Ever since his days as a pioneer of Japanese electronic music in the 1970s, Haruomi Hosono has constantly pushed forwards musically. The 1990s was a particularly fertile decade for the Yellow Magic Orchestra co-founder. Following two decades spent creating and releasing innovative electronic pop, imaginary sound worlds and inspirational ambient music, Hosono established the Daisyworld label to showcase cutting-edge ambient, techno and electronica, while also embarking on a wide range of often overlooked collaborative projects.
"N.D.E.", one of the headiest, psychedelic, evocative and gently mind-altering albums in Hosono’s vast discography, is one such project. It formed part of a run of albums that saw the Japanese producer embrace contemporaneous influences – think Spacetime Continuum style ambient techno, DJ Spooky-esque illbient, weighty ambient dub and the ambient house antics of The Orb - in his own inimitable, far-sighted style.
He was ably assisted on "N.D.E." by an undeniably impressive roll call of collaborators, most notably no-wave hero turned ambient explorer Bill Laswell (who Hosono subsequently worked with on joint album "Interpieces Organisation"), NYC DJ / producer Francois Kevorkian, and fellow Japanese ambient pioneer Yasuaki Shimizu.
With such a stellar cast-list, it’s perhaps unsurprising that "N.D.E." has achieved cult status over the years, despite being near impossible to find outside of Hosono’s native Japan. Remarkably, it never received a full vinyl release, with only five of the set’s cuts appearing on an ultra-limited sampler. Rush Hour have delivered a DJ-friendly, remastered version that spreads that album’s seven tracks across two slabs of vinyl.
"N.D.E." remains an impressive, unearthly and otherworldly album. Its unique and distinctive sound makes use of multiple nods to Eastern musical culture - think Tabla rhythms, heady violin courtesy of guest musician Arun Bagal, and transcendental synth sounds - but also throbbing techno grooves, Pete Namlook style ambient electronics, spaced-out dub rhythms, bubbly melodies reminiscent of Warp Records Artificial Intelligence-era IDM output, trippy tribal drums, and immersive electronic dreamscapes that recall the greatest exponents of Japanese new age ambient music.
Highlights are plentiful, from the Test Department-at-dawn brilliance of Bill Laswell co-production "Edge of the End" and the sunrise-ready, dew-fresh dreaminess of "Aero", to the surging ambient techno hedonism of "Strange Attractor" - a near cult cut that remains a timeless slab of hallucinatory dancefloor excellence - and the slow-motion space-dub of Francois Kevorkian collaboration "Teaching of Sphinx", whose oddly processed sounds and low-slung bass subtly reference the Orb’s earlier remix of YMO’s "Tong Poo".
There’s also the impeccable, pleasingly experimental "Spinning Spirits" - all addictive Indian rhythms, punishingly distorted bass, raw electronics and paranoid aural textures - and the sparkling bliss of "Heliotherapy", a woozy chunk of sun-bright electronic hypnotism that encapsulates everything good about Hosono’s mid-90s productions.
Teaching Of Sphinx
Edge Of The End