Having a strong fondness for Japanese techno/synthpop, I thought for a while about making an entry about some of my favorites but also decided to narrow things down a bit. This one specifically deals with aidoru tracks produced by some techno masterminds like YMO, Masami Tsuchiya and Moonriders, also known as aidoru techno-kayo. I don't usually have an urge to listen to idols, but when I do, more often than not it's this stuff right here. I think it's because the arrangements and the concepts keep me interested. I love the quirky techno-ness of it all, and it seems like the creators actually put effort into these songs. Or perhaps I just like the sound of computer music mixed with cute vocals. Not that all the singers below necessarily sound cute, but those that do definitely benefit from all the synths and bleeps in the background.
Without further ado, here's the playlist, organized in chronological order. There isn't a particular theme to these selections since good music comes in different forms and moods. Enjoy!
1. Fever -- Digita Love [フィーバー -- デジタラブ] (1980)
Long before Yasutaka Nakata came along with Perfume, Keiichi Suzuki (鈴木慶一) already digitalized the Candies aesthetic with this edgy new wave tune for Fever. It doesn't actually sound like Perfume but the concept and the image are there. The cover image above of Naomi Watai (渡井なおみ), Izumi Okahiro (岡広いづみ) and Mayumi Kitagawa (北川まゆみ) in triangular formation really do resemble Nocchi, Acchan and Kashiyuka from their Computer City~Game era though in different outfits. The song itself has a nice mix of techno bleeps set to a surf rock rhythm. I found it enjoyable from start to finish. Always appreciate a bit of experimentation with aidoru tracks. P-Vine's compilation of Toshiba EMI's Techno-Kayo works was the one that introduced me to this obscure song. I wouldn't have heard it otherwise. As for Fever themselves, the little information I could dig on them tells me that they started off as a sexier version of Candies, debuting with the single “Akuma ni Kushizuke” (悪魔にくちづけ) in April 1979. They had one album and another four singles after that before they broke up in late 1980. “Digita Love” was their final release and their only techno song as far as I know.
2. Junko Sakurada -- Kitto Kitto [桜田淳子 -- きっと きっと] (1981)
3. Chiemi Manabe -- Nerawareta Shoujo [真鍋ちえみ -- ねれわれた少女] (1982)
4. Imokin Trio -- High School Lullaby [イモ欽トリオ -- ハイスクール・ララバイ] (1982)
I couldn't help it, it's just too darn infectious. J-Canuck wrote an informative entry on Imokin Trio and the song, so I don't have any factual information to add. It's a pretty silly and classic Takashi Matsumoto (松本隆)/Hosono work for a group of boys who just wanted to make people laugh. The hilarious choreography, which had Kojio Nishiyama/Waruo (西山浩司) playing air drums as if he were Yukihiro Takahashi (高橋幸宏) and Ryoichi Yamaguchi/Yoshio (山口良一) behind the air synths in the position of Ryuichi Sakamoto (坂本龍一), probably played a huge role into making this song a winner, but even on its own, it has some strong synth lines that make it a quality techno tune. What was meant to be a novelty tune happened to turn into a classic. It hasn't worn itself out in my ears yet. When I sang it in karaoke, my friend remarked that it sounded girly with all those “suki suki baby” parts so I showed the performance to surprise her. She's been hooked ever since.
5. Mari Iijima -- Love Sick [飯島真理 -- Love Sick] (1983)
6. Hiromi Go -- Dakara Spectacle [郷ひろみ -- だからスペクタクル] (1983)
Like Chiemi Manabe, I would have liked for Kilala & Ulala go further but alas they only lasted for two years. Their only album “Double Fantasy” doesn't feature the usual techno composers save for Hosono and Masaya Matsuura (from PSY-S) on a couple of tracks but it's still memorable. My personal favorite number from it is “Yume, Fushigi Ikaga”, which was written/composed by EPO and arranged by Nobuyuki Shimizu (清水信之). Just listening to the futuristic melody and synths and the girls' bold voices makes me want to launch a rocket into the stratosphere. Although it was a CM jingle for some cosmetics company, I think it would make a fine theme for a tokusatsu show. Just an observation. You can read more about the duo in my entry here.
8. Chiemi Hori -- Wa Shoi! [堀ちえみ -- Wa・ショイ!] (1985)
According to J-Wiki, this was considered an unusually experimental for an aidoru tune due to all the sampler effects, but being accustomed to random noises and grunts in Morning Musume's songs, I wasn't that fazed when I first heard it. I just thought it was really catchy. Maybe it's because of Hori's happy-go-lucky vocals and the bouncy melody that it fits with all the sugary idol pop of the time. The arrangement and the effects are still pretty interesting though, so they make this stand out for me. The lyrics were provided by Hirofumi Suzuki (鈴木博文) and the music/arrangement by Ryomei Shirai (白井良明), both from Moonriders. I'm not sure if that was Shirai's intention, but those buzzing synths remind me of cicadas in the summer. Then again, the single was released in the midst of July heat, so it was crafted for the summer anyway. J-Wiki also notes that he created it with matsuri and ondo music images in mind. “Wasshoi” itself is sort of like Japanese equivalent of “heave ho” and is usually chanted at matsuri when carrying floats and portable shrines. I can just picture Hori herself taking part in the festivities while singing this. Oh, and the way she chirps “kira kira” is adorable. You can read more about the singer through generasia. Marcos V also wrote a great article on her last single here.
9. Yukiko Okada -- Wonder Trip Lover [岡田有希子 -- WONDER TRIP LOVER] (1986)
10. Kyoko Koizumi -- Tsuretette Phantasien [小泉今日子 -- 連れてってファンタァジェン] (1987)
That's it, folks. If you're interested in sampling more techno-kayo, you can check out P-Vine's impressive compilations where they selected a bunch of songs on various labels from Polydor and Teichiku to Victor and Kind Records. More about those here. Unfortunately, For Life Records and Sony didn't participate in the project, so names like Chiemi Manabe aren't represented there. Those are still extensive compilations though that include both aidoru tunes and more experimental fare. My playlist here has many of the artists featured there, though I didn't necessarily go for just the signature tunes. Hopefully you found something of interest.