I was reliably informed that Japan’s biggest pop act is Hatsune Miku, who sounds like a demented guinea pig singing slightly hysterical tunes at about 190 bpm. Then it turned out that she is not even human. And not a guinea pig. Instead, “she” is a hologram, and started out in 2007 as vocal synthesising software. Now, bizarrely, Hatsune Miku attracts “music lovers” wielding glow sticks to sold-out concerts across Japan.
As usual my slightly leftfield preference is for 1970s psychedelic rock. My husband out of nowhere recommended that I listen to Extremely Bad Man, a laid-back track by Shintaro Sakamoto, who is a Japanese musician, singer, songwriter and producer and former frontman for psychedelic rock band Yura Yura Teikoku before going solo about a decade ago. I love the track, from the 2014 album Let’s Dance Raw, although it also displays some guinea pig/chipmunk-adjacent musical traits (in a good way, this time) alongside twangy strings and excellent drums (sampled I believe).
Next I turned to the group Yellow Magic Orchestra, formed in the late 1970s, for some classic Japanese electronica: these guys were early adopters of snythesizers, drum machines and such, and according to Wikipedia largely anticipated the “‘electropop boom” of the 1980s’. Surely an influence on both Kraftwerk and later Air.
Finally, I rounded off with experimental ambient music by composer and house DJ Susumu Yokota, which lulled me pleasantly to sleep (perhaps it’s my age). Here’s Tanuki off the album Acid Mt Fuji (from 1994).