Yellow Magic Orchestra

While celebrity deaths don’t faze me much, David Bowie’s was pretty crushing. To have a small celebration of his life, some friends and I watched The Hunger and Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence. I’d never seen the latter, and was pleasantly surprised at the layers of meaning and fantastic soundtrack (not to mention The Kiss.) Even better, the movie reminded me of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s existence. I had heard and loved his film scores for years, but had no idea he was an actor (who wears his everyday new wave/glam makeup while playing a military captain, but whatever.) After a bit more digging I realized that not only does Sakamoto have a thriving solo career, but he was also a member of Yellow Magic Orchestra, who are pretty much the pioneers of synthpop in Japan.

Yellow Magic Orchestra was one of the first bands to focus on synth music in the 70s. While Kraftwerk was a big influence on them, they wanted their music to be “less minimalistic, made more varying use of synthesizer lines, introducing ‘fun-loving and breezy’ sounds, and placing a strong emphasis on melody in contrast to Kraftwerk’s statuesque ‘robot pop.'” Incorporating a lot of pop and italo-disco elements, YMO gained popularity worldwide with their innovative use of the newest synth technology and their great composition skills.

Here’s my favourite song by them, Key:

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Kokushoku Elegy

I’ve recently started focusing on freelance Japanese-English translation as a career. I love it – I get to work from home next to my cats and dog, go by my own schedule, and listen to whatever music I like. However, one thing I’ve begun to notice is that some music can be distracting in my more focused moments. When my brain is working through some tricky Japanese grammar, suddenly tuning in to an awesome French song and subconsciously trying to figure out what the lyrics mean doesn’t help my concentration much. I lived in Kyoto for part of my high school and university career, and though I managed to listen to a bit of Japanese language goth rock (Malice Mizer circa Gackt, the depth of my love for you can never truly be conveyed), I mostly filled my ears with J-pop as that’s what my friends were listening to.

Now that I’m looking for some fun Japanese music to listen to while working, I’m getting the chance to discover fantastic bands I’d never heard of before. One of those is Kokushoku Elegy, a female fronted 80s goth/post-punk band.

Seriously great tunes – check out some of their songs on YouTube if you like the classic dark post-punk sound of the 80s. Unfortunately as they’re a bit older I don’t have many leads for obtaining their music directly, but there are some decently priced copies of their albums on Discogs here.

Any other post-punk, synthy, or goth Japanese bands that I should be checking out? Please leave me a comment 🙂