Recently, spurred on by what I believe to be an utter homogenization of the Top 40 charts recently into an amorphous blend of tropical house, I’ve increasingly found myself seeking out increasingly outre, ‘alternative’ music of late. The kind of stuff five years ago I’d have dismissed out of hand as melody-less hipster music. I guess time changes us all…
Recently, with my interest in Japan, I’d found myself stumbling across a number of mentions in the Guardian – among other publications – of Midori Takada, a musician I knew nothing of. I filed the name away in the back of my mind and moved on.
And then, a few weeks ago, I saw that very same name resurface on YouTube via their scarily intuitive recommendation system. You see, I’d begun delving down the bottomless pit of Japanese City Pop music on YouTube, and with all its manifest links to the Vaporwave community and other electronic music fandoms, it wasn’t long before Midori Takada’s album Through The Looking Glass was shot right to the top of my recommendations list – something a number of articles on the album’s recent re-issue from ‘we release whatever the f*ck we we want’ records inform me isn’t an isolated case.
And what of the album itself? It all starts with the mystical, almost terrifying cover art. There’s something Dali-esque to the sheer surrealism of the painted, tropical landscape and bizarre alpaca/rabbit hybrid that lies at the centre of the composition; topped by a nude figure in a flowing white gown. I’ve always felt a certain draw towards these kind of richly coloured visions of exotique – spurred on by seeing the cover art of Penelope Lively’s Moon Tiger as a child – the same swirl of dreamlike wonder – though a touch less surrealistic than the Takada album cover.
Back to the music – the swell of gamelan plonkiness. The nocturnal sweep of owl noises and the overal, overwhelming darkness of it all. Dark I say – in the sense of a long, thickly humid nightscape. But bright too – in a kind of optimistic, uptopian biosphere of communion. One in which mankind has returned utterly to its roots as merely one of many beasts. Takada’s album is one to be drunk up – both by the ears and by the body whole-sale. I recommend putting it on as you go to sleep, lying as the twilight flows to full dark – letting it flow over you in a caress of increasing slumber.
After listening to the album a number of times, I went away and delved more into the background and legacy of the record – turning up frequent references to the work of Steve Reich – before promptly going and listening to his Music for 18 Musicians (a favourite of David Bowie I hear). Once again, I was utterly won over.
Takada’s album is one that offers more and more with each listen – a familiarity that grows whilst at the same time offering eternal wonder; the possibility that you’ll never *really* uncover all its depths. Like some primordial Amazonian rainforest, it keeps its best secrets to itself – only offering hints to its full wonder when the right occasion presents itself.
I’ve increasingly come to think of the most perfect junctions between listeners and music as instilled when a very specific auditory environment is created. Whether that be listening at a certain time of day, or at a certain loudness, or within a certain acoustic environment – I’ve started to find a new kind of magic in the *condition* of music itself as it enters the ears, as opposed to specifically the music itself. And Takada’s album – like those famous stories of people testing out their hi-fis with Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon – feels like a passport into that world of possibility.