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.
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.
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.