Tokyo Days & Tokyo Nights: From Protest Folk to J-Boogie

One of the last great unmined veins of popular music of the postwar era runs through the Japanese underground of the 60s and 70s, all the way up to the crest of the late 80s New Wave. This year and next sees a series of compilations unearthing gems from these largely overlooked movements and scenes. First and foremost among them, Light in the Attic's new Japan Archive Series, inaugurated with their first volume, Even A Tree Can Shed Tears: Japanese Folk & Rock 1969-1973. Exploring the late 60's and early 70s protest era through the music of such pioneers as Yellow Magic Orchestra's Haruomi Hosono, jazz songstress Maki Asakawa, ragged garage from Hachimitsu Pie and the influential pop-folk of Happy End. The New York Times feature, "The Hidden History of Japan's Folk-Rock Boom" details the musical players and ethos of this explosively political time in Japanese history. Next up in 2018 from Light in the Attic, expect to see a collection of the rarefied City Pop sound collected together on the Pacific Breeze: Japanese City Pop, AOR & Boogie 1975-1985, and later in the year, the third volume assembling a sublime selection of Japanese ambient music on, Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990. 


Digging deeper into the underground, the legendary P.S.F. label has received notable press in the past year with the passing of it's founder Hideo Ikeezumi. Remembrances like NPR's "Psychedelic Speed Freak: The Blistering Experimentalism of Hideo Ikeezumi", have brought overdue attention to his groundbreaking psychedelic, noiserock, out-jazz and free folk label. Before his death, Ikeezumi entrusted the legacy of P.S.F. to Peter Kolovos and Steve Lowenthal, who will be reissuing selections from the vast and influential catalog on their Los Angeles based, Black Editions label. The first of which arrived this past summer and fall, with domestic releases of Keiji Haino's first solo recording, Watashi Dake?, and the P.S.F. survey of all things heavy rock, Tokyo Flashback. Further essential reading on P.S.F. can be found in Alan Cummings pieces for Forced Exposure and The Wire, "The Origins of the Tokyo Underground Sound", and on Keiji Haino's influential role in the deep Japanese underground of the 1970s, "Pitch-Black Convulsions: Watashi Dake? in the Context of Underground Japan".


Almost as a companion to the forthcoming Light in the Attic compilation, the UK-based Culture of Soul label just issued their own overview of City Pop and J-Boogie. Focused more explicitly on the women-led bands and female solo artists within these concurrent genres, Tokyo Nights: Female J-Pop Boogie Funk is a showcase of a sound that expressed the optimism and exuberance of Japan's 1980s economic boomtimes. Taking in influences from Caribbean reggae and disco, Pacific Island exotica, American R&B and boogie, and a fixation on technological futurism, producers like Tatsuro Yamashita, Toshiki Kadomatsu, and Haruomi Hosono were quick to embrace the latest studio equipment and technology. Look no further than Haruomi Hosono, Shigeru Suzuki & Tatsuro Yamashita's collaborative album Pacific, for evidence of the riches to come of this techno-exotica fusion. This time of economic success in Japan, urban lifestyles of indulgence, and the taste for nightlife, produced glitzy discotheques and a soundtrack to this new, lavish era. Epitomizing these attitudes, City Pop emerged as a sonic expression of the imagined neon wonderlands dotted with sandy beaches and metropolitan skylines.