GP's music picks

Questions and comments about living in Japan, chit-chat, or whatever else goes in here.

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GP's music picks

Postby Gaijin Punch » Fri Sep 22, 2006 6:54 am

As someone who's life and lifestyle was once ruled by music (I have since seperated myself physically from the electronic music scene for various reasons) I have a hard time finding stuff here in Honolulu. HMV in Tokyo, even if I wasn't going to clubs, generally had something for me to listen to and perhaps buy. Anyways, one of my favorite albums ever is Pentatonik Anthology (this is actually a reprint, simply titled Pentatonik, but is exactly the same). Fitting somewhere between ambient and techno, it is 2 CDs filled with very lush sounds. I was introduced to it by a friend in college in 1996, and it has folllowed me from Austin, to Tokyo, back to Austin, back to Tokyo, and now to Hawaii. It has recieved heavy play at all locations. Pentatonik is basically a guy named R.Simeon Bowring, who has collaborated with many other bands, The Orbital being one of them, if I'm not mistaken.

Searching around a bit on the internet late one night, I stumbled across R. Simeon Bowring's page at MySpace. Much to my surprise, I found the following blurb:

I started Pentatonik in the early 1990s. I was signed to Deviant Records, which led to the release of an album in 1994 called Anthology. Well its been 12 years in the making but there is a new album THE FIVE ANGELS out in now on Hydrogen Dukebox records. Its a sublime mix of electronic sound and classically influenced melodies. Two tracks feature beautiful vocals from Kirsty Hawkshaw (who also has a great myspace page). Soon there will be a website for the album www.pentatonik.co.uk.


The album just came out a couple of days ago. How's that for a coincidence? I've not recieved it yet, but this is the first album that I have bought, or tried to buy anywhere even close to it's release date. I'm sure it's not everyone's cup of tea, but this music is really hard to hate. You can actually sample Movements: Part 2 (one of the best tracks on Anthology) from the tracklisting of this
ambient collection, at Amazon US. Something about the coincidence of me finding out about an album that I have always been certain would never exist makes me feel like I should share it with everyone.
Last edited by Gaijin Punch on Wed Mar 14, 2007 8:54 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Postby Ganelon » Sat Sep 23, 2006 12:28 am

That sample tune was really soothing (like Donkey Kong Country's Aquatic Ambience theme). Got more samples of his work?

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Postby Gaijin Punch » Sat Sep 23, 2006 7:07 am

There are four tracks on his My Space site, but they are from the new album. I just picked up another one on a compilation called "Music for Heroes Three". It's not bad, but not as good as the other stuff. This site is down ATM, but has a full track for download called "Devotion" which can be found on the One AD compilation -- a really old ambient CD that I actually own as well. Devotion isn't bad, but again, is nothing like the gems found on Anthology (Specifically La Verite, Creation, Movements: Part 2, and Pentatonik Melody).

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Postby Gaijin Punch » Fri Nov 10, 2006 4:21 am

I've decided to make this an on-going thread, and perhaps share some of the music I've recently discovered, or even some of the oldies that I'm currently enjoying. As my current tastes, and more importantly lifestyle, are gearing me towards ambient and downbeat, I thought it appropriate to talk about the quintessential ambient album -- perhaps the most well known. KLF: Chill Out.

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The KLF, who is composed of two rather weird guys, are best known for their early 90's dance stuff, specifically their album The White Room. While that stuff is all fine and dandy (I don't really like it) it is nowhere near the calibur of Chill Out. Chill Out is basically a musical journey that one might hear travelling very late at night through the southern US. Radio samples (including news, and even old tracks...even by Elvis), train tracks, car horns and other bizarre sounds are peppered throughout ambient riffs and melodies. The entire CD shares a common theme, which eludes one to believe it was recorded in one go in the studio.

I was introduced to this CD very shortly after arriving in Japan, by one of my English friends, whom I'm still in touch with now. While it's a bit creepy at times (but still mesmerizing) it's not really something I would group with Pentatonik or other chill music that I listen to. Even so, it was clearly a trend setter for ambient projects to come.

Amazon's listing features samples of the entire album. Seems you can buy this from Amazon marketplace used for $6.99. A steal.

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Postby Gaijin Punch » Fri Dec 01, 2006 2:15 am

This thread would simply no be complete if I didn't list perhaps my favorite ambient CD, Sun Electric's 30.7.94.

[img]http://www.booyaka.com/‾al/ambient/images/se_t.jpg[/img]

The first track I ever heard by Sun Electric was in 1995, when I had just moved to Austin, Texas. Their was a techno show on Saturday night's on UT's student radio station. As a special, there was an ambient set which I recorded. One of the tracks I later learned was Sarotti, which is found on the album Kitchen. Sarotti is a pretty good example of Sun Electric's music, sitting somewhere between techno and ambient.

On a whim, in Dallas some months (years?) later, I was in a very overpriced record store that is known to have anything you want, if your'e willing to pay. There, I picked up on the only Sun Electric CD I could find, which was 30.7.94. Popping it in, I found something a bit unexpected. An hour plus CD featuring a mere 3 tracks, each about 20 minutes. Unlike anything else Sun Electric has put out, this is pure ambient - no beats at all. Just atmospheric mood music with relaxing samples (although you can hear The Beatle's Hard Days Night in the background at one point), and recorded in one setting, live, on July 30th, 1994. While SE is not known as being ambient powerhouses like Brian Eno or Pete Namlook, they have created what some claim is the best ambient album you can find. Whether or not that's the case, it's hard to argue that it is not a beautiful piece of music.

And the unfortunate case this time, is that finding it will take quite a few sheckles. I actually located a couple on Amazon.de for 40 Euros each. Painful, yes. One I will keep, as my original copy is scratched to shit (can't even play) and the other I will give to a friend as a gift, as he actually broke his trying to get it out of a jammed CD player. What are the odds? If you can find this one on P2P, grab it, although I don't think it'll be out there.

EDIT: I just found this torrent although it's dead. Another.

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Postby Gaijin Punch » Thu Dec 14, 2006 5:55 am

Back in the mid 90's, it wasn't so easy to find electronic music. If you didn't have turntables, you weren't very likely to find an abundance of cutting edge stuff. MP3s were just getting off the ground, so finding obscure music in this sense was a pain. As such, there was a plethora of underground electronic music that I missed, despite all the searching.

Until recently, I had never heard of Tetsu Inoue. While he's obviously Japanese (a native of Tokyo), he's not really well known in Japan. Almost all of his work is pressed in Europe (quite a few on Pete Namlook's FAX label). If you search for his stuff online, one would search in Romaji, as opposed to Japanese. After doing some digging on a few music sites, I learned of his first release, Ambiant Otaku

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Originally recorded in 1994, this minimalistic ambient CD lies somewhere between the spacey sounds of really early Tangerine Dream, and soothing melodies found on the CDs posted earlier in this thread. The 2nd track, low of vibration, while relaxing, makes me imagine many pieces of hanging glass or metal, vibrating in harmony. The ending tracks go a little more into the weird area rather than soothing, but they're still very enjoyable.

Despite the fact that this was Tetsu Inoue's debut album, the initial 500 (or 1000) copies sold out fast. To answer to the ridiculous prices (over $100 USD) and rampant CD-R copying of the CD, Pete Namlook put out a re-release (reportedly another 1000 copies) on Ambient World, pictured below.

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Either are still pretty hard to find, although I got the reprint for $18 a few weeks ago (one went on Ebay a few days later for $28). People still want $80-$100 for the original pressing. Now, you're probably saying to yourself that only an asshole would keep posting his favorite CDs that are impossible to find. Well folks, this one is not impossible to find. In fact, if you join emusic you can get 20 or so free downloads to try the service out. I joined, and haven't looked back. You basically pay X amount per month, and can download a limited amount of songs. It works out that you're paying something like $.40 for each MP3, but they're yours. No Digital Rights bullshit. Put 'em on your iPod, burn 'em to CD. Whatever. The site is focused around indie stuff, so you'll not find the latest U2 album there. You will, however, find a mountain of music that you may otherwise not be able to find without some serious searching. My first months worth of downloads were done pretty quickly, and I excercised restraint. I'm very happy with the service, and think everyone should try it out. This album alone is worth the signing up. Trust me.

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Postby Gaijin Punch » Sat Jan 06, 2007 11:18 am

Guess it's time for me to talk to myself again in this thread. Been digging around emusic.com a lot lately, and have veered away from some of the purely electronic music, and found some music which make use of accoustics to my liking. Having been out of everything other than techno for some years, I missed some of the obscurities that are actually good. I'm not sure how I came across this, but Lost Horizons by Lemmon Jelly is one of the best gambles I've ever taken with my download credits.

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I dare say this album could easily be a game soundtrack, and a good one. I guess if I had to sum it up, I would say it's a perfect fit between the Jet Set Radio and Katamari Damacy soundtracks. Light, airy, and definitely happy, you really feel like you're floating through air when you hear this. I guess the two songs I like the most are Spacewalk, a cheery tune featuring samples of someone from NASA, and Nice Weather for Ducks, a very quirky track featuring a sample of some children's film about ducks. Great stuff, and definitely different.

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Postby Gaijin Punch » Thu Apr 12, 2007 4:41 am

Okay, time to update this thread and recommend some music that nobody will ever listen to.

Scouring emusic for something quiet and soft, yet slightly different from all the stuff on the FAX label I've been downloading, I figured I would go and check out something on Mille Plateu. What I found, was Together is the New Alone by Donnacha Costello.

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While this can easily be categorized as ambient, it doesn't quite fit the usual formula. It is indeed very click/beepy, but not as extreme as several other albums on the label. In fact, I find the best part of the album are the soft, simple melodies. It is about as minimal as minimal can be (not to be confused with minimal techno, btw). Great for listening to at work, or even for some meditation. The album really culminates in the last two tracks with Dry Retch and Always a Part. Even though the title of the former tends to invoke some type of agression, the track itself is per melancholy and beauty. Always a Part, the only track on the album to have a beat, is made up of a very simple, short harmony looped. It is somewhat sad, and makes me imagine days gone past. I was playing it the other day while trying to put my son to sleep, and something just seemed to click has he was staring at me in the eyes, which he does 90% of his waking hours at this age.

Amazon: Although I now see it's not available. If you don't have an emusic account, you're really, really missing out. Mine is my prized possession at this point, and this album (amongst many others that are nearly impossible to find) are available there.

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Postby kafka » Fri Apr 13, 2007 11:10 am

Really appreciating your recommendations GP. ;)
Despite myself primarily being a jazz fan, I enjoy all quality stuff and my vinyl crates know no one particular genre. Tetsu Inoue and Lemmon Jelly are both great, I'll have to look further into this Donnacha Costello guy - but yeah thanks for the posts.

I'm not sure if you're into ambience of this vintage, but this blog posted the sublime Mexican duo Via Lactea's 1979 s/t LP - here's the post. I am fortunate enough to own the album, but it hasn't had any form of reissuing and if you're not morally opposed the blog does provide a rapidshare link.
Last edited by kafka on Fri May 18, 2007 7:32 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Gaijin Punch » Fri Apr 13, 2007 3:48 pm

Thanks for that link, I will check it out. I like plenty of old stuff... I think the next one I'll chat about is from way back in 1978, when I was a whopping 3 years old.

If you liked Ambiant Otaku, you should get Organic Cloud. I'd say those two are the best, even though most everything Tetsu Inoue did before 2000 seems to be good. He got a bit weird after that, and seems to be coming back to some rather pretty sounds w/ Yolo (even though it's still rather strange).

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Postby kafka » Fri May 18, 2007 7:52 am

Gaijin Punch wrote:Thanks for that link, I will check it out. I like plenty of old stuff... I think the next one I'll chat about is from way back in 1978, when I was a whopping 3 years old.

If you liked Ambiant Otaku, you should get Organic Cloud. I'd say those two are the best, even though most everything Tetsu Inoue did before 2000 seems to be good. He got a bit weird after that, and seems to be coming back to some rather pretty sounds w/ Yolo (even though it's still rather strange).


Yeah, Organic Cloud is good too - after that I thought he disappeared... good to see he's still around, as weird as his newer stuff may be.

Not sure if you've heard of them, but you may be interested in Twilight Archive - the site is pretty lame but don't be put off... they make some nifty ambientish stuff, they're a recent discovery for me.
Here's some tracks to try:
House of Tomorrow
Secret Desert Find
House of Tomorrow (November Mix)

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Postby Gaijin Punch » Mon May 21, 2007 4:38 am

That actually does sound pretty good. Yeah... kind of tricky to get around their site but I think I've figured it out. Thanks!

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Postby EOJ » Fri Jun 15, 2007 2:33 am

Hey GP, have you heard Ulrich Schnauss? I think you might like him. I think he's been making some of the best music out there for the past 5 years or so. He has a new album due in July. His first two albums are excellent. You can check out his myspace here:

www.myspace.com/ulrichschnauss

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Postby Gaijin Punch » Fri Jun 15, 2007 2:01 pm

Never heard of him. I will give his myspace page a whirl though. Thanks!
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Postby EOJ » Fri Jun 15, 2007 9:22 pm

Judging from the couple tracks on his myspace from his new album ("shine", and "a song about hope"), it's less ambient and more vocal and 'song'-based than his previous works. I think it sounds amazing from what I've heard. But if you like the instrumental stuff more, try his first album ("far away trains passing by"), which is really a remarkable and groundbreaking LP. Nothing sounds quite like it. His second LP, "a strangely isolated place" has some bits of vocals, but they are more atmospheric in nature. It's also a fantastic record, expanding upon the sound in the first record.

I actually bought both of his albums while I was in Japan in 2003 (I got the Japanese release version of "a strangely isolated place"), and I remember many a day listening to them on my headphones.

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Postby Gaijin Punch » Mon Jul 23, 2007 6:42 am

I jumped out of the ambient drone world for a bit and did some searious link hopping on emusic. I think I went to Dntel's main page, and found in similar artists Lali Puna. Their latest release (on emusic, 2005) is "I Thought I was Over That". After downloading and listening to, I realized it is simply remixes and B-sides... generally not something great to warm you up to a band you'd never heard of before. However, this one seems to be a special case, as there are quite a few guest remixers (Dntel is one) and they've even remixed other band's songs (wouldn't you know it, a remixed Dntel track is on there).

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Lying somewhere between electronic pop and almost unclassifiable rock, this little gem is a great album, and one of the few I've gotten recently that I could play at a party and not cause me to get beaten to a pulp. It's a lot of download credits as it' a 2CD, but hey, it was worth it. Can't wait to try their other stuff.
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Postby EOJ » Mon Jul 23, 2007 7:21 am

Yeah lali puna is pretty good. The did a decent cover of Slowdive's "40 days" on a compilation called 'Blue skied an' clear' on Morr Music (Germany) a few years back.

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Postby Gaijin Punch » Mon Jul 23, 2007 10:50 am

That would be track 2 on this album. Good tune, although I've not heard the original.
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Postby EOJ » Tue Jul 24, 2007 12:33 am

The Slowdive original (from 1993) is much better.
You can hear it free right here:

http://theprettyones.com/ticktock/Slowd ... 20Days.Mp3

Slowdive is my all-time fave band, so maybe I'm a bit biased. :)

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Postby CIT Seven Force » Tue Jul 24, 2007 1:31 am

kej, do you like Asobi Seksu?

I think if you're into Slowdive you'll really like them too.

If you don't know them yet you can check them out here: http://www.myspace.com/asobiseksu

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Postby EOJ » Thu Jul 26, 2007 12:23 am

Yeah, Asobi Seksu is really good. They also sound similar to Mahogany. Ah, shoegaze, my favorite musical genre.

There's only one good Japanese shoegaze band, and they're called Hartfield. One of my current favorite shoegaze bands is Resplandor, they're from Peru and sing in Spanish (on some of their recent stuff they sing in English). Their album "Ambar" on Alison records Germany is brilliant, brilliant stuff. They take a lot from the pioneering early 90s spanish shoegaze/electro-ambient group Silvania (still probably my second fave band behind Slowdive), but they're innovative enough to be quite interesting in their own right.

Oh, Resplandor's myspace:

www.myspace.com/resplandorperu

(Listen to "Sol Oceano"!)

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Postby Gaijin Punch » Mon Aug 27, 2007 3:32 pm

Okay, here's another somewhat well-known outfit that I'm just now learning about (servers me right for spending years in clubs).

Casino versus Japan
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Googling around you'll see a lot of comparisons drawn between them (him, actually) and Boards of Canada. I think they're on the same label, but from what little I've heard of BoC, this is leagues and galaxies above and beyond.

I've only heard one album thus far (Whole Numbers Play the Basics - pictured above) but it's been on a near constant loop for the last two weeks. I'm going to have trouble downloading my remaining credits for the month as I'm not so interested in anything else. I've even ordered two other albums from Amazon Japan Marketplace. Got one on the cheap, one on the not cheap.

The sound is hard to describe. It's definitely fit for a chill room, but some of the tunes are a little to catchy for a proper chill room, completely with people almost flat-lining. Just about all the tracks have some type of beat. While very synthetic and not very funky, they are memorable. However, it's the melodies that really shine through. Not depressing in the least, but very, very melodic. A fantastic journey. This is definitely in my 5 best emusic downloads for the year.
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Postby ZebraAirforce » Tue Sep 04, 2007 10:37 am

Hey GP. I'm a big fan of electronic music myself, but I'm put off by more monotonous stuff. Fila Brazillia is nice because they have a more rapid progression than alot of other artists.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6l23LbTrG8M

This first one is pretty laid back, and alot slower than some of their other songs. It's also NSFW (unless your boss doesn't mind a little artistic sexual imagery.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-U2nSLUHXNA

The second one is a little more typical of Fila's style: A phat beat and some nice samples. I like this one better, but man the video is kind of lame.

So, enjoy.

PS I'll hook you up with the record label in case you're interested-
http://www.23online.co.uk/
Apparently the old label (Pork Records) decided to change to the much less catchy 23 records.
"It's like doing speed... It sounds fun b/c everyone is doing it, and then you're like, 'what the fuck!?'"

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Postby Gaijin Punch » Mon Nov 26, 2007 4:03 pm

Okay, it's been like 2 months. Time for an update.

Solvent: Apples + Synthesizers
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This is finally the common ground that people like me can share w/ avid fans of game music. This is basically what game music should have become sometime around the mid-90's, but of course, didn't. This album sounds like a guy that grew up on a casio keyboard he got for Xmas, and ported all of his songs to more up-to-date equipment, but left them in the same vein. There's no dancy beats, but it's definitely not ambient. All in all, it's pretty cool.

Solvent is apparently some Canadian geezer I had not heard of until recently. I actually got another album of his first (the name of which escapes me) and in all honesty, I like it more. However, this is definitely a great listen. Amazon has it cheap, and it's also on emusic. So, no excuses.
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Postby zinger » Thu Nov 29, 2007 3:01 pm

I had a listen at his myspace page. http://www.myspace.com/solventcity
Actually, this doesn't sound like game music at all to me? Pretty generic synth pop in my book.

That Ambient Otaku cover is cool!


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