Yamasuki Singers – Yamamoto Kakapote

This track comes off of a concept album called Le Monde Fabuleux Des Yamasuki developed by composers Daniel Vangarde and Jean Kluger. While both had been active songwriters and producers before then and since, this album has been a cult classic since its release thanks to the idiosyncratic combination of a children’s chorus singing in Japanese over fuzzed-out guitar and drums. It’s definitely worth listening to the whole album, as what seems like a bit of a gimmicky setup produces undeniably catchy songs, provided you can get past the Orientalist overtones of the whole project. Some other fun trivia: Another song from the album, Aieoa, was covered by Bananarama on their first album Deep Sea Skiving under the name Aie-A-Mwana. The song Kono Samurai from this album was sampled by Erykah Badu on her track The Healer. While the name Daniel Vangarde probably doesn’t mean much to most people, his son Thomas Bangalter is probably a bit more well-known at least by reputation, as he is one half of Daft Punk.

Kikagaku Moyo – Old Snow, White Sun

Kikagaku Moyo formed in 2011 as a psychedelic free music project by Go Kurosawa and Tomo Katsurada in Tokyo, and while their emphasis on improvisation means performances can shift from night to night, I’d bet they get to some serious zones. They just released their fourth album House in the Tall Grass on their label Gurguru Brain. They launched the label both as an outlet for their own music and as a way to spotlight Asian underground music. A compilation called Guruguru Brain Wash gives a sampling of their label’s output and it is solid as well. To keep up with their hijinks, follow them on Facebook and Tumblr. The group just finished a US tour on election day and then headed back to Japan, escaping just in the nick of time. This feels like a riff on some of the new age material coming out of Germany in the mid 80s, specifically Popol Vuh’s Spirit of Peace. In these tense and uncertain times, it’s hard not to envy somebody with a sitar.

Image credit: Facebook

Yura Yura Teikoku – Nantonaku Yume O

Yura Yura Teikoku formed in the late-1980s in Tokyo and were very highly regarded in the Japanese underground music scene there, though there first performance outside Japan didn’t come until 2005. This track comes off their last commercial release, 2007’s Hollow Me. Though the group has had a number of drummers over the years, bassist Chiyo Kamekawa and singer/guitarist Shintaro Sakamoto anchored the group until they disbanded in 2010, citing a lack of enthusiasm. Both Kamekawa and Sakamoto have remained active with solo projects, and while I can’t say I’ve heard Kamekawa’s work I can vouch for Sakamoto’s two solo releases: How to Live with a Phantom and Let’s Dance Raw. What really hooks me about this group (and Sakamoto’s solo work) is the blend of folk rock and psychedelia, which is a combination many have attended but few have pulled off as well as these guys do. If you like this track just listen to the auto-generated playlist for this track. It has a couple tracks from Sakamoto’s solo albums as well as some live cuts and it’s had my foot a-tappin’ all day.

Hiroshi Yoshimura – Something Blue

Something Blue comes from Yoshimura’s 1986 release Soundscape 1:Surround. In addition to his commercial releases, Yoshimura was a prolific creator of soundscapes and installations for both the art museums and galleries and more utilitarian spaces like train stations. He was also at the forefront of computer music in general, forming a group called Anonyme in the early 70s which focused on exploring the blossoming intersection between computing and sound. Much of his material was self-released in Japan, which means tracking down physical copies may be a bit tough. There have been a number of contemporary artists featured on TOTD that share sonic ground with this (I’m thinking of Sabbatical and H. Takahashi). Finding these early pioneers of sound who paved the way for these current experimental/ambient artists sheds new light on an oft-maligned genre like new age, though a revival of interest in these artists by re-issue labels like Numero Group and Light in the Attic has done a lot to expose this stuff to a new audience like myself who were a few years from existing when this material was being released. Given the hefty price tag of some of the original physical editions on Discogs, I wouldn’t mind a re-issue of this release and his debut Music for Nine Post Cards from 1982.

Ueh – Cambous

This track was featured on a compilation entitled Do Whatever You Want, Don’t Do Whatever You Don’t Want!! which features works relating to the Japanese collective known as Acid Mothers Temple. The collective got started around 1995 and have gone through many different incarnations based on who was performing at the time, including Acid Mothers Temple & the Cosmic Inferno, Acid Mothers Temple SWR, Acid Gurus Temple, and Acid Mothers Temple & the Melting Paraiso U.F.O. This track from Ueh originally appeared on a self-titled release put out on the house label for Acid Mothers Temple. Though Ueh doesn’t actually share members with Acid Mothers Temple, it is associated with the group through both releases on their label and a split release, Pataphysical Overdrive To My Cosmos with Makoto Kawabata. That came out in 2004 and it doesn’t look like there has been anything else put out by Ueh, though members Benjamin Gilbert and Audrey Ginestet has been active with a group called Aquaserge since Ueh went on hiatus. I’d recommend digging into Acid Mothers Temple, though the sheer size of their discography can be a bit intimidating. I’ve got some recommendations below in case you’re ready to dive right in:

Dark Stars in the Dazzling Sky

Pink Lady Lemonade

The Beautiful Blue Ecstacy

H. Takahashi – Pearl

Pearl kicks off the excellent second installment of UK-based label Where to Now’s minimal ambient series Where to Be, which invited artists to

create works of total ambience, incorporating the idea that the power of the music presented is in that which is barely there, embracing space, silence, cyclical repetition, and minimalism. The music is to help us function – it’s music to work to, to sleep to, to help us find a sense of space and oneness within a world that is increasingly wild and untameable. [sic]

I am obviously not the only one to have taken notice, as the cassette pressing of that release is sold out, though if you can I’d recommend taking a listen and purchasing the digital version. A bit earlier in 2015 he released Sea Meditation through the label Entertainment Systems, which promises “practical audio solutions to everyday living,” which is available on cassette on their Bandcamp site.

Celer – Ceramic Foam Party

This track by Celer comes from the period where the project comprised the husband and wife duo of Will Long and Danielle Baquet-Long, who recorded under the name Chubby Wolf. After Baquet-Long passed away in 2009, Long has continued to record under the Celer name and also runs the Two Acorns label.

The couple began releasing cassettes themselves in 2004, with each packaged in hand decorated artwork like this packaging for a compilation bundle of multiple releases housing mini CDs, a standard CD and a 7″ single:

exterior of Brittle

interior of one package

The CDs, mini CDs, 7″ came in their own enclosure and were held together with string. According to Hard Format (also the source of the above images) this was one of the last designs Danielle made. While Celer’s packaging has perhaps become more standard, the number of releases per year has remained consistently impressive: Celer has had at least three releases every year since their founding, with thirteen full length releases and singles in 2009 alone. Those interested in hearing more and purchasing digital and physical releases should head to Celer’s Bandcamp, where much of their output is available for streaming and purchase.