Friday, March 8, 2013
PSY-S -- Teenage
One of my all-time favourite Japanese music videos.
(click the image or click here)
This band has nothing to do with the Korean rapper, whose squib became accidentally a global hit. Psy-S (PSY・S) was an Osakan synth pop duo of Masaya Matsuura (松浦雅也 , keys) and CHAKA (vocals) that was active from 1985 to 1996. CHAKA was a pocket-sized singer, who was blessed with a powerful voice that did cut through even most complex backgrounds Matsuura arranged. Matsuura liked to work with a Fairchild CMI synthetizer that was the top-notch equipment of the time. (Other happy customers were such musicians as Peter Gabriel, Jean-Michel Jarre and Frank Zappa, to name just a few.) “Teenage” (1985) was their first single release.
Director Hiroyuki Nakano, who is presenting the video, compiled the material from old samurai and jidaigeki (時代劇, period drama) movies and decided to roll them in high speed. Result looks very energetic and a tad silly. He doesn’t even necessarily make fun: in silent samurai movies the swordfight scenes were purposedly filmed in slower rate so the fights would appear faster than what they actually were! In the end of video we can see a majestic view to Mount Fuji as in the end of any old Shochiku or Toho production.
In halfway of video, beginning from verse “ame nurete”, please take a close look at the slow motion scenes or running swordmen. This was radical camera work in the time of silent movies, even on world scale. In running scene during the verse “imeeji doori” I think I can recognise Tsumasaburou Bandou (阪東 妻三郎), who starred in groundbreaking samurai movie Orochi (1925). A better informed viewer might find more sources to the clips shown in video. Those are powerful scenes to see even almost a hundred years later.
Nakano cuts all this imagery in an openly ironic way. The subtext of video seems to say that the history of Japan before World War II was a teenage phase of Sturm und Drang. It was full of overwhelming feelings and restlesness, a real life samurai movie. Now we sometimes look back to those glorious times and rose-coloured Nihonbashi in the same way we remember our own youth: wonderful endless energy, idealistic mind, brave actions, and not always much sense. Such nostalgia doesn’t help in a changing world. Matsuura’s advice is “Just think of what you gonna do, don't look back to your past”. (Lyrics)
Most of Psy-S was 1980’s synth pop with modern jazz influences. I have always felt that during 1980’s in UK Psy-S could have been a successful new wave indie band like Furniture or Blue Nile; a favourite of critics and college students. Many Psy-S tracks – and I have heard almost them all – are far away from mainstream commercial pop. It’s original, interesting music that has other ambitions than charting high.
In otaku circles Psy-S will be remembered for the music in anime To-Y, based on rock band manga by Atsushi Kamijou (上條淳士). Masaya Matsuura was the musical director of this 1987 Original Video Animation, that included among other things Psy-S’s greatest hits to date: Lemon no yuuki, Silent Song and Cubic Lovers.
After the disbandment of duo the both parts have been busy in world of music. Matsuura has produced game music and music software. He is responsible for the voice of robot dog Aibo. CHAKA returned to her jazz roots and has continued as a jazz vocalist. They still have devoted fans, who have taken care that band’s English wikipedia page is surprisingly detailed.