Mizuki Koyama – Kareniwa Kanawanai

Originally released: 1985

What it sounds like: A raucous, playful anthem that reminds me at times of the OP for Yuyu Hakusho. With sprightly, festival-esque brass pumps and a youthful, irresistibly lively vocal from Mizuki herself – this is a real call-to-arms get up and let’s play number that’s pretty much the definition of good-time genki feels. Wonderfully energetic – and what’s more, the track features on the recent Tokyo Nights compilation too.

More info:

Discogs

Reddit

Advertisements

Kaoru Akimoto – Dress Down

Originally released: 1986

What it sounds like: If you’re looking for a slice of Japanese city pop with the real sass of a prime 80s era Madonna, Janet Jackson or Neneh Cherry, then Kaoru Akimoto’s Dress Down is the one. Riding a great percussive drum machine beat, this number screams style, a real hitting-the-town anthem packed full of feel-good factor.

More info:

Discogs

Toshiki Kadomatsu – If You Wanna Dance Tonight

Originally released: 1984

What it sounds like: Another one to file firmly next to Tatsuro Yamashita. If you fancy more male-vocal city pop, If You Wanna Dance is one of the best, with a breezy melody line that ranks up with some of Yamashita’s best. Kadomatsu’s style is sprightly and energetic, with a thrumming bass-line punctuating all the right moments. This up-tempo gem really has that ideal ‘sea breeze’ top down feel – definitely one to imagine slamming into the tape-deck on your dreamy 80s ride.

More info:

Discogs

Reddit

Wikipedia

Emmanuel Carrère – The Adversary: A True Story of Monstrous Deception [Book Review]

In a small village in the South of France, a man butchers his family. They had finally discovered the life they had been living for the past twenty years was a lie. That *he* was a lie. He wasn’t a highly paid doctor working for the World Health Organisation in Geneva. He was simply a fake – leaving the family home in the morning with a kiss and a smile, only to spend his days driving aimlessly around from cafe to cafe, reading – always reading – sinking deeper and deeper into his twisted fake life. Snowballing until – in his mind – the only logical escape is to end the lives of his wife and kids. If everything had gone to plan, he’d have taken his own life too – but after failing (either intentionally or otherwise) he ends up on trial, beginning a strange correspondence via mail with a renowned author who has taken a particular interest in the case.

Beginning The Adversary is a strange experience. Maybe it’s inherent in the original writing style, or a product of the translation, but this tale – essentially non-fiction told in a fiction-esque narrative style, has a particularly unique, almost unsettling cadence to it. The prose runs and runs, flowing along with scant moment to pause and reflect. Maybe its the quasi-reportage style, with dialogue kept to a minimum. Maybe it’s the emerging sense of unease as your realise this book is essentially the product of an ongoing communication between killer and writer. Or maybe it’s all of this combined – delivering a book that feels caught halfway between traditional crime-thriller and lengthy newspaper opinion piece.

This unique writing style lends itself to you sometimes forgetting that the horrific events of the novel *actually* happened – a danger, I feel, the author is all too aware of. The more you read, the more you realise that the book is not really about the killings themselves, but more about the mindset of the killer, the writer’s efforts to understand that mindset, and the remarkable web of lies the killer wove in order to dupe his family and friends.

Is the novel overly sympathetic to the killer? It’s another key issue the writer wrestles with in his attempts to get to the bottom of the killer’s brand of calm, composed madness. But really, with The Adversary, the devil is in the detail – we too are charmed by the novel’s depiction of sleepy French villages and bourgeois life in the glorious South of France. We too become obsessive in our understanding of the killer’s rhythms and habits as he consumes vast volumes of printed material – as he whiles away the hours when his family believe him to be at work. Or the unbelievable (and sad) trust his parents place in him and his silver-tongued lies regarding what he’s doing with their retirement fund.

The other scary thing about the Adversary is just how believable it is. It shows how distinctly ‘normal’ citizens can trip across a boundary into an abnormality that begins to rot away in the mind. A kind of spectrum of self-belief that fuels an ever more corrupted way of living. It’s about the lies we tell ourselves and others to maintain – at all cost – the image we have in our minds of ourselves. The lengths we’ll go to in order to maintain an ‘easy’ status quo, even if that status quo is utterly bizarre in its existence. It shows how – arguably – given the right circumstances, anyone can begin a long downhill trajectory into hell.

The Adversary asks us many times to cast judgement – in a story like this, it’s impossible not to – and by the end, even introduces a heavy religious element into the mix. But for me, this – like the killing itself – is just a sideshow to the deeper, interior story this book is trying to sketch. Half-formed and sometimes fragmentary, The Adversary itself is only half the story – at a scant 200 pages, quickly and easily consumed. But beyond the words on the page lies something far deeper, like an endless riddle, impossible to untangle; and unending, unceasing attempt to rationalise the mind of a killer.

 

Aru Takamura – I’m In Love

Originally released: 1985

What it sounds like: A throbbing, bass-heavy number, there’s something refreshingly earthy about I’m In Love. While the production is largely straight-up city pop fare, trading sax punches with classy electric piano, there’s a meaty delivery across both the instrumentation and Aru’s vocal that gives this number real staying power amidst a crowded market of similar material. When the trilling synth-riff kicks in at the middle-eight, it’s a dream.

More info:

Discogs

http://kayokyokuplus.blogspot.co.uk/2016/10/aru-takamura-im-in-love.html

Reddit

 

Mariko Tone – Broken Eyes

Originally released: 1985

What it sounds like: Boasting some of the most interesting production work I’ve heard on a city pop record, Broken Eyes’ multi-layered synth-work recalls the likes of Phil Collins’ Sussudio – all strutting jive lines and stabbing brass hones. It packs a real ‘go get em’ punch – a proper energy-rocking anthem – no surprises then that another song of hers’ – Derringer – became an OP theme for Cat’s Eye. You can practically imagine the neon-coloured leg-warmers and aerobics classes already. A prime 80s cut.

More info:

Discogs

Wikipedia

Reddit

Olga Tokarczuk – Flights [Book Review]

Flights is currently the hot ticket to win this year’s Man Booker International Prize, and given both the quality on offer here, and the tone of a recent Guardian piece singing the book’s praises, I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if it did actually go on to win. No doubt about it, Flights is an immaculately written (and translated) work of fiction – almost awe-inspiring in the quality of its writing at times. There’s a beauty to the language at work here as it weaves its way through a series of narratives that on the surface, have little in common narratively – but somehow slot together effortlessly in terms of a tonal and thematic manner.

Much like the recent Ali Smith Seasonal series, Flights delights in juxtaposing present day ‘observationalism’ – infused with a wonderfully wry humour – against more traditional – and in this instance often historical – storytelling. We jump amongst various narrators – and whilst the core notion is one of travel (the titular ‘flights’) and journeying, there is also a significant sub-theme of bodily preservation, which leads to some impressively memorable, yet wholly unnerving descriptions that are certainly not for the faint-hearted.

In the hands of a lesser writer, this bizarre melding pot of ideas would fall to pieces – but here it feels just *so* right – a perfect cocktail of textures and flavours which meld together like pure nectar. Even the design of the book – done up in that sublime deep Fitzcarraldo Editions blue – and supplemented by a number of beautifully hand-drawn historic maps, somehow seems to fit everything ‘Flights’ seems to want to embue its title with. In the reading of the book, it takes us on our own personal journey – one that, as the Guardian pointed out – is a masterwork in how the very concept of literary narrative can function in a manner above and beyond the ‘telling’ of what we understand (and expect) to find in a piece of narrative fiction.

Flights won’t be for everyone, and compared to another previous Man Booker International winner – Han Kang’s The Vegetarian – it is less immediately readable in a ‘can’t put this down’ sense. In many ways it is the very definition of a kind of renaissance of quasi pretentious ‘higher thinking’ novels; more art piece than novel. But for those that can sink in deep to the rich, velvet-toned depths of its labyrinthine structure, there is a real magic in the sheer quality and deployment of language at work here. You don’t so much ‘read’ Flights, as you do simply soak in it.

Rie Murakami – T.N.T.

Originally released: 1984

What it sounds like: One of the more unique-sounding city pop records I’ve heard – sharp-edged, dangerous and funky, this curio has an almost punk-like energy to it. Channelling livewire synths and an untamed vocal style, this feels like real back-alley nightclub fodder, riding a Notorious-esque bounce and slamming beat. If you’re looking for the more adventurous side of J-Funk / City Pop, look no further.

More info:

Discogs

Kikuchi Momoko – Mystical Composer

Originally released: 1986

What it sounds like: Continuously recommended as one of city pop’s very finest smashes, Mystical Composer is one of those songs that feels like it tucked a year’s worth of hooks away just for itself. Just when you think you’ve heard the best the song has to offer, it pops out with an even better one – trilling around you with these beautiful tropical melodies, the perfect counterpoint to Kikuchi’s angelic softer than icecream vocals. Flirty and girly and all things so very delightful, this really is an infectious earworm if ever we’ve heard one. Bewitching.

More info:

Discogs

Reddit

http://kayokyokuplus.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/momoko-kikuchi-mystical-composer.html

http://www.godsjukebox.com/savagetea/kikuchi-momoko-mystical-composer/

http://dreamchimney.com/tracks/37977

Yumi Seino – Sky Restaurant

Originally released: 1981

What it sounds like: A real hidden gem, this deeply soulful number sneaks up on your with a surprisingly muscular vocal. Yumi’s delivery here is a class act – recalling smoky jazz bars and clinking cocktail glasses as patrons gaze out over the glistening lights of the nighttime vista. Featured on the recent Tokyo Nights compilation.

More info:

Discogs

http://kayokyokuplus.blogspot.co.uk/2018/02/yumi-seinojun-shibata-sky-restaurant.html

Reddit