Release Date: 03.25.03
Record label: Sony Music / Columbia
A Whole Lot of Sides of Japan…But Not the Whole Picture
by: matt cibula
This is a very good compilation of recent Japanese music. It's helpful because it gets a bunch of great tracks together in one place, and it's fun without presenting an overly fluffy vision of Japanese pop music. There are two main problems with it, which I will discuss in a bit; for now, though, let's just look at the positives.
Of which there are many. Matally, a band I had never heard of before now, turns in an amazing techno-dub track called "Four Seasons vs. YoYo-C"—what its original title was, I don't know, but it must have had a kickass title in Japanese because it sounds great here, a wobbly electroburner with some of the best echo work you're going to hear anywhere. It's so good, in fact, that it blows away the previous track, another techno dub track by DJ Krush with Sly and Robbie on it that was the best thing on Krush's own record from earlier this year. (I don't know why they put two such similar songs next to each other, but whatever.)
There are a lot of hip-hop tracks here, with some great rapping in Japanese, something we always take kindly to here at Music-critic.com. (Goku's "Time" has a dude called B.M.Q. who slips in references to Ice T and Ice Cube.) There's fun new wave pop from Polysics ("Black Out Fall Out" is about as OMD as it gets) and great thumpy Big Beat stuff from Takkyu Ishino and grindy electroclash from Guitar Vader ("Super Brothers" is the best thing on the whole disc, just fun all the way) and lovely J-pop from Mai Hoshimura and Kyoto Jazz Massive turns in their usual gorgeous floaty slightly-boring disco, and the brilliant green sounds like Dressy Bessy with a slight accent, and there's more too. It's a generous assortment.
But I really hope that people don't go around thinking that this is some kind of definitive survey of Japanese music. It's not. There's nothing here that approaches the intense fury of Mad Capsule Markets, nothing anything like the Boredoms or Acid Mothers Temple or any of their affiliated bands, there's none of the massively goofy pop stuff that rules the charts in Japan, and one gets the sense that this is just the music that Sony and Columbia were able to license and figured we could handle. Which is fine and all—I'm just warning you that if you like Mayu Kitaki's track, you should really hear the group whose sound she's beatjacking (the dear departed Pizzicato Five), and OOIOO—the band of the same Yoshimi that the Flaming Lips are always talking about—beats the hell out of anything on this compilation. So if you like this stuff you better do some research on your own.
That's the first problem. The second is that the liner notes stink on ice; they're boring and uninformative, and they spend more time talking about Deee-Lite than about any of the artists on the actual album. That's a dud, y'all, for real. But not enough to spoil the disc. 18-Aug-2003 8:30 AM