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Takayuki Shiraishi

Missing Link

    In the short time since Mule Musiq turned their attention towards the exquisite archival gems of their native Japan, the Studio Mule offshoot has explored modal, free and funky jazz (Mitsaki Katayama, Eiji Nakayama, Doctor Umezu Diva) and Balearic bossa (Atlas) through a string of high quality reissues. Here they dive headlong into the otherworldly electronics of Japan's new wave scene, specifically the crazed musical mind of BGM founder Takayuki Shirashi. Since its release in 1980 on Vanity Records, the one and only BGM LP "Back Ground Music" has become one of the most sought after gems from this fertile era of the Japanese underground, and Shirashi's later work as Arc, MLD and Planetoid is held in equal regard. 

    Archival rather than a reissue, "Missing Link" is a collection of unreleased recordings from the late 80s and sees Shirashi enjoying complete creative freedom, cooly switching between dark new wave grooves, motorik rhythms, screeching post punk guitars and blasts of wild experimental electronics. To try and explain the deep diversity we're dealing with, "Eardrum" reframes jazz tonalities in an electronic context, "Down The Stairs" is a classic synth funk groove a la Material and "Dark Sea" drifts through the cosmos with contemplative electronics - and that's only the first three tracks. If you're a fan of Japanese new wave, cosmic electronics or general weirdshit, you'll be all over this. 


    Patrick says: Ahead of their reissue of the majestic "Back Ground Music" LP, Studio Mule take an archival journey through founder member Takayuki Shiraishi's unreleased work from the late 80s. Pulling from krautrock, new wave, post punk and experimental electronics, the Japanese legend lays out 13 tracks of weird, whacked out and wonderful synth jams, each excellent in its own psychedelic way.

    Mule musiq's sub label studio mule has formed a group of shifting members and now release a debut album with 8 tracks of reworked obscure japanese gems. The album contains the three singles the group released so far, featuring Miyako Koda of the ex-perimental pop band Dip In The Pool -- whose "on retinae" was reissued by music from memory to great acclaim -- on vocals and mule musiq staple Kuniyuki on production with direction by label head Toshiya Kawasaki.

    One of them, "carnaval," is a cover of the japanese dance classic by Taeko Ohnuki, produced by YMO. "Shinzo No Tobira" is a remake of the track by Mariah, a band led by sax player Yasuaki Shimizu, from their album Utakata No Hibi -- which was one of the reissues that sparked the global interest in obscure japanese music in the last few years. Studio mule's version features japanese lyrics rewritten by Miyako Koda. "face to face" is a cover of the ambient pop gem from the ultra rare album Desire by Yumi Murata of Mariah -- an album Visible Cloaks are fans of.

    Also included is a rework of "Kagami No Naka No Jugatsu," a song by Tamao Koike produced by YMO, turned into a dubby Balearic pop track -- dubbier than the version included on the yen label compilation -- sang by Nanako Sato, one of the artists enjoying some newfound success following a string of reissues stemming from the "city pop" revival craze. The oriental ambient pop "Yugao" by singer songwriter Mioko Yamaguchi is covered by vocalist Saho Terao, whom some describe as this generation's Taeko Ohnuki.

    "The April Fools" is a rework of Yukihiro Takahashi's track, which itself was also a cover of the original song by Burt Bacharach. This new version boasts a more experimental arrangement with Nanako Sato handling the vocals. YMO's "Ballet," originally with vocals by Yukihiro Takahashi, was reconstructed into a dance floor-ready instrumental by Kuniyuki. Many say Yoshiyuki Ohsawa's "soshite bokuwa Toho Ni Kureru" is one of the greatest songs of the '80s. The 12" dance version is reshaped here into a melancholic Balearic house track.

    The album cover is by the increasingly popular hotshot photographer Kota Shouji, ensuring you get the full package of sonic and visual delight.


    Patrick says: Mule Musiq gather an all star cast of contemporary and legendary Japanese musicians in their studio, put Kuniyuki at the helm and deliver a majestic set of cover versions of the Japanese classics we've obsessed over for the past five years.

    Doctor Umezu Diva


    Doctor Umezu Diva is Japanese sax player Kazutoki Umezu’s one off project for which he invited two female artists, one the legendary marimba player Midori Takada, the other the vocalist, pianist and half of Japanese new-wave band Colored Music in the end of 80’s. This album was one of the best kept secret jazz album from Japan. This album is a unique mixture of modern classical sound and avant-garde jazz which is kind of similar with Strata East or Nimbus.


    Ltd LP Info: Limited to 500 copies.

    'Midnight In Tokyo' is a compilation series that aims to be the perfect companion to nights in Tokyo, collecting tracks by Japanese artists that sound best at night. While vol. 2 focused more on ’80s jazz fusion, the latest installment, Vol.3, picks up where Vol.1 left off, bringing together forgotten soul, disco, and new wave gems.

    The compilation opens with Japanese rare groove classic “More Sexy,” a provocative song by “the queen of sexy songs,” Yoko Hatanaka. “Kimi No Yume,” from the album Yume No Yonbai by the wandering poet Masumi Hara, is one of the best balearic acid folk songs to come out of Japan. “Silhouette Call” is an electric bossa nova track—in the vein of Antena—taken from the rare album called Octopussy by Yuki Nakayamate, a singer songwriter who also worked as a backing vocalist for Motoharu Sano.

    “Theme Of High School Student” is a dubby cut featured on the soundtrack to the Japanese ’80s film Kougen Ni Ressha Ga Hashitta, written by Atsuo Fujimoto of Colored Music—one of the key artists in the recent wave of global interest in Japanese music.
    “Get To Paradise” is a stone cold funk jam by Mari Kaneko, who was known as the Janis Joplin of Shimokitazawa in her heyday, and is now known as the mother of the drummer and the bassist of popular rock band Rize.

    Following that is one of Japan’s greatest new wave disco track, “Hannya,” taken from Tomoko Aran’s popular third album Fuyu-kukan—produced by Masatoshi Nishimura who was part of the Friends Of Earth Project with Haruomi Hosono. Masako Miyazaki—whose rendition of Seawind’s “He Loves You” is a fan favorite—puts her own spin on the Earth, Wind & Fire classic, “Fantasy,” singing in her accent-heavy English which gives the song an undeniable character. “Watashi No Koukoku” is a certified disco boogie classic by popular singer Junko Sakurada. The Brazilian-esque jazz fusion, “Sunshine Bright On Me” is by a fusion group called Kangaroo, who were often billed as “the Japanese Shakatak.”
    “Stranger’s Night” is a synth-pop number by pop idol Maiko Okamoto, which bears a suspicious resemblance to Rah Band’s “The Shadow Of Your Love.” Electro-pop disco “Singing Lady”—off the sole album released by the one-off project the Fad—sounds like something Giorgio Moroder could’ve cooked up. “Magic Eyes” is a disco anthem recorded by songwriter Tetsuji Hayashi’s disco project, the Eastern Gang. following that is Japanese soul gem “Crazy Baby,” found on a rare 7 inch entitled Minato No Soul by Rinda Yamamoto—also composed and arranged by Tetsuji Hayashi. and last but not least, closing out this collection of 14 Japanese rare groove goodies is “I’m in love”, a bittersweet mellow dance number by Tomoko Aran.


    Patrick says: Mule make it a Midnight In Tokyo hat-trick with arguably the best of the bunch. Last time out Dubby focused on Japan's organic and esoteric grooves, while blah takes us through erotic boogie, electro-bossa, coastal soul-jazz and wavey synth pop! Early faves are Mari Kaneko's McCartney II meets Saada Bonaire "Get To Paradise" and Junko Sakurada's synth disco bomb "Watashi No Koukoko".

    Third release of Studio Mule’s new project with Miyako Koda aka Dip In The Pool. Following the cover versions of Ohnuki Taeko’s Carnaval & Mariah’s Shinzo No Tobira,we made the new version of japanese pop ambient classic ‘Face To Face’ by Yumi Murata. Extended edit on a side is full of the respect for the original version and ambient version on b side is simply emotional. The first album of Studio Mule is coming in the beg of next year. Stay tuned.

    Currently the rediscovery of long forgotten Japanese electronic, jazz and new age music is at a peak like never before, but although many re-issues already flood the record stores around the world: the large, diverse musical culture of Japan still has some gems in store that are really missing.

    Japanese bass player, new-age and ambient musician Motohiko Hamase is one of the newer discoveries. In the 70s Hamase was part of Isao Suzuki Sextett, where he played with legends like pianist Tsuyoshi Yamamoto or fusion guitar maverick Kazumi Watanabe.

    In the 1980’s Hamase began to slowly drift away from jazz and drowned himself and his musical vision into new-age, ambient and experimental electronic spheres, in which he incorporated his funky meditative way of playing the bass above airy sounds and arrangements.

    His first solo album “Intaglio” was not only a milestone of Japanese new-age ambient, it was also fresh sonic journey in jazz that does not sound like jazz at all. Now Studio Mule is happy to announce the re-recording of his gem from 1986, an enchanted, majestic opus as likely to arrest and beguile as much now as it did then.

    First issued by the Japanese label Shi Zen, the record had a decent success in Japan and by some overseas fans of music from the far east. With seven haunting, stylistically hard to pigeonhole compositions Hamase drifts around new-age worlds with howling wind sounds, gently bass picking and discreet drums, that sometimes remind the listener on the power of Japanese taiko percussions. also, propulsive fourth-world-grooves call the tune and all composition avoid a foreseeable structure. at large his albums seem to be improvised and yet all is deeply composed. 


    Matt says: For me, the uneducated, this sounds like Steve Reich meets Iasos on a houseboat moored at Lake Kawaguchi (Mount Fuji). Totally captivating and transportive and with a rich musical tapestry. Full marks!

    Mule Musiq's in house production crew come through with their second release this week, featuring the vocal talents of Miyako Koda of Dip In The Pool fame. Following their cover version of Ohnuki Taeko’s "Carnaval", Studio Mule got back in the practice room and rocked out a fresh version of Japanese new wave classic “Shinzo No Tibia" by Mariah. Though the new version stays relatively faithful to the original, extended and unhinged bridges, softer sound design and brand new Japanese (the original is in Armenian) by Miyako Koda, make this a welcome alternative to Mariah's masterpiece. On the flip, Kuniyuki takes full control of the desk for a dub version inspired by Adrian Sherwood's remix of Depeche mode. Stripped back and drawn out with a whole load of delay and echo, the new interpretation is a darker take on the track with nods to Tubeway Army and Razormaid.


    Patrick says: Studio Mule do their version thing to perfection here, offering a new cover of this Mariah classic, featuring the vocal talents of Miyako Koda. Flip it for a Sherwood inspired dub mix (brilliant) and you'll understand why Yasuaki Shimizu was delighted with their efforts.

    Over the course of the last two decades, Toshiya Kawasaki has continually worked to introduce the world to a better class of electronic music, whether it be house, techno or ambient on Mule Musiq or weirder-strands of club tackle on Endless Flight. Now, the Mule family launch their latest stable, Studio Mule, taking a brief break from the club with a more diverse musical policy. In reaction to the recent appropriation of Japanese music by Western labels, Studio Mule's first release is a compilation of rare Japanese disco, boogie and soul, so far untouched by the Youtube algorithims. 
    Selecting tracks which they thought perfectly soundtracked a night in Tokyo, they arrived at a setlist as suited to home listening as club play, with a wonderful tone of City Pop running throughout. 

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