When I was really starting to get into music as a teenager in the early 1980s on both sides of the Pacific, I realized that listening to synthesizers and syn-drums was fascinating for me. I've mentioned in past articles that I had Yellow Magic Orchestra on the brain for a time since their brand of technopop was like aural tonic. So that also translated into my like for the New Wave acts including The Human League, Gary Numan, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark and also The Spoons from my area.
Decades later, in my last year in Japan as a resident, I heard the same "Puttin' On The Ritz" get the same sort of technological treatment while I was browsing through the Shinjuku Station branch of Tower Records. Cafe Des Belugas was the cool cat who concocted this more danceable version of the classic via Fred Astaire's take in a form that has been called Electro Jazz. It was enough that I bought the compilation album that was being advertised through the song. The only thing was that Des Belugas's "Puttin' On The Ritz" was by far the best track on the album.
A few weeks ago, I wrote an article on singer-musician Kazuhiro Nishimatsu（西松一博）since I enjoyed his City Poppy "My Last Lady" from his 1981 debut album "Good Times". I then received contact from commenter Matt K. telling me about his second album "Bouekifu Monogatari" (Trade Wind Story) from 1985. Matt was quite enamored with it and to be honest, I did find quite a bit more information (or at least more good feelings) on "Bouekifu Monogatari" online than I did for "Good Times". So my interest was piqued. Certainly, the cover of the album itself is worthy of mention.
All that prelude up above about the 1980s melding of jazz and technopop was because of what I've heard from "Bouekifu Monogatari". Nishimatsu does away with the mellow West Coast sound and goes for more of a tropical exotica feeling here.
Beginning with a synthesized rippling prologue, Nishimatsu launches into a near-falsetto with "A Night of Blue Roses", an original number that sounds like it was created and performed from a 1920s-style cabaret on Mars. It's almost as if Haruomi Hosono's（細野晴臣）Tin Pan Alley and Yellow Magic Orchestra merged for a time.
Matt first introduced me to the dreamy spacy ballad via a commercial for Kawasaki Steel which featured the designs of Syd Mead. I think that it was an inspired meeting of music and images.
Track 3 is pronounced (I believe) "Sanmon Bunshi no Koi ~ Penny A Liner"（三文文士の恋～ペニー ア ライナー...Love of a Hack Writer）. I don't really have a clue about that last English part there. However, it's Nishimatsu doing his old-style crooning, and I think the ballad fits even more into this space-age cabaret aesthetic. I can even imagine the singer cradling one of those ancient and huge microphones in his hands like a lover while he's singing it. If I'm not mistaken, I think there was even an interlude with some of that old softshoe.
One more track that I'll feature here is the final track "Old Moon" which is an instrumental. It could be inviting humans and robots up onto the dance floor for one more fling before the clock strikes midnight, Martian Standard Time.
Perhaps I've taken things into the wrong direction with "Bouekifu Monogatari" by stating that it's a rather spacy album. But with that crystal synthesizer in there, I couldn't really help it. And it's a fascinating release because of the mix of the genres. If I can get my hands on a copy of the album, I would be more than happy to do a follow-up article for the other tracks. Thanks again, Matt K!
March 10, 2020: Matt K himself has given his own review of the album!