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 11, 2015

Akira Inoue -- Splash

Greetings, KKPlus. Nikala here. I'm always keeping up with the blog, but for the past several months I’ve been so preoccupied with my studies to post anything. I’ll spare everyone my self-pitying rants and move straight to covering some interesting Japanese music that has caught my ear during this past while. I think it’s time for a long overdue album profile…

Occasionally, I look up solo work of artists behind the songs I like. There’s one name that kept popping up again and again in the City Pop circle under the arrangement credits: Akira Inoue (井上鑑). He has worked on Akira Terao's “Ruby no Yubiwa”, Junichi Inagaki’s “Natsu no Claxon”, Hiroko Yakushimaru’s “Tantei Monogatari”, among others. Go to his J-Wiki to learn about more contributions. Some of those titles may ring a bell.

Born in Tokyo, Inoue entered the music industry as a keyboardist of the fusion band Parachute and eventually paved his way up as a musician and arranger for other artists. During the early to mid-80’s, he had a student-teacher relationship with Eiichi Ohtaki, having played and arranged the strings on “A Long Vacation” and “Each Time”. He then debuted as a singer-songwriter in 1982 with “Prophetic Dream” (予言者の夢), which has an entry in Japanese City Pop. At that time, he, Junichi Inagaki, Yasuhiro Abe and Yudai Suzuki became grouped together by the media as the New Wave Four. Now, I haven’t heard anything by Suzuki but if I were going to compare Inoue to Inagaki and Abe, he doesn’t confine himself to the City Pop label as tightly as those do, despite what his contributions to other artists may hint at. He has done his share of languid fusion-tingled pieces, but he has also occasionally played with synth-pop and new wave while creating a few experimental/avant-garde oddities. All of his albums are concept-based and sound little like one another, but perhaps one that might shed some light on his eclectic fusion work is “Splash” from 1983. Concept: the seas. Let’s dive right in!

“Samayoeru Holland-Jin no You ni” (さまよえるオランダ人のように…Like The Flying Dutchman) Track 1
Titled after Richard Wagner’s opera about the eponymous protagonist cursed to roam the stormy sea forever until he finds true love, this opening synth-fusion track is driven by a sense of urgency that its source might suggest – but minus the orchestra and the operatics. Instead, Inoue lets the drums and synthesizers do the work. I love that transition between the verses and the chorus. The synths in the the refrain throw you off balance, sort of like on an overturning ship. Enjoyable and dynamic song overall.

“Adrian Blue” (アドリアン・ブルー) (4:26)
As a contrast to the stormy “Samayoeru” that precedes it, this relaxing number transports you to the resorts by the Adriatic Sea (the area embraced by the East Coast of Italy and the countries that once made up Yugoslavia), complete with Mandolin solo. Makes you picture watching a sun set over the calm swaying waves with a martini in hand, doesn’t it? I like to think of it as an exotic take on resort pop but maybe Inoue had a different idea. Alan Murphy plays a nice guitar solo here.

“Eleven Islands” (16:45)
According to the liner notes, Inoue created this piece as a tribute to Christo’s and Jeanne-Claude’s Surrounded Islands project at Miami. Take a look at it here. What a view~. Not an easy song for me to dissect on a technical level, but it’s still an awesome fusion of synth-pop and some other stuff, AOR perhaps? *shrug*. Breezy vocals and the panoramic feel of the refrain make me want to see that place with my own eyes.

“Linda Larue -Rhum no Oodoori nite-” (リンダ・ラルー -ラムの大通りにて-…. -Boulevard du Rhum-) (24:19)
I never actually watched Robert Enrico’s film so I can’t comment on whether the song captures its spirit. I was initially lukewarm towards it and confused by the unsettling transitions, but after some listens I began to enjoy the strangeness of it all. The combination of the ballet-like melody with gleaming synths and percussions in the arrangement just stuck with me. It's quite soothing.

“Kaitei 2-Man Mile” (海底2万マイル…20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) (29:29)
Interesting contrast here between the lopsided latin synth-pop in the verses (or whatever else you wanna call it) and Hiroshi Sato-ish joy in the refrains. Despite all the busy synth work, it actually feels pleasantly light, like a breeze or clear cyan lagoon. For me, it doesn’t evoke any images from the book it’s titled after other than the general sense of underwater adventure. It’s probably my favorite track on the album.

Not every track on the album is a winner, but overall, I've found "Splash" quite enjoyable and a unique addition to my collection that I came coming back to again and again. It certainly inspired me to acquire a few more works from Inoue. That minimalist cover image of a diving swimmer kinda looks like the map of Japan, doesn't it? Or maybe it's just me.


  1. Hi, nikala.

    I've gotten to listen to the first two songs from "Splash" in their entirety. Pretty fascinating so far considering that all I knew about Inoue was his songwriting work for people like Junichi Inagaki. And you are quite right about his interesting status as being one of the New Wave Four. I've yet to hear anything from Yudai Suzuki, but Inoue as a singer is definitely more New Wave than City Pop.

    Listening to "Flying Dutchman" and "Adrian Blue", I think Inoue was closer to folks like Ippu-do and Yukihiro Takahashi in his delivery (he's quite the balladeer) and music. And as for the latter song, that guitar in there sounds somewhat early Anzen Chitai-ish...quite mysterious.

    1. That New Wave Four title is curious. I'm sure the critics who came up with that had City Pop (or New Music as I heard it was called back then) in mind when they grouped those four together, especially after I listened to the Suzuki song you profiled. Inoue is the only one who fits into New Wave as a genre, though his debut album and many of his collaborations with other artists have that obvious City Pop groove. Interesting dichotomy between the two areas of music, I must say. And I definitely agree with the Ippu-Do and Takahashi comparisons.

  2. Hi!
    This is an Akira Inoue song: ヒンデンブルグ号へようこそ
    How would you transliterate its title? I only know that the first word is "Hindenburg".
    Thank you!

    1. Hello there. The title can be translated as "Welcome to the Hindenburg".

    2. Thank you, but I was looking for the romanization :)
      Can you help me?

    3. Ah, my apologies on that. The title is read as "Hindenburg-go e yokoso". Hope that resolves matters!


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