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.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Kazuhiro Nishimatsu -- Bouekifu Monogatari(貿易風物語)


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.


I've also realized that I still retained my love for the jazzy standards of my childhood through folks like Rosemary Clooney, Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole. Therefore, perhaps you can appreciate my interest when I first heard the melding of jazz and technopop through Taco's "Puttin' On The Ritz" in 1983. I never thought about a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup combination of warm and woodsy jazz and icy cool technopop, and yet there it was.


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.

From YouTube

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" (00:40), 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.

Now that first video for Nishimatsu is one for the whole album. Track 3 at 3:40 in the top video 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!

15 comments:

  1. Hi J-Canuck, Matt here. Just dropping by to let you know that the woman who translated "A Night of Blue Roses" into English is Hiromi Ishikawa (石川ひろみ), a singer-musician herself who performed as ROMY in the 80s; from what I've read Seri Ishikawa (石川セリ) is her sister.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi, Matt.

    Thanks for the added information on the album. Kinda nice to keep things in the family, so to speak when it comes to the Ishikawas.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, it kind of struck me as a surprise, really. For how obscure and eclectic "Bouekifuu Monogatari" is, especially when compared to a lot of the other city pop albums of its time, much like Takako Mamiya's "Love Trip" album it sure had a few prominent names attached to it as far as I can tell.

      Aside from Ishikawa, there was also Tokiko Iwatani (岩谷時子) who penned the lyrics to a few of the tracks; Mebae Miyahara (宮原芽映), a fellow singer-songwriter (not sure if you've ever heard of her) and the lyricist behind the album's title track; and his Aragon bandmate and T-Square's ex-keyboardist Tadashi Namba (難波正司), who arranged the album alongside Nishimatsu. Nishimatsu himself composed all of the tracks with the exception of the prologue, which was a Namba piece.

      There could be other prominent names attached to the album as far as I'm concerned, but credit information for the album is hard to come by; the names above were obtained from Discogs and unfortunately I do not presently own a copy of the album.

      Delete
    2. I think the presence of "Bouekifu Monogatari" illustrates how fun, important and revelatory it is to keep on searching through the grand archives of music whether it be Japanese or not. You had all of these famous names in this album and yet probably not a lot of listeners found out about it until recently. I certainly hadn't.

      Miyahara is a name that I've only come across very recently since she was responsible for one song that I had written about in the last little while. Iwatani, of course, is one of the legends.

      Unfortunately I have yet to get my copy of the album, but if Tower Records has it, then I will get it along with "Aragorn".

      Delete
    3. I agree with you 100%. The whole album is a musical gold mine filled with wonderfully quirky and unique tracks, quite unlike most of the other city pop that I listen to.

      And yes, Tower do seem to have it in stock, along with the Aragon album:
      https://tower.jp/item/4653100/%E8%B2%BF%E6%98%93%E9%A2%A8%E7%89%A9%E8%AA%9E

      https://tower.jp/item/3769727/Aragon-%EF%BC%8B4%EF%BC%9C%E3%82%BF%E3%83%AF%E3%83%BC%E3%83%AC%E3%82%B3%E3%83%BC%E3%83%89%E9%99%90%E5%AE%9A%EF%BC%9E

      Delete
    4. Ahhhh....decisions, decisions. Let me see what my income is like for this month.:)

      Delete
    5. On a side note, from what I've been reading up about this album as of late apparently Tatsuro himself (!!!) loved it and debuted it on his "Sound Street" radio show back in 1985.

      Delete
    6. I'd think that Nishimatsu must have been blushing in joy at that news. No higher praise than from one of the kings of Japanese pop music at that point. Plus, both of them do have those falsettos.

      Delete
  3. Hi J-Canuck, it's me once more. Just wondering, would you consider any of the tracks on this album to qualify as "city pop" in some way or another? "Trade Wind Story" was apparently featured in an issue of "Record Collectors" magazine entitled "City Pop 1980-1989", and several of the songs in it do incorporate certain elements of city pop at least but they're all pretty far removed from the usual Tatsuro Yamashita-style guitar-driven music the genre has become so well-known for. "A Night of Blue Roses", for example, has a prominent bassline and a very nighttime feel to it overall despite the synthesized techno kayo beat. Track 3, "Sanmon Bunshi no Koi", is also very reminiscent of Steely Dan from what I've read, a band that seems to have been a major influence on the genre as a whole; and the title track itself is a tropical and funky little number that I'd gladly listen to at the beach.

    Other notable city pop-esque tracks are track 4 ("Colonial Hotel ni te/At the Colonial Hotel"); track 7 ("Shichigatsu no Tristesse/Sorrow of July" if high school French serves), although I'd find that somewhat questionable given the 3/4 time signature; track 9 ("Kibun wa Hollywood/I Feel Like Hollywood"); and track 11 ("Hong Kong Bojou/Longing for Hong Kong").

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Matt. Good to hear from you.

      I listened to the tracks that you mentioned including "A Night of Blue Roses" again, and with the possible exception of "Kibun wa Hollywood", I still don't think they would fall under the genre of City Pop. Aside from the synthesizers, I would probably classify them closer to 1920s/1930s jazz, perhaps in an European Vaudevillian setting, especially "A Night of Blue Roses". "Hong Kong Bojou" even sounds a bit reminiscent of some of the wistful pop ballads of the 50s and early 60s ("Where The Boys Are" by Connie Francis comes to mind).

      Delete
    2. I agree, there's some city pop influence throughout but it tends to draw a lot of its inspiration from the jazz and pop sounds of yore instead of what was popular at the time; there's also one ambient track on there ("Zanshou/Afterglow") that is somewhat similar to the stuff he wound up doing with Aragon. From what I've read some of it is also conceptually-similar to the music of "Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band" and its offshoot band "Kid Creole and the Coconuts", two 1970's disco bands that were both strongly influenced by the big band and Latin sounds of the 1930's and 40's.

      On a side note I'm still really curious as to who produced this album or who the musicians on it were. I've read online that it was something of a two-man effort with Nishimatsu and Tadashi Namba composing and arranging all of the songs on it, but any further credit information is near-impossible to come by. What really compounds it for me is that my grasp of Japanese is minimal at best, I speak very little of the language and I'd say that the kanji is my bane. For what it's worth, however, it's likely that Nov Saito (the percussionist, who played on a wide variety of 80's Japanese pop music) played on it, which one site (I think Tower) seems to confirm. I think another site also mentioned Aragon as being backing musicians but you can't really hear Tsuyoshi Kon's guitar on the record; maybe it was there to start off with but got drowned out in the final mix.

      Delete
    3. Morning, Matt.

      From your comments, I tried looking up various reviews of "Bouekifu Monogatari" on the Net, and indeed it looks like it was Nishimatsu and Namba doing most of the heavy lifting. However, I couldn't find out, aside from Saito who you've also mentioned, any of the other musicians. I did find out that Tatsuro Yamashita had even profiled it on his radio program back in the day, so it's got quite the seal of approval.

      I actually acquired Nishimatsu's debut album "Good Times" recently so I will have to talk about that one shortly. It's good but it isn't the City Pop fest that I had expected; it's actually got some of the flavor that "Bouekifu Monogatari" has. I might say that "Good Times" is even a prelude to that second album's tone.

      Delete
    4. Hi J-Canuck, just dropping by to say that RateYourMusic classifies the release as predominantly techno kayo and art pop, with some city pop influence throughout. I'm not too well-versed on techno kayo but Bouekifuu Monogatari is definitely closer to the mainstream Japanese pop of the decade than something like Miharu Koshi's kind of surreal and mechanical "Parallelisme" record. That being said, it definitely sounds like something that YMO-era Haruomi Hosono or Yukihiro Takahashi would make, and I've definitely seen people comparing it to Takahashi's "Murdered by the Music" album from 1980.

      Do you know of any other techno kayo releases that I could take a look at?

      Delete
    5. Hi, Matt.

      Good to hear from you again. "Art Pop" is a nice way to describe "Bouekifu Monogatari"; didn't think about that one. Koshi's works around that time can probably fall into the avant-garde territory.

      As for techno kayo, both nikala and I have put down our own Author's Picks on the genre. Take a look at Part 1 of my Favourite Technopop Tunes (https://kayokyokuplus.blogspot.com/2018/06/j-canucks-favourite-technopop-tunes.html), and you'll also see the links to nikala's Techno Kayo list as well as Part 2 of my list.

      Also, there is Chiemi Manabe's "Fushigi Shoujo" album from 1982. Hosono has some input into this one and Manabe provides a quintessential group of techno aidoru tunes.

      Then, there is Taeko Ohnuki who went through a techno New Music/City Pop phase in the early 1980s with "Romantique", "Aventure" "Cliche" and "Signifie". I will give you the link to my article on "Romantique" (https://kayokyokuplus.blogspot.com/2012/03/taeko-ohnuki-romantique.html) but I've written articles on the other albums as well under her name.

      Delete
  4. Apologies...forgot to put in the link for Manabe: https://kayokyokuplus.blogspot.com/2018/09/chiemi-manabe-fushigi-shoujo.html

    ReplyDelete

Feel free to provide any comments (pro or con). Just be civil about it.