Credits

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.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Mioko Yamaguchi -- Tsukihime ~ Moonlight Princess(月姫) (Album)


Happy Hump Day to you and yours. Yesterday, I was happy to get my package from Logic Store fairly quickly and in it was indeed the rare 1983 album "Tsukihime" by singer-songwriter Mioko Yamaguchi(山口美央子). Buoyed from nikala's original 2014 article on two of the tracks from the album, the title song and "Koi wa Shunkan"(恋は春感), and then my own discovery of the wonderfully techno-Japanesque "Satemo Appare Yume Zakura"(さても天晴れ 夢桜), I stated my desire to purchase it and sure enough, Toshi from Logic Store assured me that CDs of her albums could be bought there. So first off, many thanks to him for the tip.


All of the tracks were written and composed by Yamaguchi. I will be referring to some of the liner notes given by the singer herself regarding some of the tracks.

The first track is "Yugao ~ Aware"(夕顔 -あはれ-...Yugao ~ Sorrow)which starts off the album contemplatively and according to Yamaguchi, the song is based on the character of Yugao from the legendary Tale of Genji from Japanese literature. Now, the University of Toronto did offer an entire course to the epic story but I never took it despite my major in Japanese Studies since I frankly wasn't a huge literature fan although I had to read my Mishima and Natsume. So the Tale of Genji is unknown to me but Yugao was one of the ladies that Genji encountered and apparently although her appearance in the story was relatively brief and sad, her consequential appeal to the protagonist was very far-lasting.

Unfortunately the lyrics sheet in the album was too small for me to read (my eyes aren't all that strong) but I enjoyed the song which, now that I have read a little about the character, seems to frame her story. Plus, the overall Japanesque tone for the album starts with the ringing of one of the quintessential summer symbols in the country, the fuurin(風鈴...wind chimes).

"Yugao" was also the B-side to the single version of "Satemo Appare Yume Zakura".


Track No. 2, "Natsu"(夏...Summer), mixes in some more of the technopop. It has more of a Chinese influence, I think, in terms of the melody. Speaking of Mishima, Yamaguchi noted that her lyrics were inspired partially from "The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea" and from another one of his creations. My favourite part of this tune was how the horn-sounding synths suddenly went on a crescendo as if something rose from that very ocean. "Natsu" was Yamaguchi's 3rd single from 1982.


"Hakuchuumu"(白昼夢...Daydreaming)fulfills its title with a dreamy melody. Usually when it comes to daydreams, I often associate kids in their classrooms after lunch to which annoyed teachers would throw chalk or even a textbook if they're particularly unhappy. This "Hakuchuumu" is more for the adults who may not be in an especially happy point in their lives. The thing here is, though, that the grownups know how to conceal their daydreaming better in their cubicles or offices which may not be a good thing in this case.



"Shizumi Yuku"(沈みゆく...Sinking Down)is a short song with only a piano and a Roland TR-808 as her musical accompaniment, so the nostalgia factor may be imbued right in every note since according to Wikipedia, since the pioneering drum machine was discontinued in 1983. Again, I was unable to read the lyrics but the slowly undulating melody reminded me of waves while someone is right in the middle of them...perhaps trying not to do what the title is saying. For some reason, I think Yamaguchi's voice really comes to the fore here.


As you may have guessed, the "Tsukihime" album is an overall introspective album that I think would be ideal to listen to on a slow summer day or perhaps even a rainy Sunday over some chamomile tea. However, the final track "Koi wa Shunkan" (恋は春感...Love is the Feeling of Spring)is a pretty upbeat, even skippy, way to finish off the album.

Coming out as Yamaguchi's 4th single in 1983, the song has already been featured in nikala's article but I wanted to give my two (non-existent Canadian) cents about the number since it is pretty reminiscent of some of Taeko Ohnuki's(大貫妙子)fun little technopop singles from around the same time. Not surprisingly, it was crafted for a Kose cosmetics commercial.

According to J-Wiki, "Tsukihime" was the only album by Yamaguchi to get onto the Oricon charts, getting as high as No. 64. However for the singer, this would be her final release. Afterwards, she would continue her career as just a songwriter for a number of other singers. All of the arrangements were by Masami Tsuchiya(土屋昌巳)from the New Wave group Ippu-Do(一風堂). Supposedly her earlier albums were arranged by Akira Inoue(井上鑑)so will be looking forward to hearing those as well.

This does bring me to my disclosure. I did purchase "Tsukihime" from Logic Store thanks to Toshi. He was also very magnanimous in sending me Yamaguchi's first two albums "Yume Hiko"(夢飛行)and "Nirvana" as free samples for which I'm grateful. I will be talking about those releases in future articles in February. If you are interested in any of the albums after reading this or coming across the videos on YouTube, you can check them out here.


8 comments:

  1. Hi everyone,
    Please note that shipping and handling charges in our store depend on the delivery address and they are fixed regardless of weight or quantity of the items purchased.
    https://mttk-logicstore.com/about/

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    1. Hi, Toshi!

      And thanks very much for your announcement. Looking forward to listening to the other two albums and writing about them soon.

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  3. Ohh, I forgot to comment: I'm really surprised to know she based her songs on Japanese literature, which I'm a HUGH fan of.
    What is the source of this information, btw? The more I know about Mimi, the better.

    I read "The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea" last year. The same year I discovered her, what a coincidence! :)
    Ryuichi Sakamoto also based a song on a book of Mishima: "Forbidden Collors". Have you ever listened to it? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kf0HYeQp760

    I have never read this book because it is too long, but I read a similar one of the same autor: "Confessions of a Mask". Highly recommend you.

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    1. Hi, allegromoderato.

      Thanks very much for your comments. It's obvious that you really like Mioko's music. How did you find out about her, by the way? My collaborator, nikala, was the first one to inform me about her.

      I would agree that "Tsukihime" is a more melancholy album...at least with most of the tracks, so I'm definitely looking forward to hearing the other two albums to get a comparison.

      The source for the fact that Mioko based her first track on "The Tale of Genji" was through her extra liner notes in "Tsukihime" dated November 2017 which is just when the CD version finally came out.

      "Forbidden Colors" is a perennial Xmas favourite in Japan. In fact, I wrote about it here on the blog back in 2012. Take a look at it if you have time:

      http://kayokyokuplus.blogspot.ca/2012/12/ryuichi-sakamoto-merry-christmas-mr.html

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    2. Thanks for replying.
      I think I discovered her in June 2017. Yeah, I'm almost sure it's this. It was through Hedorian Forever's channel, which I found searching for Cioccolata, a marvellous band.
      < https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC52nNeGyVoH1sYnTMYyv84A/featured >


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  4. Hello Canuck,

    Thank you for writing about one of my favorite albums from the era!

    I absolutely LOVE this album and have listened to it constantly through the years. The only beef I have with it is the inclusion of Koi Wa Shunkan.

    It was the single that put Mioko's name out there but it doesn't really belong here. The record company must have forced her to include it as it was her only "hit" song.

    While all the other songs on the album are melancholy and evoke Japan of the distant past, Koi Wa Shunkan's protagonist waits for a springtime romance to come her way in a cafe! So, for me, the album ends with Satemo Appare Yumezakura.

    As with most of these songs written for cosmetics ads back then, she must have been working within rather strict guidelines set by the ad agency. Probably, what they wanted her to do was write her own version of Harusaki Kobeni by Akiko Yano (which I think she succeeded to a certain degree).

    I did like the song and bought the single and everything, but the album Tsukihime is a child of Mioko and Masami Tsuchiya's.
    They were trying to make a Neo Japonesque concept album. The theme as well as the arrangement of Koi Wa... (by Tsugutoshi Goto) just sounds out of place.

    Anyway, I'm thrilled to learn that it is FINALLY available on CD. I'm definitely ordering a copy!

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    1. Hi, Kaz.

      Good to hear from you, and I'm glad that you're gonna be getting your own copy of her album. If you're getting it from the LOGIC STORE, give Toshi my respects.

      As for "Koi wa Shunkan", I didn't have as much of a problem with it being included on "Tsukihime" since I often enjoy a certain sudden switch in styles even if it's only one particular song out of the album.

      There was a similar criticism laid at Minako Yoshida's "Ai wa Omou Mama" album in the late 70s since the critic had felt that the opening title track really had no business being there. However for me, it has turned out to be my favourite track in a very good release.

      No doubt as for the inclusion of "Koi wa Shunkan" in "Tsukihime", there was probably the usual back-and-forth and demands from corporate Japan to get their tune in there, with Yamaguchi the artist perhaps not being all that thrilled, but that's the music business for you.

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