May 5, 2009

Yoshinori Sunahara – Works ’95-’05 (2007, Ki/oon Records)

Yoshinori Sunahara is one of those prolific Japanese artists who didn’t get much attention in the US, except on some electronic music forums which I was reading in the late’90s, when his “Take Off And Landing” and “The Sound of ‘70s” albums were generating some buzz with downtempo/trip-hop heads. A former member of the quirky techno-pop group Denki Groove, Sunahara’s solo material is a mostly-instrumental blend of super-crunchy lo-fi lounge and bossa samples mixed into heavy, tripped-out beats. The vibe is psychedelic and plunder-phonic, with a good dose of humor thrown in. “The Sound Of ‘70s” has all the old, scratchy sounds of a cheesy ‘70s lounge record or elevator music, but remixed into funky, head-nodding grooves. “Take Off And Landing” is a personal favorite that was always a hit at parties, a concept album based on a ‘70s promotional airport 7” that Sunahara sampled and used to create the sonic equivalent of a “Tokyo Underground Airport” of the future. The album goes in some very bizarre, extremely quirky directions, but keeps a solid groove throughout and will make you smile. After a couple years break, the fantastic “Lovebeat” album was released, taking Sunahara’s style in a new direction. The sound is an evolution of ‘80s-era down-tempo electro beats, computerized and hyper-futuristic. Kraftwerk-esque blips and bleeps pulse alongside synthetic computer voices commanding “don’t stop”. There were also some excellent 12”s released around this time, with some more dance-oriented remixes. Unfortunately things went very quiet after “Lovebeat”, and nothing was heard from Sunahara again until 2007, when a new 2CD compilation entitled “Works ’95-’05” was released. A collection of two or three of the best tracks from each album, with a second CD full of remixes from a variety of Japanese artists, this is a great introduction to Sunahara’s musical catalog. For those who weren’t obsessed collectors in the first place, the second CD of remixes will probably be entirely new, since most of the artists are basically unknown outside of Japan (besides some big names like Cornelius, Towa Tei and Yellow Magic Orchestra). According to, a new soundtrack release for a film called “No Boys, No Cry” is planned for this Summer in Japan.