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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Next Stop: Tokyo!! (Featured Album of the Week)

Track: Four Artist: Album: Absolute!! Sounds From Tokyo[Compiled by Aroop Roy] Absolute!! Sounds From Tokyo [Compiled by Aroop Roy] makes me want to book my ticket to Japan NOW!!!

Honestly, I've always had mixed feelings about the Land of the Rising Sun--technology heaven, often music hell (sorry, J-Pop drives me crazy -- in the worst possible way.) Some people I think a lot of seem to love the place (hey, Jenn & Nathalie!) but my main interest has been the fact that Japan seems to embrace music-makers and Djs from The West. Ok, I like sushi, but I'm originally from Cali--eating sushi feels just as natural as buying tacos from a truck parked in a shoe-store lot. The Pacific Rim seems to have its own culture irrespective of country.

Getting back to the topic at hand (that would be music) Japan seems to really inspire some artists I admire such as IG Culture (who's last album Zen Badism is on a Japanese label,) Herbie Hancock (who has at LEAST 2 albums only available as Japanese import including Flood and Dedication,) and those represented on absolute!! Some of the tracks on here are "standard" broken-beat (which is an oxymoron -- broken beat seems to define itself by its lack of rules) but others have incorporated some newer approaches in their production arsenal...

I find that the music that I really like on this compilation falls into roughly three categories: 1. well-executed production styles I was expecting to hear; 2. production styles I wasn't expecting to hear in this context; 3. production techniques that hadn't even occured to me... In reverse order (I'll be a little different here) let's deal with the most shocking development -- broken-beat/acid-jazz music glitched-up. Glitch as a production technique seemed most interesting to me on an intellectual level, but so far I'd only heard it applied in music that made no attempt to sound traditional at all (i.e., experimental or electronic) so its appeal was limited. I'm not sure if someone slipped something in the water supply in Tokyo, but they've managed to legitimize glitches in a genre that usually wears its love of 70s/80s sounds and techniques on its sleeve. While broken-beat and acid-jazz have taken the past and modernized it, both approaches (for they are really more approaches than genres) have often been so respectful of the source material (whether sampled or just referenced) that they tend to leave large chunks intact allowing anyone with a decent record collection to realize what the inspirational "text" is. Daisuke Tanabe's "Four" and "If (U-Key Remix)" by Doob use glitch elements such as "bit-crushing" (intentional digital distortion via fidelity manipulation, i.e., going from low to high fidelity or vice-versa) and stutter-chop (lame term, i know, but if you can come up with a better one after hearing the track let me know) and it seems "wrong" but works. On to the next category, a good example of what I am familiar with but wasn't expecting here technique-wise is Simbad's "Airport Beat 1008." The sounds he uses aren't unfamiliar--if you listen to electro-house. In this context it's a completely new sound-set adapted to the beat patterns and arrangements common to this music, yet it's not so "musical" as most pieces here are -- is there a bass line or melody? Regardless, it feels like a complete piece. Probably the piece that has me most slack-jawed is simply a sample-based piece with some added beat elements, but what they do with the sample has me amazed. I'm not going to rat them out as to what the sample is on "Audio Teleport" by Stone Detectives or even who it's by but I have known the source song for many years, recognized it pretty quickly and was still thoroughly impressed with the result--it was like a salad that is primarily lettuce, chopped and mixed with such attention to detail that it transforms into something completely new. Lastly, we come to tracks like "Victim" by C.O.N.E. feat. Colonel Red and sauce81's "Qozmik Phunk (Aroop Roy Edit)"--not groundbreaking, just good. Not everything has to be innovative, we need some music that just makes you want to listen again and again because it feels good.

A few years ago I saw Lost In Translation the Sofia Coppola film with Bill Murray & Scarlett Johansen. That film didn't endear me to Tokyo, but I did want to see the Japanese countryside afterward. If this compilation is any indication of what could be happening on Japanese dancefloors in Tokyo, I'm in. I know not every place would be playing this, just like every place in Manhattan doesn't play soulful house--but I'm willing to find the places that do. Gotta go, I have to contact some friends and look at ticket prices...

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