A legendary yet long lost crown jewel from the early 80s
Japanese Electronic and Jazz Rock scene.
MARIAH used to be a Japanese outfit in the field of art pop, long way back in the very late 70s and early 80s with 6 albums up
their score from 1979 to 1983. The album at hand is the sixth and for the time being last album in this row, released as a double
vinyl back in 1983. Prices for original copies, that are at least in very good condition, are hard to find and go up to 250 Euro/USD.
The brandnew reissue on Everland, unlike the original and the first vinyl reissue from 2015, comes housed in a thick and artfully
designed gatefold sleeve with OBI, which finally does justice to the progressive spirit of the music you can find here.
The musical basement is a fusion of dreamy synthesizer pop and haunting new wave music, that could be found all around
the globe back in 1983. In the vein of TEARS FOR FEARS or more adventurous DAVID BOWIE stuff, with a touch of KRAFTWERK or
even BRIAN ENO here and there, but all this gets spiced up with an atmosphere of Japanese traditionalism, with a few bits and
pieces from the old music from this Far East island, which sounds so magic us Westeners. The progressive, wacky art pop of this
project was led by the popular Japanese composer and musician Yasuaki Shimizu, a relentlessly exploratory saxophonist who
even dared to rework Johann Sebastian Bach’s cello suites for saxophone.
As brilliant as this man is, the music on „Utakata No Hibi“ turns out to be. And the master himself approved and much
appreciated the brandnew remastering of this album by assisting a highly professional team of sound engineers who dusted off
the ancient tape reels. For certain the record sounds and feels 80s through and through, electronic to the very rhythmical bone
of each song sugar coated with catchy melodies that resemble Japanese classic and Enka music, which is a kind of folksy pop
music. The listener gets directly drawn into a feverish dream of steaming Far Eastern cities and their darkest and most depraved
corners where you find everything cheap in sleazy bars and unlighted backyards and alleys. The next moment he strolls through
a beautiful Japanese park surrounded by a sea of blossoms. This change in mood and style you will experience in the sparsely
instrumented tune „Shisen“, which indeed comes closest to classic Japanese folk tunes without any too catchy and pop oriented
melodies. But we certainly find these harmonies allover the album. Some tunes even feel like ancient BEACH BOYS compositions
and Brian Wilson creations played by a then contemporary electronic pop act and sung in Japanese.
An amazingly colorful album with songs that are based on solid substance rather than cheap pop structures. This is music for
the bold listeners and music lovers and this awesome reissue should quickly find it’s way into the record collections of 80s synth
and art pop aficionadoes.
Yasuaki Shimizu did what he wanted with MARIAH, pushed the borders of popular music further than anybody would have
thought. Listen to a track like „Shonen“ with a repetitive rhythm pattern that hypnotizes you and somehow silky melodylines by
saxophone and synth piano upon which a female voice sings in a very spiritual way. Praising pop or whatever this can be called,
it is sheer magic put in music. I wonder if this would have made it into the charts back then, but you never know. It is a piece of
musical art that shall be listened to.
Coastlines is the self-titled long player from the new Japanese production unit of DJ and producer Masanori Ikeda and solo artist, session musician and Cro-Magnon keyboard player Takumi Kaneko.
Masanori and Takumi have been part of the Japanese dance music scene for years and Coastlines was born out of their working together on soundtracks for video projects. The pair wanted to make laid-back listening music for now, laying Takumi’s playful keys over Masanori’s widescreen balearic jazz-fusion to conjure beautiful and breathtaking “coastlines”.
A couple of two-track 7"s put out in late 2018 and early 2019 on Japanese house music label Flower Records soon sold out. Those four tracks were expanded to a full album of music, “a joyous, relaxing, summery soundtrack for everyone’s after hours wind down” that was released just in time for summer. It certainly soundtracked many a Be With BBQ in 2019.
The album opens in the horizontal with the sophisticated, cocktails-by-the-pool groove of “Sunset Reflection”. A lush, beatless wonder. Their re-imagining of Ralph MacDonald’s “East Dry River” removes all the original’s bells and whistles (quite literally) and re-gears it with a subtle balearic chug. The result is a percussive gem.
“Coastline” is a beach-jazz noodle. “Drifting Ice” is as chilled and glacial as its title would suggest, yet Masanori’s head-nod slo-mo house beats throb not far below the surface. “My Fire” is another soft killer, all swelling, swirling organ over muted kicks and snares. An elegant boom-bap.
A pair of insistent tunes of the deeply balearic variety raise the tempo, but not by too much of course. On “Woods And My Guitar” a half-heard vocal refrain breathes life into the synthetic xylophone and guitar. Deft piano-work turns “Half Moon Shadow” into lounge-house for the sophisticated beach bum. A classy duo.
The self-assured re-work of Azymuth’s “Last Summer In Rio” is arguably the album’s centrepiece. Ten minutes of casually propulsive slapped bass, steel pans and slick 80s soul beats. Cue the steel drum interlude of “Maracas Bay” before album closer “Down Town” transitions us on with a shuffling, string-hinted hit of ethereal, euphoric piano bliss. Gentle disco for the new decade.
As former Test Pressing scribe Dr. Rob observed on his ever-reliable Ban Ban Ton Ton blog, the Coastlines fusion is very much in conversation with their 80s counterparts, both at home and along the coastlines of different continents. So among the nods to revered Japanese artists like Hiroshi Sato, Sakamoto and Casiopea, there are also hints of Marcos Valle and Mtume, of the aforementioned Azymuth. “The production though is very much now, not then. Not retro, just proper”. We couldn’t put it better ourselves.
Coastlines was originally a CD release only available in Japan, with HMV putting out a super-limited vinyl version a few months later for Japanese Record Store Day. But this music is just too good, so when Be With was asked via Ken Hidaka to take care of a vinyl version for the whole world it wasn’t a tough decision.
Mastered by Simon Francis and cut by Pete Norman, this magnificent double LP has been pressed by the good people at Record Industry.
Rare private press Jazz-Funk with breaks and some spiritual influences reminiscent of Brother Ahh at times. They cover Stevie Wonder’s “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” plus play originals that include “Sweet Heritage,” “Free Will,” “One of a Kind (Love Affair),” “Serene Beauty,” and “In the Fall of the Year.” This is a beautiful sounding record with elements of straight Jazz, Soul/Jazz, and some funky stuff including some Free and Afro-centric influences.
The main man is Jaman himself (J.E. Manuel) on keyboards, who in the past had worked with R&B bands and many people in the Jazz world (Turrentines, Bostic, Stitt, Joe Farrell, Lenny Welch, Ethel Ennis).