Tag: Sandii & The Sunsetz

30 Lost Obscure Alternatives Of The 45 RPM Era

Vinyl still holds a special affection with the emotional attachment given to a piece of music captured on bit of plastic almost unparralled.

So here are 30 synth friendly obscure alternatives from the era when vinyl was king, which for whatever reason, have been lost in the mists of time. These are great but obscure singles and album tracks from places as far flung as Australia, Japan and Canada that were overlooked at their time of release in the UK, but which all deserve critical reappraisal.

Please note that acts who nearly made it but have since been featured on The Electricity Club like B-MOVIE, BLUE ZOO, DRAMATIS, THE FALLOUT CLUB, FATAL CHARM, FIAT LUX, PAUL HAIG, HARD CORPS, ROBERT MARLOW, THE MOOD, OUR DAUGHTER’S WEDDINGVICE VERSAVIENNA and WHITE DOOR have not been included on this list. The songs are listed by year and then in alphabetical order…


PLASTIC BERTRAND Tout Petit La Planète (1978)

Although best known for his pseudo-punk hit ‘Ça Plane Pour Moi’, the Belgian BILLY IDOL recorded this superb electronic Eurodisco single with vocoders galore that would have done GIORGIO MORODER, CERRONE and SPACE proud. A bit hit in Greece, ‘Tout Petit La Planète’ featured a template that would be later borrowed by many Italo disco records, PET SHOP BOYS and KELLY OSBOURNE. Incidentally, fellow Belgians TELEX released their own robotic cover version of ‘Ça Plane Pour Moi’ shortly after.

Available on the album ‘Greatest Hits’ via Horvergnugen Records

http://www.plasticbertrand.com


DALEK I Destiny (1980)

DALEK I LOVE YOU DestinyPre-OMD, the synth duo on The Wirral was DALEK I LOVE YOU. However, by the time their debut album ‘Compass/Kum’pas’ was released, OMD were already having hits and keyboards man Dave Hughes left to join their live band. Shortening their name, ‘Destiny’ was their most accessible song with a precise KRAFTWERK percussive appeal, while Alan Gill’s vocals were eccentrically nasal. Hughes left OMD to form GODOT featuring vocalist Kevin Hartley who later then joined the fully named DALEK I LOVE YOU!

Available on the album ‘Compass/Kum’Pas’ via Mercury Records

http://www.discogs.com/artist/Dalek+I


DIE DORAUS & DIE MARINAS Fred Vom Jupiter (1981)

The project of German musician Andreas Dorau, ‘Fred Vom Jupiter’ was a quirky curio released as a single in the UK by Mute, created during a project week at the Otto-Hahn-Gesamtschule in Hamburg. The then 16 year-old Dorau composed the music while fellow students Natalia Munoz Valderrama, Nicole Kahl and Birgit Mensur provided the lyrics about a “very attractive and also very muscular” Kosmonaut; the vocals came from a quintet of teen and pre-teen school girls during a far more innocent time in history!

Available on the album ‘Hauptsache Ich – Retrospektive 1981-2014’ via Bureau B

https://www.facebook.com/andreasdorau/


FOX Electro People (1981)

FOX were Kenny Young and kooky Australian singer Susan Traynor aka Noosha Fox. They had numerous hits like ‘S-S-S-Single Bed’ but disbanded in 1977. The pair reunited for ‘Electro People’, written as the theme music for ‘The Kenny Everett Show’ which came over like a quirky Middle Eastern flavoured synthpop take on ALTERED IMAGES in a tribute to Synth Britannia; altogether now: “Ultra-Human-Depeche Mode-Tubeway-Kraftwerk-Soft-Manoeuvres-Gary-Orchestal-Army-Duran-League”!

Available on the album ‘Images ’74-’84’ via Cherry Red

https://www.discogs.com/artist/356308-Fox-3


IPPU DO Time Of The Season (1981)

The success of the band JAPAN gave a number of opportunities for Japanese musicians to show off their talents. One was Masami Tsuchiya of IPPU DO whose eccentric wailing guitar style coupled with German electronic influences caught the attention of David Sylvian who invited him to join JAPAN for their final tour. ‘Time Of The Season’ is a brilliant pentatonic take on the old ZOMBIES hit with mad warbling vocals and frantic percussion to produce a startlingly original cover version.

Available on the album ‘Essence: The Best of’ via Sony Music Japan

http://lifeintokyo.net/familytree_tsuchiya.html


MATHÉMATIQUES MODERNES Disco Rough (1981)

Comprising of Claude Arto and Edwige Belmore, the pair emerged from the Parisian club scene with their arty nouveau music. On ‘Disco Rough’, pulsing synthseizers and almost spoken staccato vocals were punctuated by unusual  stabs of sax. Their only album ‘Les Visiteurs Du Soir’ fused filmic strings and brass sections with electronic backing and baroque melodies. Sadly both Arto and Belmore have passed away, but have left their mark via Gallic tinged duos STEREO TOTAL and MISS KITTIN & THE HACKER.

Available on the album ‘Les Visiteurs Du Soir’ via Celluloid Records

https://www.discogs.com/artist/45920-Mathématiques-Modernes


JAH WOBBLE, JAKI LIEBEZEIT & HOLGER CZUKAY How Much Are They? (1981)

JAH WOBBLE, HOLGER CZUKAY & JAKI LIEBEZEIT How Much Are TheyAlthough dominated by PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED refugee Wobble’s full-on bass, his icy synth flourishes alongside Czukay’s chattering beatbox and Dictaphone were essentials to the wonderful machine dub of ‘How Much Are They?’ while Liebezeit added some abstract avant garde trumpet. Originally featuring on the ‘Trench Warfare’ EP, the music was dedicated to JOY DIVISION’s Ian Curtis and a fitting instrumental celebration of his enigmatic aura, as well as the sadly recently departed Liebezeit and Czukay.

Available on the album ’12” 80s Alternative’ (V/A) via UMC

http://jahwobble.com/

http://www.czukay.com/


E.M.A.K. Filmmusik (1982)

E.M.A.K. FilmmuzikE.M.A.K. stands for Elektronische Musik Aus Köln and was a technology based sound project by Kurt Mill and Matthias Becker using a similar visual aesthetic on their artwork to NEU!  Using strict motorik rhythm programming and incessant pulsing sequences, ‘Filmmusik’ was a fine example of the instrumental blueprint of Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger synthesized for the new decade. This template was later borrowed by SIMPLE MINDS on ‘Androgyny’ and ORBITAL on ‘Pants’.

Available on the album ‘A Synthetic History Of’ via Soul Jazz Records

http://www.discogs.com/artist/EMAK


PETER GODWIN Images Of Heaven (1982)

PETER GODWIN Images Of HeavenA member of the group METRO, Peter Godwin was well placed for success as a regular visitor to The Blitz Club and mate of MIDGE URE who produced his debut solo single ‘Torch Songs For The Heroine’. ‘Images Of Heaven’ was a big potential hit single with chunky synths and dominant Simmons drums from ULTRAVOX’s Warren Cann. Despite not reaching the charts, Godwin had his bank balance enhanced in 1983 when DAVID BOWIE covered his song ‘Criminal World’ on the ‘Let’s Dance’ album.

Available on the album ‘Images of Heaven’ via Phoenix Recordings

http://www.facebook.com/PeterGodwinFans


IGNATIUS JONES Like A Ghost (1982)

IGNATIUS JONES Like A GhostDespite Australian Top 5 success as lead singer of JIMMY & THE BOYS, IGNATIUS JONES went solo and released ‘Like A Ghost’. Sounding like GARY NUMAN lost in the Outback,  the song was written by Steve Kilbey of THE CHURCH whose ‘Walking Under The Milky Way’ later appeared on the ‘Donnie Darko’ soundtrack.  He also recorded a cover of Jules Shear’s ‘Whispering Your Name’ which was a hit for Alison Moyet in 1994. Latterly, Jones directed the closing ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Originally released as a single by WEA Records, currently unavailable

http://www.discogs.com/artist/Ignatius+Jones


LEISURE PROCESS Love Cascade (1982)

LEISURE PROCESS Love CascadeFeaturing Ross Middleton and Gary Barnacle with production by Martin Rushent, ‘Love Cascade’ is the missing link between PETE SHELLEY and THE HUMAN LEAGUE.  The vocals are virtually unintelligible as the clattering LinnDrum, pulsing synths, squawky guitar and sax merge together for a cool dancefloor friendly tune that’s full of the decadent spirit of the times. LEISURE PROCESS released three more singles on Epic Records before splitting.

12 inch version available on the album ‘Retro: Active Vol 5’ (V/A) via Hi-Bias Records Canada

http://www.discogs.com/artist/Leisure+Process


POEME ELECTRONIQUE The Echoes Fade (1982)

The project of David Hewson, POEME ELECTRONIQUE was very much a family affair, as it also involved brother Les Hewson  plus cousins Julie Ruler and Sharon Abbott. The spacey synthpop coupled to a vocal template crossing GRACE JONES and ABBA caught the ear of John Peel. Returning in 2007, the material they recorded back in the day was finally issued, while members of the combo also appeared as part of Anglo-German collective TWINS NATALIA who released an album ‘The Destiny Room’ in 2014.

Available on the album ‘The Echoes Fade’ via Hwesonics

http://www.poeme-electronique.com/


SANDII &THE SUNSETZ  Living On The Front Line (1982)

SANDII & THE SUNSETZ Living On The Front LineAnother Japanese act who got a leg up from David Sylvian was the beautifully voluptuous Sandii O’Neale and her band of men THE SUNSETZ whose first album together ‘Heat Scale’ was produced by Haruomi Hosono of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA. Opening for JAPAN on their final tour in 1982, this dreamily percussive ditty featured Sylvian’s lyrics and vocals; when he harmonised with Sandii’s KATE BUSH-like tones, it was the ultimate marriage of West and East, both wonderfully cultured and coutured!

Available on the album ‘Immigrants’ via Alfa Records Japan

http://www.sandii.info


BOX OF TOYS I’m Thinking Of You Now (1983)

Like a cross between their Merseyside neighbours OMD and CHINA CRISIS, BOX OF TOYS were mix of synths and woodwinds with a prominent percussive attack. The majestic vocals have almost an English choir boy quality and dominate the track. A strange romantic warmth comes across with images of meadows, forests and blue skies. Its moody follow up ‘Precious In The Pearl’ almost 34 years on now sounds like the prototype version of MIRRORS!

Originally released as a single by Inevitable Records, currently unavailable

http://music-isms.blogspot.com/2008/01/box-of-toys-3d-light-1982-1986.html


CARE My Boyish Days (1983)

CARE My Boyish DaysWhenTHE WILD SWANS split, two thirds formed the basis of THE LOTUS EATERS while its singer Paul Simpson teamed up with ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN producer Ian Broudie. Combining heavily strummed acoustic guitars with strong synthesizer melodies and melancholic vocals, ‘My Boyish Days’ had a very traditional feel despite the incumbent technology. But the duo split before their debut album was completed. Simpson reformed THE WILD SWANS while Broudie eventually became THE LIGHTNING SEEDS.

12 inch version available on the album ‘Diamonds & Emeralds’ via Camden/BMG Records

http://music-isms.blogspot.com/2007/12/care-singles-1983-1984.html


ENDGAMES Love Cares (1983)

ENDGAMES Love CaresThe success of ABC and HEAVEN 17 heralded a new age of technologically enhanced blue-eyed soul. One band with aspirations in that field were ENDGAMES. The Glawegian combo had European support slots with HOWARD JONES, DEPECHE MODE and EURYTHMICS in their time. ‘Love Cares’ was like a funky CHINA CRISIS walking into the recording sessions of ‘The Lexicon Of Love’. By pure coincidence, singer David Rudden had a passing resemblance to CHINA CRISIS’ Gary Daly!

Originally released as a single on Virgin Records, currently unavailable

https://www.discogs.com/artist/50709-Endgames


MATT FRETTON It’s So High (1983)

MATT FRETTON It’s So HighFans of DEPECHE MODE’s post Vince Clarke pop period may remember a skinny lad in a pink suit who was their support act through 1983 to 1984. ‘It’s So High’ was a catchy tune 6/8 time featuring a strong synth bassline, big band brass and backing vocals by Eddi Reader. Alas, Fretton was dropped by Chrysalis after two more singles despite getting a Smash Hits front cover. He became a classical music promoter, but sadly took his own life in 2013 following the tragic passing of his partner Sussie Ahlburg.

Originally released as a single by Chrysalis Records, currently unavailable

https://www.discogs.com/artist/86051-Matt-Fretton


INDIANS IN MOSCOW Miranda (1983)

INDIANS IN MOSCOW MirandaLed by the vivacious Adele Nozdar, INDIANS IN MOSCOW were a kind of TRANSVISION VAMP with synths. ‘Miranda’ was a macabre tale about a psychotic girl murdering her criminally minded father. A crisp production came from Nigel Gray who worked with THE POLICE and SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES. An irritating-to-the-point-of-catchy synth portamento combined with Adele’s ghoulish scream provided a unique if polarising take on electronic pop.

Available on the album ‘Indians in Moscow’ via Planet Of Sound

http://www.indiansinmoscow.com


THE LOTUS EATERS You Don’t Need Someone New (1983)

‘You Don’t Need Someone New’ was neither a hit nor originally included on THE LOTUS EATERS’ debut album ‘Sense Of Sin’. More synth dominated than ‘The First Picture of You’, it was produced by Alan Tarney who went on to work his magic on A-HA’s ‘Take On Me’ and ‘The Sun Always Shines On TV’. With hints of CHINA CRISIS, this was wonderfully light and even came in a picture disc with a real flower pressed into it! But the band wanted a purer sound and dropped Tarney as producer.

Available on the album ‘No Sense Of Sin’ via Cherry Red Records

http://thelotuseaters.com/


MARTHA Light Years From Love (1983)

MARTHA Light Years From Love2 7 inchThe stunning Martha Ladly was more than just a pretty face; she was a musician, vocalist, artist and designer. Following her stints with MARTHA & THE MUFFINS, ASSOCIATES and doing paintings for Peter Saville’s NEW ORDER sleeve artwork, she teamed up with fellow Canadian Brett Wickens on this charming pop tune that echoed THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Open Your Heart’. Peter Hook provided his distinctive melodic six-string bass and dynamic production came from Steve Nye.

Originally released as a single by Island Records, currently unavailable

http://samemistakesmusic.blogspot.com/2009/01/charmed-life-of-martha-ladly_22.html


RATIONAL YOUTH Holiday In Bangkok (1983)

The classic RATIONAL YOUTH line-up of Tracy Howe, Bill Vorn and Kevin Komoda gained acclaim for their 1982 debut album ‘Cold War Night Life’, which became one of the biggest-selling Canadian independent albums at the time and secured a deal with Capitol Records. However, Vorn left to continute his university studies, but contributed synth programming to this typically overwrought warning about the dangers of drug running. By 1985’s ‘Heredity’ though, RATIONAL YOUTH was effectively a Howe solo project.

Originally released on the EP ‘Rational Youth’ by Capitol Records, re-recorded version available on the album ‘Heredity’ via Capitol Records

https://rational-youth.com/


SEONA DANCING More To Lose (1983)

SEONA DANCING More To LosePre-fame Ricky Gervais with his university pal Bill McRae came up with a pretentious name, donned New Romantic togs and delivered the kind of stereotypical synthpop that was being satirised by ‘Not The None O’Clock News’. While it’s not exactly the most original work of the period, it is fared well in the tuneage department and became a cult favourite on US college radio! Comedian Paul Merton later sarcastically remarked to Gervais on ‘Room 101’: “DAVID BOWIE’s nicked all your stuff!”

Extended Mix available on the album ‘Retro: Active Vol 5’ (V/A) via Hi-Bias Canada

http://seonadancing.com/


S.P.K. Metal Dance (1983)

S.P.K. Metal Dance‘Blue Monday’ met EINSTÜRZE NEUBAUTEN in this electronic metal bashing extravaganza featuring vocals by Sinan Leong. Robotic sequencers and found objects were both equally prominent in the mix of ‘Metal Dance’. Much more musical than their German counterparts, this group of Aussies named after the radical Marxist group Sozialistisches Patientenkollektiv provided a danceable interpretation of musique concrete and collapsing new buildings. Stark and scary!

Available on the album ‘Trevor Jackson Presents Metal Dance’ (V/A) via Strut Records

https://www.facebook.com/SPKindustrial/


EYELESS IN GAZA Sunbursts In (1984)

EYELESS IN GAZA Sunbursts InNuneaton’s artful musical duo of Martyn Bates and Peter Becker described their music as “veering crazily from filmic ambiance to rock and pop, industrial funk to avant-folk styles”. Always more of a cult proposition, ‘Sunbursts In’ was EYELESS IN GAZA’s most commercial offering, sounding like a cross between prime TEARS FOR FEARS and OMD. A synthetic brass riff compliments a strong if nasally vocal, driven by a stuttering drum machine sound.

Available on the album ‘The Cherry Red Vintage Collection’ on Cherry Red Records

http://www.eyelessingaza.com


THOMAS LEER International – Global Mix  (1984)

THOMAS LEER InternationalLeer was a reluctant electro pioneer who first came to prominence in 1978 with ‘Private Plane’. A song called ‘International’ was its B-side but this was a completely different composition altogether. ‘International’ appeared to be a pleasant song about jetsetting, but was actually a social commentary about the trafficking heroin across the continents, telling of “travelling across the world, selling it to boys and girls… a secret compartment holds the Chinese white”.  He later formed ACT with Claudia Brücken.

Available on the album: ‘Scale Of Ten’ via BMG Records

http://www.thomasleer.co.uk/


BILL NELSON Acceleration – US Remix (1984)

BILL NELSON AccelerationThe former BE BOP DELUXE guitarist took an early interest in synths and drum machines after going solo and while he always had the legacy of DAVID BOWIE hanging over him, he was a fine exponent of the E-Bow, a device which could sustain a guitar note infinitely. This allowed solos to merge in with electronics without standing out in a clichéd rockist manner. ‘Acceleration’ was his energetic flirtation with the dancefloor and benefited from this US remix by John Luongo who worked with BLANCMANGE.

Available on the album ‘Chimera’ via UMC

http://www.billnelson.com


VITAMIN Z Circus Ring (1985)

VITAMIN Z Circus RingTEARS FOR FEARS and A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS had demonstrated that a rock guitar oriented sound seasoned by modern electronics could do wonders across the Atlantic on MTV. Sheffield’s VITAMIN Z were one of the bands who showed some spark, ‘Circus Ring’ sounding like a cross between TEARS FOR FEARS and ICEHOUSE. A support slot with Midge Ure raised hopes of success but it was not to be. However, vocalist Geoff Barradale now manages ARCTIC MONKEYS!

Available on the album ‘Rites Of Passage’ via Renaissance Records USA

http://pages.interlog.com/%7Edolphind/vitz.html


PSYCHE The Saint Became A Lush (1986)

Hailing from Ontario, darkwavers PSYCHE comprised of brothers Darrin and Stephen Huss who  were one of the main trailblazers for independent electronic music in North America. The magnificent sweeping blip drama of ‘The Saint Became A Lush’ was probably the pinnacle of their creative partnership with a suitably detached vocal performance from the older sibling. Stephen sadly passed away in 2015 but Darrin Huss, now based in Germany, continues as PSYCHE with Stefan Rabura.

Available on the album ‘Unveiling The Secret’ via Artoffact Records

http://www.psyche-hq.de/


TWO PEOPLE Heaven (1987)

TWO PEOPLE HeavenAn earlier single ‘Mouth Of An Angel’ had been produced by Martin Rushent, but TWO PEOPLE’s sound was more typical of a conventional duo dressed with synths like CHINA CRISIS. ‘Heaven’ sounded like THE LOTUS EATERS fused with THE TEARDROP EXPLODES. With punchy brass, aspirational lyrics and modern production by Chris Porter, this was a perfect pop song in anyone’s ears but failed to catch the imagination of the record buying public despite extensive radio airplay.

Originally released as a single by Polydor Records, currently unavailable

http://www.discogs.com/artist/Two+People


WHEN IN ROME The Promise (1988)

WHEN IN ROME were vocalists Clive Farrington and Andrew Mann with keyboardist Michael Floreale. The oddly styled trio’s nearbrush with fame came with ‘The Promise’, a glorious cross between ULTRAVOX and THE WALKER BROTHERS. It failed to gain a UK chart foothold, but was used in the closing scene and end credits of ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ in 2004. However, the renewed interest only heightened tensions between the estranged vocal and instrumental factions, with each laying claim to the name…

Available on the album ‘When In Rome’ via Virgin Records

https://www.facebook.com/FarringtonMannUK/

http://wheninrome2.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
14th September 2017

A Beginner’s Guide To YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA

Yellow+Magic+Orchestra+ymoWhen YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA formed in 1978, it was intended to be a one-off project for producer / bassist Haruomi Hosono and the two session musicians he had hired: drummer Yukihiro Takahashi and keyboardist Ryuichi Sakamoto.

Prior to the group’s formation, the classically trained Sakamoto had experimented with electronic music at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music.

Hosono had been involved in the recording of several early electronic rock records in Japan.

Meanwhile, Takahashi was in THE SADISTIC MIKA BAND, a prog outfit who were signed to PINK FLOYD’s label Harvest and had appeared on ‘Old Grey Whistle Test’. Hosono began formulating the idea of an instrumental disco band which could have the potential to succeed internationally. The format was formally defined when Sakamoto introduced the music of KRAFTWERK to the other two.

KRAFTWERK’s artistic outlook, along with acts such as TANGERINE DREAM, NEU! and LA DÜSSELDORF had helped restore a sense of Germanic identity in reaction to the Americanisation of European post-war culture. The trio were feeling this was needed in Japan too, so they endeavoured to make something very original using electronics. As Sakamoto remarked, this involved using the “very Japanese” approach of merging many different styles like a Bento box in a reliable, forward thinking fashion.

The technology used on their 1978 debut album included the Moog III-C, Korg PS-3100, Polymoog, ARP Odyssey, Oberheim Eight Voice, Minimoog, Korg VC-10 Vocoder and Roland MC-8 Micro Composer. With the latter programmed by fourth member Hideki Matsutake, the result was a crisp, exotic pop sound that was unusual and ahead of its time, even in the synthesizer heartland of Europe.

YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA scored a UK Top 20 hit single in 1980 with ‘Computer Game (Theme From The Invader)’ . Recorded in 1978, the main section of the track was actually ‘Firecracker’, a cover of a 1959 composition by Martin Denny. The single also gained traction in America where the trio made a memorable appearance on the prestigious music show ‘Soul Train’. It subsequently made an impact out on the block as it was later sampled by Hip-Hop godfather Afrika Bambaataa on ‘Death Mix’ and then in 2001, it was used again by Jennifer Lopez on ‘I’m Real’.

The international popularity of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA (or YMO as they came to be known) coincided with the burgeoning synthpop scene in Britain which had embraced the affordable synthesizers from Japanese manufacturers such as Roland, Korg and Yamaha. VISAGE’s Rusty Egan in his dual role as DJ at the legendary Blitz Club in London had been spinning YMO tunes while acts such as GARY NUMAN, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, ULTRAVOX, OMD, SOFT CELL and DEPECHE MODE started achieving mainstream success.

YMO went on to be the one of the most popular bands in South East Asia, but despite this success, the trio went into hiatus in 1984, with each member continuing their already established parallel solo careers. While the trio said they were “spreading out” rather than splitting, they continued to play on each other’s recordings and made guest appearances at various live shows.

Sakamoto achieved the highest international profile from his ventures into acting and soundtrack work. His Oscar winning success for ‘The Last Emperor’ in 1988 helped expand his soundtrack portfolio to include films such as ‘Black Rain’, ‘The Sheltering Sky’ and ‘Little Buddha’, while he also composed music for events like the Opening Ceremony of the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.

A short reunion took place in 1993 for the ‘Technodon’ album where the band had to be known as YMO, but there was no further activity until 2007 when Hosono, Sakamoto and Takahashi were reunited for a Kirin Lager advertising campaign, performing one of their most popular numbers ‘Rydeen’.

Hosono and Takahashi had been working together in a project called SKETCH SHOW and on a number of occasions, Sakamoto was invited to join in. As a result, he proposed that the group rename itself HUMAN AUDIO SPONGE (HAS) for whenever he was involved. Inevitably, YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA reformed again when they played the 2007 Kyoto Live Earth event, although for recording purposes they combined names and went out as HASYMO.

ymo1In Summer 2008, the trio played the Meltdown Festival curated by MASSIVE ATTACK billed as YMO, although only four YMO songs were played while the rest of the set comprised of SKETCH SHOW, HASYMO and solo material. However in 2009, the trio performed at the World Happiness festival in Japan and confirmed that YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA was their official name, while there was a further appearance at the 2010 event. Despite the confusion over names, it would appear YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA are still a going concern, although Sakamoto is presently taking an extended break recuperating from illness.

So with their place in electronic music history assured, what twenty tracks would make up an imaginary CD compilation album to act as Beginner’s Guide to the iconic trio? The Electricity Club made the following selections for its YMO Bento box…


YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA Tong Poo (1978)

YMOYELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA’s debut self-titled album was noted for its use of the then brand new computerised Roland MC8 Micro-Composer to control the synthesizers. With their use of modern technology, they became standard bearers for what eventually became known in Japan as technopop. Despite its pulsing electronic disco bassline, the Sakamoto penned ‘Tong Poo’ was inspired by Chinese music produced during the China’s Cultural Revolution.

Available on the YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA album ‘Yellow Magic Orchestra’ via Alfa Music

http://www.ymo.org/


YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA Behind The Mask (1979)

solid state survivorWith ‘Behind The Mask’, YMO’s influence touched rock, pop and soul. Michael Jackson loved the track so much, he penned additional lyrics to it during the ‘Thriller’ sessions. Unable to be released at the time by Jackson himself, he gave the reworked track to his musical director Greg Phillinganes who had a surprise Top 5 hit in the US R’n’B charts in 1985. This proxy collaboration was then later covered by Eric Clapton in 1987. The remixed MJ demo eventually appeared on the posthumous album ‘Michael’.

Available on the YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA album ‘Solid State Survivor’ via Alfa Music

https://www.facebook.com/YMOofficial


RIUICHI SAKAMOTO Riot in Lagos (1980)

riot in lagosBack from when Sakamoto spelt the alphabetical version of his first name as ‘Riuichi’, ‘Riot in Lagos’ off his 1980 ‘B-2 Unit’ album has often been seen as a pivotal track that anticipated the beats and pulses of house music. A frantic but danceable instrumental that conveyed the rhythmic tension and violence of the title, it was a fine example of the visual narrative of Sakamoto’s compositional mind. It was a talent that would serve him well in a burgeoning career that would eventually lead him to the cinema.

Available on the RIUICHI SAKAMOTO album ‘B-2 Unit’ via GT Music Japan

https://www.sitesakamoto.com/


JAPAN Taking Islands In Africa (1980)

japan-gentlemen-takeFollowing the success of JAPAN’s third album ‘Quiet Life’, Sakamoto was assigned by a magazine to interview David Sylvian. The meeting led to the beginnings of a long standing friendship and a magnificent collaboration entitled ‘Taking Islands In Africa’ which ended up closing the long player. The music was entirely Sakamoto’s while Sylvian contributed the worldly lyrics. There were to be further collaborations between the pair, the most recent being ‘World Citizen’ in 2004.

Available on the JAPAN album ‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’ via Virgin Records

http://www.nightporter.co.uk/


YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA Camouflage (1981)

YMO BGM‘BGM’ was the first recording to use the now iconic Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer and a 3M 32-track digital recorder. However, as producer of ‘BGM’, Hosono did not like the latter’s aural sharpness and preferred to record the rhythm sections on analogue tape first before copying them to the 3M machine. This album’s best song ‘Camouflage’ was a curious beat laden blend of Eastern pentatonics and Western metallics… the German synth band CAMOUFLAGE took their name from this very song.

Available on the YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA album ‘BGM’ via Alfa Music

https://www.facebook.com/YMOofficial/


LOGIC SYSTEM Domino Dance (1981)

logic systemThe Roland MC-8 Micro-Composer programmed by fourth member Hideki Matsutake was a key part of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA’s early production and live performances. In 1981, Matsutake formed his own project LOGIC SYSTEM. Inspired after hearing a playback of Wendy Carlos’ ‘Switched-On Bach’, he went on to be the technical assistant of TOMITA. ‘Domino Dance’ was the excellent lead single from the acclaimed ‘Logic’ and while less immediate, it was worthy of his better known employers.

Available on the LOGIC SYSTEM album ‘Logic’ via Express Japan / Toshiba EMI

https://www.facebook.com/logicsystem


SANDII & THE SUNSETZ The Great Wall (1981)

SANDII&THESUNSETZ Heat ScaleAfter guesting on ‘Absolute Ego Dance’ from ‘Solid State Survivor’, Hawaiian Japanese vocalist Sandy O’Neal began working with Hosono, who was producing a Japanese band called THE SUNSET GANG. Convincing the all-male combo that her Kate Bush influenced vocals would be ideal to front their brand of chunky music, SANDII & THE SUNSETZ were born. The highlight of the 1981 Hosono produced album ‘Heat Scale’ was ‘The Great Wall’, a song influenced by music of the Chinese Cultural revolution.

Available on the SANDII & THE SUNSETZ album ‘Heat Scale’ via Alfa Music

http://sandii.info/


YUKIHIRO TAKAHASHI Something In The Air (1981)

Yukihiro-Takahashi-Neuromantic-523610Being YMO’s main vocalist did not necessarily mean Takahashi-san was a great singer and indeed, it very much had a Marmite effect. With his solo albums of course, his voice took centre stage. And with his afflicted, semi-croon in the vein of Bryan Ferry, he showed his passionate side on ‘Something In The Air’. Not a cover of the THUNDERCLAP NEWMAN song, it came from ‘Neuromantic’, considered to be one of Takahashi’s finest solo albums; it featured Tony Mansfield, Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay.

Available on the YUKIHIRO TAKAHASHI album ‘Neuromantic’ via GT Music Japan

http://intenzio.co.jp/yukihiro/room66plus/


YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA Neue Tanz (1981)

technodelicYMO’s experimental fourth long player ‘Technodelic’ was notable for its use of an LMD-649, a hand-made sampler developed by Toshiba EMI engineer Kenji Murata. Although ‘Neue Tanz’ was a tribute to KRAFTWERK, Hosono played bass guitar on the track, adding a dark funkiness that once merged with the Indonesian Kecak chanting samples, recalled David Byrne and Brian Eno’s ‘My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts’ album. KRAFTWERK borrowed back the concept in 1986 for ‘Musique Non Stop’.

Available on the YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA album ‘Technodelic’ via Alfa Music

http://www.sonymusic.co.jp/Music/Info/ymo/


SUSAN I Only Come Out at Night (1982)

SUSAN I Only Come Out At NightFranco-Japanese beauty SUSAN was a protégée of Takahashi and ‘I Only Come Out At Night’ was produced and written by him with lyrical assistance from the now-regular YMO collaborator Peter Barakan. Gloriously detuned and pentatonic, this was a fine example of how new technology was allowing the smarter than average drummer to challenge their perceived role in pop. Takahashi certainly provided a heavier, more leftfield sound compared with Hosono’s production work for Idol singers such as Seiko Matsuda.

Available on the SUSAN album ‘Complete’ via Sony Music Japan

http://www.susanweb.jp/


YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA Kimi Ni Mune Kyun (1983)

naughty boys‘Naughty Boys’ was YMO’s most commercial album of their career. This was highlighted by the massively popular and joyous lead single ‘Kimi Ni Mune Kyun’. Takahashi, Hosono and Sakamoto were the oldest J-Pop boy band in town, looking like ARASHI’s great uncles! A YMO vs THE HUMAN LEAGUE EP featuring a remix with new English lyrics and vocals by Phil Oakey was released in 1993. Meanwhile in 2009, the song was the closing theme to the Anime series ‘Maria Holic’, sung by the voice cast.

Available on the YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA album ‘Naughty Boys’ via Alfa Music

http://www.discogs.com/artist/22061-Yellow-Magic-Orchestra


DAVID SYLVIAN & RIUICHI SAKAMOTO Forbidden Colours (1983)

Sylvian+SAKAMOTO-Forbidden-Colours-Following a joint single with David Sylvian at the height of JAPAN’s fame entitled ‘Bamboo Music’ in 1982, Sakamoto made his 1983 acting debut alongside David Bowie in ‘Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence’. He also composed the soundtrack with Sylvian providing lead vocals on the single version of the WWII drama’s haunting theme tune. Retitled ‘Forbidden Colours’, the lyrics reflected the taboo love story of the Nagisa Oshima directed film. Since then, the track has been covered in various languages.

Available on the RYUICHI SAKAMOTO album ‘Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence’ via Editions Milan Music / BMG

http://www.davidsylvian.com/


YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA You’ve Got To Help Yourself (1983)

YMO ServiceLike the polarising ‘∞Multiplies’ mini-album from 1980, ‘Service’ contained YMO songs alongside various skits, performed by the comedy combo SUPER ECCENTRIC THEATER (SET). Whether the inclusion of the SET material was an ironic act of cultural subversion is a mystery to Western ears, as the sketches were all in Japanese! The best song on ‘Service’ though was the poppy ‘You’ve Got To Help Yourself’ which tellingly had previously featured in instrumental taster form on ‘Naughty Boys’.

Available on the YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA album ‘Service’ via Alfa Music

http://www.factmag.com/2015/01/22/the-essential-yellow-magic-orchestra/


HARUOMI HOSONO Gaplus (1984)

HOSONO Super XeviousHosono was one of the first people to acknowledge the appeal of video game sounds and arranged an album containing Namco arcade game music. Simply titled ‘Video Game Music’, it was acknowledged as being the first chiptune record. A subsequent maxi single release ‘Super Xevious’ had Hosono actually composing and performing around original game music by Yuriko Keino and Junko Ozawa. ‘Gaplus’ with its phased gunshots, blips and classical overtones was the undoubted highlight.

Available on the HARUOMI HOSONO EP ‘Super Xevious’ via Scitron Digital Content

http://www.daisyworld.co.jp/


RYUICHI SAKAMOTO featuring THOMAS DOLBY Field Work (1986)

fieldworkMost of the tracks for what was to become ‘Illustrated Musical Encyclopedia’ were originally recorded in 1984 and as the title suggested, saw Sakamoto exploring a variety of styles and genres including jazz and soca. Initially only released in Japan, the album was altered for the international market with some new tracks. One of these was this great collaboration with Thomas Dolby. Entitled ‘Field Work’, it united both artists’ concerns for the environment.

Available on the RYUICHI SAKAMOTO album ‘Illustrated Musical Encyclopedia’ via 10 / Virgin Records

http://www.thomasdolby.com/


YUKIHIRO TAKAHASHI & STEVE JANSEN Stay Close (1986)

STEVE JANSEN & YUKIHIRO TAKAHASHI Stay CloseTakahashi’s solo albums featured JAPAN’s bassist Mick Karn and drummer Steve Jansen. In 1986, Jansen and Takahashi released a brilliant joint single ‘Stay Close’. Additionally featuring the talents of legendary rhythm guitarist Carlos Alomar, Jansen in particular did a very able impression of his older brother David Sylvian, while Takahashi provided his usual mannered “will he make it – won’t he?” vocals. It remains a true lost classic as possibly the best song that JAPAN and YMO never recorded.

Available on the YUKIHIRO TAKAHASHI album ‘Once A Fool…’ via Pony Canyon

http://www.stevejansen.com/


SYLVIAN / SAKAMOTO Heartbeat (1992)

heartbeatThe dreamy ‘Heartbeat (Tainai Kaiki II)’ saw David Sylvian return to give a raw passionate vocal performance which was counterpointed by a whispery spoken word passage from Ingrid Chavez. The two emotionally connected in real life and got married after the recording. More organic than previous Sylvian / Sakamoto collaborations, the bed of the song was Sakamoto-san’s eerie piano and ‘Twin Peaks’ strings, while out of nowhere came a rousing solo from noted jazz guitarist Bill Frisell.

Available on the RYUICHI SAKAMOTO album ‘Heartbeat’ via Virgin Records

https://www.facebook.com/ryuichisakamoto


YMO Pocketful Of Rainbows (1993)

YMO TECHNODONFor their comeback album ‘Technodon’, the band were forced to release it under the moniker YMO as the name YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA was owned by former record label Alfa Records. Songs like ‘Hi-tech Hippies’ had more straightforward techno arrangements than any of the trio’s more recent solo work. The album was also sample free to save any potential copyright infringements. ‘Pocket Full Of Rainbows’ was a Japanese language cover of the tune made famous by Elvis Presley in ‘GI Blues’.

Available on the YMO album ‘Technodon’ via Toshiba EMI

https://twitter.com/ymo


RYUICHI SAKAMOTO Anger – Rare Force 2 Meg Remix (1998)

Sakamoto-AngerSakamoto’s soundtrack success led him to sign with Sony Classical. His first work for the label ‘Discord’ was a four movement avant-garde composition exploring dissonant musical structures. Two of the tracks ‘Anger’ and ‘Grief’ were given out to remixers, thus cementing the link Sakamoto had with dance culture since ‘Riot In Lagos’. The aggressive, almost industrial ‘Anger’ was given a dark breakbeat treatment by Skint Records signings RARE FORCE which got the adrenaline pumping.

Available on the RYUICHI SAKAMOTO album ‘Moto.tronic’ via Sony Music

https://twitter.com/ryuichisakamoto


HASYMO Rescue (2007)

HASYMO rescueProducing a single ‘Rescue’ for the Anime film ‘Appleseed Ex Machina’, Hosono, Sakamoto and Takahashi utilised a leftfield jazz techno sound and the pretty female voice of Chiho Shibaoka. The film’s soundtrack featured two further HASYMO tracks ‘Method’ and ‘Weather’ as well as a large number of solo contributions from Hosono. The recorded reunion put YMO back into the public eye and led to invitations for a variety of prestigious events including Meltdown.

Available on the HASYMO single ‘Rescue’ via Commmons ‎/ Avex Trax

https://myspace.com/hasymo


Text by Chi Ming Lai
4th June 2015, updated 8th June 2020