I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Miharu Koshi -- Tutu

A little over a year ago, I did a profile on Miharu Koshi's "Keep On Dancin'", a quirky technopop tune with a hint of jazz that originated from her 4th album from October 1983, "Tutu". Well, it's time to take a bit more of a look at that album itself.

I bought "Tutu" as one-half of a double-album release, "Epoque de Techno" (2009), basically a re-mastering of "Tutu" and her follow-up album, "Parallelisme" (1984). After listening to her "Hashire Usagi" on a compilation album, I was intrigued about someone who could've been a fine female member of the Yellow Magic Orchestra.

The above video is for the opening track of "Tutu", "L'Amour Toujours". Of all of the songs in the album, this is the only one that Koshi didn't originally create; actually, the credit belongs to Belgian synthpop band, Telex, which had the song as part of their 1981 album, "Birds and Bees". Koshi added her own lyrics to her cover version which has a more delicate sense compared to the Telex original. You can take a listen to that version below.

As I mentioned above, "Tutu" was Koshi's 4th album, but I'd probably say that it was actually her debut release as コシミハル as opposed to her start as 越美晴 in 1978 as a City Pop singer. After a few years in that first genre, she entered a rut and experienced some level of frustration as she tried to change her musical direction for a few years until Haruomi Hosono(細野晴臣) of YMO praised her demo tape and got to work producing the expression of that new direction. And it wasn't just the musical direction that she changed. It was also her name from the kanji to the blocky katakana, and even the physical appearance she presented to the public.

(Sorry the video has been taken down.)

In the liner notes, Koshi stated that she had techno, some minimalism and exotica within the songs she composed and wrote for her renaissance release. I think "Laetitia" has all of that, especially that last quality. As she sings about that barefoot blonde striding across the desert, Yellow Magic Orchestra's "Simoon" comes to mind. And just like YMO's inaugural album from 1978 where "Simoon" resides, Koshi seems to have applied the technopop sound to a variety of genres like jazz amongst her songs here.

"Sugar Me" is the singer's tribute to New Wave with that transformed high-pitched voice and flirtatious style. Perhaps there is even a slight wink at Devo.

If I were to compare the change from City Pop Miharu to Technopop Miharu with any other singer, Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子) is the one. A few years earlier, Ohnuki had also hit a brick wall in her career until another YMO member, Ryuichi Sakamoto(坂本龍一), also guided her onto a totally different path lined with technopop and European sounds. However unlike her, Koshi seemed to have been more willing to embrace her inner YMO and go a bit more avant-garde.

"Pussy Cat" has her applying a bit of techno-cabaret to a feline. I made a reference to the Indonesian pop singer Taco for "Keep On Dancin'" when he had his 15 minutes in the limelight in the early 80s for his version of "Puttin' On The Ritz". What made the song even more interesting to me was that the computerized big band wasn't totally in tune which gave the sound a dreamy off-kilter quality. "Pussy Cat" could have been on the playlist for that cantina jazz band at Mos Eisley in the very first "Star Wars".

The one song that was striking to me was "Dimanche, je ne vais pas" (I Won't Go on Sunday) since it's arguably the most mainstream-sounding track on the album. It's one woman's melancholy and reluctant vow of no longer revisiting a dead romance, and the music is about as non-minimalist as it gets on "Tutu". In fact, for one listen I wondered whether it was even approaching an aidoru-style ballad. Still, the techno elements are in there and Koshi's vocals are different from her City Pop days.

I'm not sure what the fans of 越美晴 made of the new and techno コシミハル at the time when "Tutu" was released. In my case, I was going in the other direction and found the album another illustration as to how much of an influence YMO had on pop music in general in Japan in the early 80s. It is one of my more interesting albums, not least in terms of how bold a turn Koshi made to get out of that rut, a change she states that she is very grateful for. And I'm grateful for the fact I can have these two different Miharu Koshis to sample. In fact, she has made some additional course corrections over the years for which I've gotten the albums for, so there are even more "reincarnations" of her to experience.

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