Archivist’s Revenge: Ryuichi Sakamoto
by Luke Schanz-Garbassi on March 14, 2013
Posted in: Album Review, Music, World
Like your typical library, WRMC’s collection of CDs and LPs has some great stuff from the past that’s worth checking out. Unlike your typical library, each work in WRMC’s collection is graded. There’s a special pleasure derived from browsing tangible things, but it’s even more fun when those things have pithy reviews by WRMC alumni. These posts highlight some of what our archives have to offer.
Ever heard of Ryuichi Sakamoto? Me neither. Well, sort of. His pretty long Wikipedia page told me that he’s part of Yellow Magic Orchestra, the awesome Japanese group that was making electronic music way ahead of their time. (This song will have you addicted.)
Apparently, Sakamoto has had a prolific solo career. Which brings us to the album I stumbled across in the World section of the WRMC archives. It’s called Smoochy, it’s from 1996, and its cover features the picture of a man who looks like the Japanese, metrosexual (okay, more metrosexual) Fred Armisen. I picked up the CD because I thought the original grader (OG) had given it an A; I later realized the “A” might actually be a haphazardly-drawn star. The OG’s remarks on the album were, “this is great, you don’t know what to expect.” It’s unclear whether the OG meant that the music itself is great, and you also don’t know what’s coming, or whether the very fact that you don’t know what to expect means that the experience will be great. The confusion is furthered by the ambiguity of the punctuation between the clauses. Is it a comma or a period? The OG’s refusal to capitalize anything is really not helping the matter either.
The OG was right, though, that you don’t know what to expect from this album. “Bibo No Aozora” and “Aisheteru, Aishetenai” are uncanny predecessors of Guero-era Beck, full of industrial swagger. Then you’ve got somber, stripped-down tracks (“Bring Them Home,” “Manatsu No Yo No Ana,” “Aoneko No Torso”) starring piano and violin. (Wikipedia says Sakamoto considers Debussy his hero.) Then there’s the vibrant bass in “Dennogiwa” that appeals to anyone who has ever shook to that epic drop in LCD Soundsystem’s “Dance Yrself Clean.” To top it off, you’ve got something that sounds like Kenny G on synths over samples of laughing children in “A Day In The Park.” I really hope The OG was joking when he/she commented, “what a sexy Day in the Park!!”
The vocals alternate between Japanese, English, and Spanish, and the whole album has an ambient-sexual-South American feel, which comes out strongest, unsurprisingly, on “Tango.” If you ever wondered what kind of music they play at Japanese-Peruvian fusion restaurants, Smoochy is for you.