Friday 12 March 2021

Cherry Blossom Tunes

After the last post I managed to grab some new stuff from my 'recommended's that would make a decent follow up, but I've put those plans to one side for a minute as in the process I found something new as well. Soichi Terada's Omodaka alais that I thought was retired is still very much active - and in its current incarnation is doing some very interesting things when it comes to electronic music.

First and foremost Omodaka is now a full on performance experience - with Terada donning a blank white mask and a shrine maiden's outfit, surrounded by wires, tweaking the electronics as screens play out a combination of motion graphics and slightly surreal video edits. This past meets present aesthetic extends to the songs as well, the main methodology of the Omodaka project has been about fusing traditional Japanese folk music with modern electronics. Well, modern-ish, because as you'll soon hear a lot of the backing for these tracks is full on chiptune. Take a look at the 2-minute trailer for the most recent Omodaka album 'Gujoh Bushi' and have a listen for yourself:

It's an odd combo for sure, one that I'm not quite sure always works but there are definitely moments on this LP that have me falling head over heels. I've never really been much into chiptune as a whole, I have a couple of tracks here, and even then usually from soundtracks. I do have quite a strong nostalgia for them having said that though, one that comes from a lot of long haul flights with Pokémon generations 1 & 2 when I was little. The intro to Kariboshi Kiriuta hits that note something fierce, and when the worlds collide with that bassline at around 6 seconds in - this album immediately shot up my list of things to get a hold of. The Enka-esque vocals I can see putting some folk off, and in this early honeymoon phase of the album for me sometimes I feel that. Though for me I think it's a case of the instrumentals being gorgeous and I just want to spend a little bit more time with them.

The album does have a fair bit of variety in it though even when sticking to those same key elements. Hyamikao is fast on it's way to becoming my favourite so far, here Terada slips back into his old House grooves, with a thumping kick and bassy stabs taking over the expected chiptune intro - as it develops the chiptune elements almost take a backseat and it becomes more like a traditional Terada house tune. I also love the almost text-to-speech style cut-up treatment the vocals get here (again, my bias showing as I love anything to do with altered vocals!), I think it injects a nice bit of variety to the LP - the jumpy cuts making some nice unexpected melodies. and makes them feel a little more fitting than the above track for example. That and if we're getting philosophical, it's truly then a merger of the new and the old.

Speaking of returning, on Tosa Miren Terada brings out his Drum & Bass skills again, those of you familiar with his work on Ape Escape will find a fair bit of similarity here in the more melodic parts - especially when the little bits of chiptune flash through in the most playful way. This one and Hyamikao are currently locked in a fight for my no. 1 favourite from this LP. I think this is one of the more accessible tracks here to boot, the traditional vocals really work in its favour. But that's something I'd expect that as Terada has experimented with mixing them and Drum & Bass going back to 1996 - it's nowhere near as prominent as on this album, but there are hints of chants and such on Sumo Jungle, the album that got the attention of Sony and led to his work on Ape Escape. It's used throughout, but my favourite use of it is on Sukiyaki Dohyo Chanko. But enough of that, enjoy the tune!

I'm really excited to see Terada still active, his output rarely disappoints and having done a bit of research for writing this he seems like he has a lot of fun making stuff. Doubly so when he's performing as Omodaka, from the videos I've seen he'll just occasionally wander out into the crowd and give whoever's in the front row control of bits and pieces of equipment, making the whole thing more of an experience than just a concert. It seems as if he was gearing up to do more regular performances as well which is a shame - here's hoping he can get back to them when things are a little more safe. But in the meantime I am more than happy to jam out to this album, and I hope you are too!

And as always - stay safe and enjoy the music.


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