I've been a fan of Japanese popular music for over 35 years, and have managed to collect hundreds of CDs during that time. So I decided I wanted to talk about Showa Era music with like-minded fans. My particular era is the 70s and 80s (thus the "kayo kyoku"). The plus part includes a number of songs and artists from the last 20 years and even some of the early stuff. So,let's talk about New Music, aidoru, City Pop and enka. (Sorry but music163 is now dead so ignore those links.)
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.
Monday, December 29, 2014
Marcos V.'s selection of Daisuke Asakura's works
is ending soon, so it’s time for another Author’s Picks post. As always, it was
hard to select a theme and, even harder, the songs that were going to be on the
first, I thought about reuniting my favourite aidoru pop songs of 2014, but I
soon discarted the idea as a repetitive one, mostly because I gradually worked
on that through the year.
thinking a little more, I realized that one thing which was very stable and
omnipresent in my daily routine through the whole year was composer/producer
Daisuke Asakura’s (浅倉大介) works. As he’s probably my favourite
composer/producer right now, thanks to his high quality and fun electronic pop
songs, it was a fair decision to work on a list of ten songs he created for his
bands and other artists over the years.
other similar composers/producers, such as Tetsuya Komuro (小室哲哉)
or Yasutaka Nakata (中田ヤスタカ), Dai-chan, as he’s dearly called by
his fans, developed a very personal style in the domain, so you can really tell
when he’s the guy behind a song. Also, his songs can be great even if the
vocalists are not among the best, as we’re going to see at some point, which
showcases how talented he is as a musician.
than that, I tried to be very diverse with this list. Of course I couldn’t
cover all of Daisuke’s acts in just one list, and I didn’t even wanted that,
but I think the artists I included are able to show Dai-chan’s range as a
composer/producer, even though his music can sound somewhat similar according
to some fans out there.
song I chose to start this list is “SIREN’S MELODY”, a song Daisuke released as
the first single prior to his “ELECTROMANCER” album, a solo project he released
in 1995 after the breakup of access.
just like Tetsuya Komuro, is not among the strongest singers out there, but
somehow he managed to create a song that combined well with his vocals. Also,
thanks to the angelic feel provided by the numerous layers of vocals during the
chorus, I often find myself thinking about floating in the sky while listening
to it. The gorgeous synth solo also helps creating this atmosphere.
MELODY” was released as a single in May 1995. It reached #8 on the Oricon
charts. Lyrics were written by Makoto Asakura (麻倉真琴),
while music and arrangement were done by Daisuke himself.
HEART~Doshaburi no Omoide no Naka” (RAINY HEART〜どしゃ降りの想い出の中) was the third and last single released by Daisuke for his
“ELECTROMANCER” album, but this time with vocals by actor Shingo Katsurayama (葛山信吾).
already noted, Daisuke is not a strong singer, so he often invites some guest
vocalists to take part on his solo projects. When Dai-chan released his first
solo album, “D-Trick”, in 1992, he met Hiroyuki Takami (貴水博之).
They recorded two songs for the album together, but the partnership went so
well that the two decided to start a new band called access.
to “RAINY HEART”, it showcases Dai’s love for power ballads. Like any proper
song of this type, it have to build and reach its climax, so Daisuke did the
homework very well. The extended instrumental bridge with the synths and the
guitars before Shingo returns to sing the last choruses is probably my
favourite moment of the song.
about Shingo, I haven’t watched any of his works as an actor (apparently, he
starred in “Ju-On: The Grudge II”, but I watched it very long ago, at a time when the
only Japanese personalities I knew were Pokémon’s creator Satoshi Tajiri [田尻智]
and my beloved Megumi Hayashibara [林原めぐみ]. Nori-P also acted in this movie). Anyway, he sings “RAINY HEART” in a
very memorable way with his velvet-like voice.
HEART” was released in May 1995 and reached #14 on the Oricon charts. Lyrics
were written by Akio Inoue (井上秋緒), while music and arrangement were done
by Daisuke himself.
not a surprise that Daisuke produced more boys than girls, but sometimes he was
hired to compose for a couple of aidoru singers as well or, in this case, for
the young Fayray.
making her “official” debut as a more mature singer in 2000, with the single
“My Eyes”, Fayray released a string of singles produced by Daisuke Asakura in
1998 and 1999, which resulted in her first album, called “CRAVING”. That said,
these first songs recorded by her had the distinctive electronic feel that’s
always present in Dai’s works.
no Gravity” (太陽のグラヴィティー) was the first single she released
under Dai’s wings, in July 1998. As his other 90s works, it followed that
strange formula of mixing guitars with noisy synths. Other than that, it’s a
bouncy pop song that also highlights some percussions and whistles, adding a
light Carnival feel in the middle of Dai’s pop-house madness.
enjoy “Taiyou no Gravity” a lot, but, apparently, Fayray wasn’t the biggest fan
of Dai-chan’s Technopop sound, as she preferred a more mature, balladry and
piano-driven style of music for her career.
no Gravity” reached #12 on the Oricon charts. Lyrics were written by Akio
Inoue, while music and arrangement were done by Daisuke himself.
noted before, access was formed by Daisuke Asakura and Hiroyuki Takami in late
1992. Together, they released three studio albums, eleven singles, two live
albums and one best collection before disbanding in early 1995. Basically, they
were active through 1993 and 1994.
the breakup of access, Dai-chan started his “ELECTROMANCER” solo project and
also produced a few other artists that I’m still going to introduce further in
the list, while Hiro went back to his solo career as a rock singer. It wasn’t
until early 2002, with the release of the single “Only the love survive”, that
they decided to reunite and release music as access again. However, after a
couple of successful releases, the duo started struggling on the charts, which
led to a period without new releases and access focusing only on live converts.
This scenery was only reverted in 2007.
2007, access recorded two songs that were successfully used in anime series.
The first one was “Hitomi no Tsubasa” (瞳ノ翼),
which became the opening theme for the last two episodes of “Code Geass:
Lelouch of the Rebellion” (コードギアス反逆のルルーシュ),
and the second one was “Doubt & Trust” (ダウト&トラスト),
a song used as the third opening theme of “D.Gray-man” (ディー・グレイマン). These two singles gave new life to the duo and they keep
releasing music, while also doing lots of concerts, since then.
the old access (1992-1995) can be roughly described as a fusion of Synthpop
with Arena rock, two music genres that were popular during the 80s, the new
access (2002-) is way more committed to hard Techno beats, even though they do
incorporate noisy guitars sometimes. “Vertical Innocence”, for example,
showcases this new direction taken by the duo very well with the complex
structure, rushing beat and epic distorted synths.
a side note, I really enjoy access’s live concerts, and I’m pretty sure the
fangirls also have a good time when the duo performs.
Innocence” was released in July 2014, reaching #10 on the Oricon charts. Lyrics
were written by AXS (Hiro and Daisuke), while music and arrangment were done by
Kimura (木村由姫) was a cute gravure aidoru whose
singing career was almost entirely produced by Daisuke in the late 90s/early
the time he started working with this cute aidoru, Daisuke changed his style a
bit in favour of Eurobeat and Trance, so her songs are a good example of how he
worked with these genres. Probably, her most famous single with him is the
heavy Eurobeat-esque “LOVE & JOY” (the video is hilarious and random with
scenes of Yuki Kimura riding a scooter in the middle of the city with the hyper
active Eurobeat song playing in the background), but I chose to write about
“Twinkle Heart”, mostly because it’s a fairly superior song and I can’t get
enough of it.
Heart” is built around a galloping beat that keeps moving things forward in an
exciting way. The instrumental sections with the Eurobeat synths taking over
are also indicative of the exciting journey. However, the chorus is a bit
sweeter and I really like how Yuki Kimura’s vocals sound when she says
“romantikku night”. The girl, although a gravure aidoru, could sing well
without sounding like a high-pitched aidoru, so kudos for her. Also, as the
title suggests, there are a lot of catchy twinkle melodies through the song.
Heart” reached #50 on the Oricon charts. Lyrics were written by Makoto Asakura,
while music and arrangement were done by Daisuke.
Iceman -- DARK HALF~TOUCH YOUR DARKNESS (1996)
I said earlier, Daisuke’s early post-access career came down to recording a
solo album and producing a few artists here and there. In 1996, though,
planning to form a new band, he organised a number of auditions, which resulted
in the selection of vocalist Michihiro Kuroda (黒田倫弘)
and guitarist Kenichi Ito (伊藤賢一). Composed of these two guys, plus
Daisuke, Iceman was thus formed.
access already had that distinctive Arena rock feel in songs like “MOONSHINE
DANCE”, Iceman was even more devoted to noisy guitars, mostly because it had an
official guitarist on the band. Besides that, Daisuke’s synths were also a big
part of Iceman’s style, something that confuses me a lot when trying to
HALF~TOUCH YOUR DARKNESS”, for example, showcases this constant battle between
guitars and synths in a very epic way with the exciting arrangement and rushing
beat. Although kind of heavy in the overall sound, the band manages to maintain
“DARK HALF~TOUCH YOUR DARKNESS” in a poppy vein with the catchy and powerful
chorus. I can’t even count how many times I caught myself humming its melody.
Apparently, the fangirls were also very fond of Iceman when they were at their
to generasia, the band stopped their activities in 2001, when vocalist
Michihiro Kuroda officially left the band to pursue a solo career as a rock
singer. Maybe Daisuke’s heavy electronic interferences were not well accepted
by him after a while.
HALF~TOUCH YOUR DARKNESS” was Iceman’s debut single, which was released in July
1996, and reached #5 on the Oricon charts. Lyrics were written by Akio Inoue,
while music and arrangement were done by Daisuke.
Daisuke Asakura expd. Takanori Nishikawa (T.M.Revolution) -- BLACK OR WHITE? (1995)
Daisuke’s most famous act, T.M.Revolution started working with him, still as
Takanori Nishikawa (西川貴教), during the “ELECTROMANCER” recording
sessions in 1995. The second single released prior to the album was “BLACK OR
WHITE?”, a song that was later remixed for Takanori’s debut album “MAKES
REVOLUTION”, re-released as a single in 1997, and also re-recorded and re-released
as a single in 2000 under the name of “BLACK OR WHITE? version 3”. Moreover,
Takanori still performs it sometimes.
OR WHITE?” is simply a great pop-rock song with Dai-chan’s catchy hyperactive
synths in the background. The “L.A. Mix” included in the “ELECTROMANCER” album,
and also presented above, is just even more exciting, because adds an entire
minute of pure repetitive instrumental near the end (I just love the synths in
this song). As for Takanori, I think he’s a great vocalist, even though I don’t
really like the majority of his songs.
OR WHITE?” marked the first time Daisuke and Takanori worked together. After
the release of “ELECTROMANCER”, the two would start their historic partnership
in 1996, which led to a big success during the later half of the 90s. Even
today, Daisuke is still involved in a good portion of T.M.R’s songs.
first version of the single reached #17 on the Oricon charts. The re-release in
1997 reached #51. As for “BLACK OR WHITE? version 3”, it reached #6. Lyrics
were written by Akio Inoue, while music and arrangement were done by Daisuke.
start my top three with an unnusual choice in Daisuke’s long history as a
producer, the “almost aidoru” male duo LAZY KNACK.
of Sou Shimizu (清水聡) and Yuuna Katsuki (香月優奈),
LAZY KNACK’s early songs were created by Daisuke. Their first album, “FLASH” (January
1996), even included some access’s covers like “DRASTIC MERMAID” and an
acoustic version of “VIRGIN EMOTION”, but the one song from them that really
caught my attention was “NATIVE LOVE”, an infectious and catchy pop tune with
Dai’s well known happy and “not-very-subtle” synths (something I just love).
LAZY KNACK, I really like their lack of talent. Although it may be strange, I
do like how the boys sound strange at certain parts, almost struggling, like in
the lines before the choruses, for example. That said, it’s interesting how
Daisuke’s production can still shine with average vocalists like Sou and Yuuna.
no surprise, the duo ended a couple of years after their debut. As an “almost
aidoru” duo with lackluster sales, they couldn’t succeed in a scenary where
Johnny’s acts dominates the whole “boys” side of the coin. Nonetheless, with
all that in mind, I still like LAZY KNACK a lot. They have pretty good gems
like “NATIVE LOVE”, such as “CRYSTAL GAME” (1995), “SPARK” (1996), “DESTINY”
(1997) and “KNIFE” (1997), in their catalogue.
KNACK’s “FLASH” album reached #16 on the Oricon charts. As for “NATIVE LOVE”,
it was written by LAZY KNACK and Akio Inoue, while music and arrangement were
done by Daisuke.
the “not-very-talented” male duo LAZY KNACK, we reach the “not-very-talented”gravure aidoru Akiko Hinagata (雛形あきこ) and “REMAKE IT!”, a song included in
her second album, “Hina Collection 2” (ヒナ・コレ2),
which was released in November 1996.
first, it was decided that the Akiko Hinagata song I would cover was going to
be “Yureru Koi Shoujo Iro”(揺れる恋乙女色), a brighter song that I listen to a lot more than “REMAKE
IT!”. However, after thinking a little bit, I changed my option and decided to introduce
the more subversive and chaotic “REMAKE IT!”, an electronic pop song full of
stormy synths that probably represents Akiko Hinagata’s most interesting moment.
thing about Akiko Hinagata is that she wanted to be produced by Tetsuya Komuro,
but, in the end, it was Daisuke who worked on her small singing career. In
fact, I consider he did magic with her, because she was probably even less
talented than LAZY KNACK, but, thanks to Dai-chan, had pretty interesting
electronic pop songs like the aforementioned “Yureru Koi Shoujo Iro” and other gems such as “Wonder Girl”, “DESTINATION” and “FUNKY GAME”, for
“Hina Collection 2”
reached #73 on the Oricon charts. Lyrics for “REMAKE IT!” were written by Akio
Inoue, while music and arrangement were done by Daisuke.
couldn’t end my list without an old access song, but I have to say... this was
a pretty hard and unusual choice.
could talk about any of access’s early singles here, besides the gay themed “MermaidTrilogy” (“DRASTIC MERMAID”, “SCANDALOUS BLUE” and “TEAR’S LIBERATION”) and the
Arena rock inspired “MOONSHINE DANCE”, which I already covered before, but I
just decided to talk about a minor song in access’s discography. That said, I
will probably regret myself later, but whatever...
LOVE” was not a single, but one of the highlights coming from access’s second
album, “ACCESS II”, which was released in September 1993.
the song, it’s one I always listen to while traveling to somewhere. I don’t
really know why, but the verses are sensual and mysterious, which makes me like
them more than the chorus itself. It’s probably the combination of Hiro’s
vocals with the cold synths. Other than that, it’s a song that reminds me of
80s Synthpop or New Wave bands, such as Duran Duran, for example. In fact, some
fans accuse access of ripping off Duran Duran’s “The Reflex” on “REALTIME LOVER”,
and I see where the comments are coming from, as the arrangements are very, very similar at certain parts.
else can I say? Daisuke took a little too much inspiration from “The Reflex”...
The “ACCESS II” album
reached #2 on the Oricon charts. “REALTIME LOVER” is credited under AXS (Hiro
I could change some songs here and there, I’m pretty satisfied with the final product.
Also, I’m happy that I decided to talk about Daisuke’s work, because, with the
exception of access, I’ve never talked about any of the acts in this list here on
Kayo Kyoku Plus before.
I said in the Introduction, I spent most of 2014 covering new aidoru music for
the blog, so, consciously or not, I managed to ignore Daisuke’s productions.
However, they were a big part of my daily routine of traveling back and forth
from Resende, where I actually live, to Rio de Janeiro, where I study.
the end, it was great that I had the opportunity to talk about the overall
happy and fun pop music produced by Daisuke Asakura. I just hope you guys enjoy
some of the songs I chose to cover here.