi Yoshimura, Music For Nine Postcards).

Masahi Kuwamoto

It’s available this month and the LP and CD packages contain extensive liner notes and artist bios, including an essay by compilation co-producer and Japanese music scholar, Doran, who is also a member of Portland-based duo Visible Cloaks. The 3xLP vinyl collection features deluxe Stoughton “tip-on” jackets and slipcase, while the 2xCD release comes housed in a custom 7”x7” hardbound book. Both formats feature a cover photo by photographer Osamu Murai depicting buildings designed by famed architect, Fumihiko Maki.

Kankyō Ongaku follows Light In The Attic’s celebrated ambient anthologies, the acclaimed I Am The Center (2013) and The Microcosm (2016). It is preceded in the ongoing Japan Archival Series by 2017’s Even A Tree Can Shed Tears: Japanese Folk & Rock 1969-1973 and the recent reissues of Haruomi Hosono’s classic output, made available earlier in 2018 for the first time outside of Japan.

Jun Fukamachi

Tracklist:

1. Satoshi Ashikawa – Still Space
2. Yoshio Ojima – Glass Chattering
3. Hideki Matsutake – Nemureru Yoru (Karaoke Version)
4. Ayuo Takahashi – Nagareru*
5. Joe Hisaishi – Islander
6. Yoshiaki Ochi – Ear Dreamin’
7. Masashi Kitamura + Phonogenix – Variation・III
8. Interior – Park
9. Yoichiro Yoshikawa – Nube
10. Yoshio Suzuki – Meet Me In The Sheep Meadow
11. Ryuichi Sakamoto – Dolphins*
12. Toshi Tsuchitori – Ishiura (Abridged)
13. Shiho Yabuki – Tomoshibi (abridged)
14. Toshifumi Hinata – Chaconne
15. Yasuaki Shimizu – Seiko 3
16. Inoyama Land – Apple Star
17. Hiroshi Yoshimura – Blink
18. Fumio Miyashita – See the Light (abridged)
19. Akira Ito – Praying For Mother / Earth Part 1
20. Jun Fukamachi – Breathing New Life
21. Takashi Toyoda – Snow
22. Yellow Magic Orchestra – Loom
23. Takashi Kokubo – A Dream Sails Out To Sea – Scene 3
24. Masahiro Sugaya – Umi No Sunatsubu
25. Haruomi Hosono – Original BGM

 

New material and reissues from Japan display musical diversity of nation

One of the recent highlights has been the super-funky, super flaky LP by Shintaro Sakamoto. The former Yura Yura Teikoko guitarist smashes it with his Hawaiian lap steel guitar on this, the fourth solo album by this pioneer. When Sakamoto duets with robot voices (Purging the Demons) we are hearing something unique. Love Is Possible is reggae, roots, Balearic, funk, pop and rock all at once in a heady brew that is both fresh and timeless – as you can hear from the title track.

Yura Yura Teikoku recorded a dozen studio albums between 1992 and 2007, but  played to large audiences in Japan, only touring outside the country in the United States in 2005. Sakamoto will be earning himself new listeners with this release, as well as revisits to the psychedelic rock sound of his former three piece.

There are timely reissues of the Japanese ambient variety also.  One of the most essential pieces from this country and in this genre is Yasuaki Shimizu’s Kakashi LP. This has been one of the most sought after OG vinyls from the country for many years. The 1982 first release is highly coveted and the 2016 reissue  was a welcome one, though still soaring in value since last year. Heads up on another reissue circulating soon, though not on the Better Days label.

Finally, another supreme collection of Japanese music has been released by the awesome label Light In The Attic. Even A Tree Can Shed Tears: Japanese Folk & Rock 1969-1973 is the first installment in what promises to be an essential ‘Japan archival’ mini-series. The twists, turns, emotion, soul, selection, package, artwork and price make this one of the must-have compilations of 2017. Music lovers can expect big things from now on with the themed mini-series.

Other artists include Haruomi Hosono, Yasuaki Shimizu, Kenji Endo, Kazuhiko Yamahira & The Sherman, Sachiko Kanenobu, Kazuhiko Kato, Takashi Nishioka and Hachimitsu Pie.

To see a collection of the stunning cover art associated with this release, click here to visit the WTM Japan page.

World Treasures Music on KMAH Radio

Here’s the tracklist to the latest radio show. New material from Antibalas, Trio Da Kali & Kronos Quartet, Harmonious Thelonious, K Lone, plus Pugilist & Mystik – the latest on Jack Sparrow’s Navy Cut label. Recent reissues include Billy Cole on Japanese label Rock A Shacka and Apples on Odion Livingstone. There’s also exciting edits from Cervo.

Aleke Kanou – Sweet Mother;  Aigbe Lebarty – Unity;  Majid Bekkas – Soudani Manayou (Cervo Edit);  DJ Nigga Fox -15 Barras;  Harmonious Thelonious – Ayranman;  Pedro – Amor;  K Lone – Woniso;  Groove City – Jhazee;  Nummer – Meditation In Baltimore;  Ti Fock – Sokouye;  F.O.E – In the Jungle;  Apples – Lay On The Ground;  Billy Cole – Here and Now;  Pugilist & Mystik – Zulu Blues;             Antibalas – Tombstown Pt 2;  Trio Da Kali & Kronos Quartet – Kanimba;  Chacalon – Mi Dollar;    Tatsuro Yamashita – Love Space;  Yumi Matsutoya – 78;  Yasuaki Shimizu – Kono Yo Ni Yomeri #2;              Chacalon – Chana;  Cervo – Dancing Dream

World Treasures Music is on KMAH Radio every fortnightly Thursday, 2pm until 4pm (GMT).