23.1.18

Hiroshi Yoshimura


It's been a very long time since I gave up being at the vanguard of Retro music's fashion. It was probably as long ago as my publicly-professed passion for Music Concrete in 2004 that I was blazing a trail for the brand-new-secondhand. A succession of younger and more switched-on people like Lewis Gordon stepped into the role and keep up the valuable work of exploring the past.

Before this excellent article in FACT my exposure to the recent excavations of 1980s Japanese was limited to Spencer Doran's legendary mixes for Root Strata "Fairlights, Mallets And Bamboo" and "Fairlights, Mallets And Bamboo Volume 2". Like the greatest mixes they imagined a sound-world which was at once undeniably in existence but at the same time needed coaxing into coalescence.

I knew this territory a little but mainly through bigger names like YMO (and by extension the solo LPs of Hosono and Sakamoto), Phew's records (through the CAN connection) and also Ippu-Do (via pal Stuart Argabright). Literature-wise neither Cope's "JapRockSampler" nor Roger Sutherland's "New Perspectives in Music" (with its taste for the Taj Mahal Travellers) provide much direction but if you haven't discovered it John Scheffer's "New Sounds: The Virgin Guide To New Music" (an eighties-tastic survey of New Age and Minimalism) is squarely in this aesthetic territory. Beyond that, as far as I'm aware, you're at the mercy of the internet.

The dominant figure of the revival has thus far been Midori Takada and her "Through The Looking Glass" album. That's nice, but to my mind a little over-wrought. Certainly, as far as my taste now extends, the music of Hiroshi Yoshimura looms very large. Yoshimura looks set to enjoy the same kind of stature Arthur Russell accrued in the past twenty years as a forgotten and neglected pioneer. Hiroshi's biography is that of a solitary journeyman who "worked on sound design construction for TOA, the storied Japanese manufacturer of amplifiers, signal processors, mixers, microphones, and speakers while working on his own art in his spare time." A Charles Ives of sorts.

Getting a handle on Yoshimura's originality isn't simple. One could quite easily view his best work as minor, Eno-influenced Ambient music. The key to experiencing their genius lies in appreciating the emotions conveyed in the pellucid music. Contemplative, generous, and unassuming in a way that the creative fission reactor Eno could never be - these are the incipient values of the 21st Century. The emphasis on music as Design too, although partially alienating to child of the seventies like myself weaned on art as raw energy, is perfectly in tune with the times; times when people's cultural experience is framed within brands and "experiences".


Music For Nine Postcards (1982)

Reissued in November last year by the Empire of Signs label by Spencer Doran. This is very much an update on the Erik Satie template. In that respect like Satsuki Shibano's "Erik Satie" record also on the Wave Notation series. Made with the analogue Fender Rhodes synth it doesn't quite have the textural fascination of Yoshimura's later FM and reverb forays.


Pier & Loft (1983)

Truly delightful. Just recently reissued by Tokyo's 17853 records. This to me where it all kicks off.


Air In Resort (1984)

Created as a kind of audio advert to Shiseido cosmetics (my wife used to use their face wash in the early nineties). This is really lovely stuff, completely in thrall with the natural reverb of its foley (birds in a misty dawn etc) and to the fascinating bell-like piano-tones of Yamaha's then cutting-edge FM synths. With Eno himself being drawn inextricably to the DX7 one could even argue that the Japanese here were the leaders. Listening to "Air In Resort" it immediately occurred to me too that this was the unmistakeable source of Daniel Rosenfeld's beloved Minecraft music.


Green (1986)

This, the masterpiece, from 1986. Received an official cassette release in 2015 (woah there hipsters) but you still can't find it on Spotify. I hope that soon an official reissue (hopefully on a CD too - this is unmistakably digital music and perhaps an opportunity, in a symbolic manner, to finally reign in the vinyl revival). Currently only available to buy at £414.73. Ouch.


Surround (1986)

More loveliness.