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Koeosaeme’s Annulus builds a cohesive world of glossy, blissed-out reveries

Japanese producer Ryu Yoshizawa has a rich career that includes making music for business conglomerates Square Enix and Lotte, spending 17 years and counting in sound artists’ group Office Intenzio, and providing live support for synth-pop pioneers Ryuichi Sakamoto and Yukihiro Takahashi. His output as Koeosaeme has been varied too. His 2017 debut under that […]

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Japan’s Coffins share their stench on rarities compilation Defilements

On the new double-disc compilation Defilements, long-running Japanese band Coffins solder together a patchwork of death and doom metal from five out-of-print releases that trace their development throughout the 2010s. Coffins spike the collection with covers of iconic American groups such as Death and Buzzoven, faithfully executing each homage, and their original tracks simply swing. […]

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The Best of the Miyumi Project celebrates 20 years of Tatsu Aoki’s culture-combining ensemble

Tatsu Aoki left his native Tokyo in 1977 to study experimental film and settled in Chicago two years later. In addition to making films, he improvises, composes, and conducts music, playing bass, shamisen, and taiko drums, and by the early 1990s he’d connected with the local jazz scene, developing a particular affinity with past and […]

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Phew’s harrowing synth-and-voice experiments on Vertigo KO channel the dread of living in our world

For more than four decades, Hiromi Moritani has been making music by her own rules. She’s largely known for the short-lived art-rock band Aunt Sally, which she started as a teenager in late-70s Osaka, and for her 1981 self-titled solo album under the name Phew. Since then she’s continually honed her craft as Phew, expanding […]

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The most interesting man in Japanese jazz leads an international quartet

If you ask Google to translate “Bonjintan” from Japanese into English, it will tell you the word means “ordinary person”—but there’s nothing ordinary about the leader of this international quartet. Akira Sakata, born in Hiroshima early in 1945, has had a dazzlingly varied career: he’s a marine biologist who lectures on water fleas and biodiversity; […]

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Kassel Jaeger and Jim O’Rourke take us on a journey with In Cobalt Aura Sleeps

In 2017, Paris-based electroacoustic composer Kassel Jaeger (born François Bonnet) and Chicago-born multi-instrumentalist Jim O’Rourke joined forces for Wakes on Cerulean, a kaleidoscopic duo recording filled with shape-shifting electronics and field recordings. On their brand-new second collaborative album, In Cobalt Aura Sleeps (Editions Mego), they aim to convey a similarly rapturous experience, but the piece […]

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Shintaro Sakamoto finds the realness in cheesy lounge pop

Japanese musicians have a long history of fascination with Western kitsch—perhaps they perceive aggressive artificiality as America’s most authentic form of expression. In the 70s, Haruomi Hosono released a number of exotica albums, and two decades later, the Pizzicato Five became famous for their irony-poisoned Bacharach sophisti-twee. Iconic Tokyo singer-songwriter and producer Shintaro Sakamoto advanced […]

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Babymetal find the horror in pop and the cuteness in metal

Babymetal have really just one joke, but it’s a solid one. Since the band’s self-titled debut album in 2014, their formula has become familiar: Suzuka Nakamoto (Su-metal) sings chipper Japanese J-pop while dressed in gothy black dresses, and metalhead producer Key Kobayashi (Kobametal) provides a background of chunky death riffage and lightning-fast technical guitar solos. […]