Fretless bass playing + Japan/Mick Karn/Percy Jones/Ippu-Do/Masami Tsuchiya/YMO/Ryuichi Sakomoto/Bill Nelson

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Let's talk about how wonderful these artists were in the '80s. They had their own little scene, where they all contributed to eachother's work. Equal parts pop, rock and fantasy. They all loved great bassplaying (preferably fretless!) that was mixed high into the music. Otherwordly keyboard playing, rhythmic guitars. I don't know what to say, but this is far and away my favorite 'scene'. I don't know what it would be called. Techno-pop, synth-pop. I don't know, but it had a wonderful non-western feel to it all. I mean, if two or more of the above artists/players are on an album, you know it's going to be good! I'll highlight my favorites.

Masami Tsuchiya - Rice Music / Tokyo Ballet / Horizon (Mick Karn, Percy Jones, Japan members)
Ippu-Do - Night Mirage / Live and Zen (Percy Jones, Japan members)
Japan - entire catalogue
Mick Karn - Bestial Cluster / Titles
Melon - Do You Like Japan? (ex-Plastics members with Tsuchiya and Japan members, I believe)
Dali's Car - The Waking Hour (Karn and Pete Murphy)
YMO - Naughty Boys / Technodelic / After Service [wonderful live album]

Let's talk about how great this music is and how fretless bass playing adds so much to it. There is nothing around today that approaches the greatness of this music. Fretless playing needs to be reintrudoced into pop music.

By the way, new Mick Karn album 'More Better Different' out Sept. 29th in the UK (one day before my birhday, no less!).

And of course, Japan and Slyvian expanded and remastered reissues out Sept. 15th.

Patrick South (Patrick South), Saturday, 30 August 2003 14:59 (eighteen years ago) link

Does this apply to 70s/80s fusion too? :-)

Geir Hongro (GeirHong), Saturday, 30 August 2003 15:06 (eighteen years ago) link

Yes, feel free. Percy Jones was a part of that whole fusion scene. Though, I doubt I would own 5 Brand X albums if he wasn't involved. Just another case for how powerful the fretless can be.

Patrick South (Patrick South), Saturday, 30 August 2003 15:09 (eighteen years ago) link

I kiss you many times for mentioning Mick Karn *and* Ryuichi Sakamoto *and* Masami Tsuchiya *and* the whole Japan/YMO lovefest operation from back around the Tin Drum era. But this:

And of course, Japan and Slyvian expanded and remastered reissues out Sept. 15th.

This has made my weekend. I had heard about the reissues and was excited about them, BUT OMG, NOW I HAVE A TARGET DATE TO GET EXCITED OVER! I especially want to get the Oil On Canvas and Brilliant Trees reissues, but you know what's interesting? I was noticing the "added tracks" on the Gentlemen Take Polaroids reissue and I already have "The Experience of Swimming" and "The Width of a Room" on my GTP CD. Then again, I did hear that the US Caroline Records version of the GTP CD *did* have some tracks on it that UK releases didn't have. Still, it's exciting to know that they're going to have the b-side from the "Visions of China" single on the GTP CD, and I do look forward to the Tin Drum reissue overall because, um, I accidentally scratched up my old CD. *cringes* Now I can only listen to the MP3s of it. *sniff* I miss my Tin Drum.

Just Deanna (Dee the Lurker), Saturday, 30 August 2003 15:23 (eighteen years ago) link

Hey Deanna! Did you notice how the Tin Drum reissue even has different cover artwork? And I always thought those two extra tracks on 'Gentlemen' disrupted the flow of the CD. Hopefully they'll be tacked onto the end this time. I'm going to purchase the 3 Japan reissues plus 'Rain Tree Crow' plus 'Brilliant Trees' and 'Gone to Earth'. Man, that's a lot of money.

I think Masami Tsuchiya is the most underrated artist ever!

Patrick South (Patrick South), Saturday, 30 August 2003 15:30 (eighteen years ago) link

Somebody tell me how to post pictures and I will prove how hip and fashionable these guys were too!

Patrick South (Patrick South), Saturday, 30 August 2003 15:59 (eighteen years ago) link

Sean (Sean), Saturday, 30 August 2003 16:27 (eighteen years ago) link

Hey, Sean. You're the big 'Adolescent Sex'/'Obscure Alternatives' fan, aren't ya. Anyway, post some pics from 2 or 3 years later will ya?!

Patrick South (Patrick South), Saturday, 30 August 2003 16:33 (eighteen years ago) link

True, a couple years later they were sporting a look that led to them being taken much more seriously:

Sean (Sean), Saturday, 30 August 2003 16:57 (eighteen years ago) link

Once I figure out how to post pics.......

Patrick South (Patrick South), Saturday, 30 August 2003 17:42 (eighteen years ago) link

I looove GTP by Japan. I JUST got Tin Drum and Dali's Car a few days ago, & been loving them too. I got "Oil on Canvas" at the same time & loved it even above those, then after one listen the tape turned into that high screechy degraded/magnetised whine because it was too old to play any more. I was heartbroken. Thanks for making my day because now I can buy a better one on CD soon.

sucka (sucka), Saturday, 30 August 2003 17:55 (eighteen years ago) link

80's fretless bass = Eberhard Weber (ECM, "The Dreaming", "Hounds Of Love"). Crazy beautiful on most ECM he appears on, a deity on the Kate Bush recs (see "Mother Stands For Comfort" or "Houdini")

Jay Vee (Manon_70), Saturday, 30 August 2003 22:33 (eighteen years ago) link

Jay Vee, I also love Weber's solo album 'Pendulum'. Oh man I need to listen to it now. Yeah, Weber plays his upright in a fashion similar to Karn/Jones. None of this be-bop/post-bop!

Patrick South (Patrick South), Saturday, 30 August 2003 23:19 (eighteen years ago) link

I've listened to Left Handed Dream at least 20 times during the last month.

Can't wait for the Japan, RTC, Sylvian reissues.

Andy K (Andy K), Sunday, 31 August 2003 02:41 (eighteen years ago) link

>"Jay Vee, I also love Weber's solo album 'Pendulum'. Oh man I need to listen to it now. Yeah, Weber plays his upright in a fashion similar to Karn/Jones. None of this be-bop/post-bop! "

Never heard "Pendulum". But if you can find his ECM "Works" or "Colours Of Chloe" you should def. purchase. Really great.

Jay Vee (Manon_70), Sunday, 31 August 2003 03:45 (eighteen years ago) link

Hey Deanna! Did you notice how the Tin Drum reissue even has different cover artwork?

Yes, I did. I love the new album cover, but can't completely slate the old album cover. I love the Tin Drum cover as we already know it, but you know what? The photo they use for the reissue cover is one of the best photos I've ever seen of David Sylvian, and I like the clean and simple look of it.

And I always thought those two extra tracks on 'Gentlemen' disrupted the flow of the CD. Hopefully they'll be tacked onto the end this time.

You think so? I didn't mind so much, perhaps because I'm used to listening to albums where there's an instrumental or two stuck in what may appear to be random areas of an album. But I do love those two songs, especially "The Experience of Swimming". And good news for you -- I did see an exact track listing, and the additional tracks will be the last ones on the album. Hm. Wonder what'll sound different with the remix of "Taking Islands in Africa".

I'm going to purchase the 3 Japan reissues plus 'Rain Tree Crow' plus 'Brilliant Trees' and 'Gone to Earth'. Man, that's a lot of money.

Oh yes! When I did go back to notice the artwork again, I did take note of the Rain Tree Crow reissue. I'd love to get that one too. Oh man oh man oh man, do I wish I were wealthy enough to where all of this wouldn't be an issue but rather, "Oh, I can swing all of them at the same time." Instead, I think I'm going to have to buy one by one, unless Amazon or or someplace similar offer affordable prices for every one of them.

Just Deanna (Dee the Lurker), Sunday, 31 August 2003 04:44 (eighteen years ago) link

Oh yes, and I love ALL Japan's work. Whether it be Adolescent Sex or Oil on Canvas or everything in between, I love it all. :)


I think Masami Tsuchiya is the most underrated artist ever!

Amen, Patrick, amen. Why he isn't more well-known is criminal.

And, btw, the way you post a picture is by doing the following:

<img src="IMAGE URL HERE">

Of course substituting whatever would appear in the address bar of your browser window as the IMAGE URL HERE.

Just Deanna (Dee the Lurker), Sunday, 31 August 2003 04:49 (eighteen years ago) link

Jay Vee, I'm familiar with 'Colors of Chloe', and it is a lot more ambient than 'Pendulum'. 'Pendulum' is wonderful for bass lovers. The upright is the only instrument he uses on it, with a bunch of different bass tracks overlapping. Wonderful.

Thanks Deanna!

And I accidentally left out Akiko Yano. Her album from '82 called 'Ai Ga Nakuchane' features Mick Karn and YMO members and is another favorite of mine.

Patrick South (Patrick South), Sunday, 31 August 2003 15:18 (eighteen years ago) link

Check out that Wal fretless!

Patrick South (Patrick South), Sunday, 31 August 2003 15:23 (eighteen years ago) link

thanx a lot, pards! those photos you all posted almost make the band look stupid or something. now i'll never be able to enjoy twee yuppie transvestite music ever again, now that i know what it looks like.

fretless bass is a pukey spawn of satan, the requisite "smooth" faux-sophisticated sound that emanates from the hellish fake soul/dead soul likes of sting, whitney houston, and sade. the mere presence of a fretless bass always seems to scream "class envy!" and "upwardly mobile twit!"

imagine if you will some low-caste no-marks aspiring to be oh-so sophistimicated (as homer simpson would say)...

"hey, what would get us off of the cockney streets and into the winebars, mates?"

"how 'bout tuxedos, a faux blue note lp cover, and a fretless bass, eh?"

"good idea! try to get one of those with six or eight strings then."

as an object, the fretless bass is the physical manifestation of all of everything that is wrong with capitalism. a shame deleuze didn't get around to writing a book on them.

well, maybe baudrillard will yet.

Jaco Pastorius, Monday, 1 September 2003 05:46 (eighteen years ago) link

the only sort of fretless bass i like:

electric sound of jim (electricsound), Monday, 1 September 2003 05:48 (eighteen years ago) link

those photos you all posted almost make the band look stupid or something

I didn't actually apply their makeup or anything.

Sean (Sean), Monday, 1 September 2003 06:04 (eighteen years ago) link

Melon! remember 'Don't Be So Serious'? - early killer club choon!!!

In this vein, may I also mention Ippu Do's album 'Radio Fantasy'?

colin s barrow (colin s barrow), Monday, 1 September 2003 06:15 (eighteen years ago) link

'twas a joke, sean!

Jaco Pastorius, Monday, 1 September 2003 06:31 (eighteen years ago) link

Majestic as M.Karn is - my favourite use of fretless bass is here :

All of My Heart

Dr. C (Dr. C), Monday, 1 September 2003 12:43 (eighteen years ago) link

Colin, 'Radio Fantasy' is a great album. If only it had some fretless on it! And I just won Melon' 'Do You Like Japan' on vinyl from ebay, with the obi strip intact! : )

Also, I've never been the biffest fan of Jaco. I own his s/t, 'Black Market', 'Heavy Weather' and 'Weather Report: The Jaco Years", and while I enjoy them, I prefer Karn's and Jones' style. Perhaps Jaco's style is too technical? I suppose I like Karn more because his playing is usually more simple and easier for me to emulate. I guess I'm not the biggest fan of jazz either.

Patrick South (Patrick South), Monday, 1 September 2003 15:11 (eighteen years ago) link

Somewhere, Pino Pallidino is weeping.

Colin Meeder (Mert), Monday, 1 September 2003 21:26 (eighteen years ago) link

No no, Pino is also a favorite of mine! It's just that he wasn't a part of the scene I mentioned. I suppose the only connection is that Mick Karn played with Gary Numan and so did Pino. Palladino's fretless playing totally made 'I, Assassin' the great album that it is. My favorite Numan album.

Though, you have to admit that Pino chose some pretty cheesy artists to work with. His work with Paul Young was outstanding though, even if the cheese factor was fairly high, especially on the post-'No Parlez' albums.

Patrick South (Patrick South), Monday, 1 September 2003 21:36 (eighteen years ago) link

And I give Pino props for working with D'Angelo on 'Voodoo'.

Patrick South (Patrick South), Monday, 1 September 2003 21:37 (eighteen years ago) link

Every example I think of has either the Japanese musical influence, or the fretless bass, but rarely both.

colin s barrow (colin s barrow), Monday, 1 September 2003 22:03 (eighteen years ago) link

This just might be the best thread of '03.

Patrick South (Patrick South), Thursday, 11 September 2003 14:54 (eighteen years ago) link

OMG the reissues arrived today and the packaging is AWESOME. The 'Gentlemen' reissue is the most standard--a simple black digipak. And then it has the 8 original vinyl tracks plus the two from the last CD version, plus "Taking Islands in Africa (Steve Nye Mix). The 'Oil on Canvas' reissue is twice the size--like a gatefold album. But 'Tin Drum' is definitely where it's at. It's in this big boxy thing that opens up--and it has the cover that is shown above. And inside is the normal-sized (and original cover) 'Tin Drum' digipak along with a separate "The Art of Parties" single in a gatefold cardboard sleeve. It has the b-sides "Life Without Buildings" and a live version of the single and "Ghosts." And it also has this thick booklet of just pictures for the fans. There are no lyrics for any of the songs, except "Nightporter" from 'Gentlemen.' I'm not sure what that's about.

I have yet to hear them, though. I'll give an update later. But based on presentation, these come highly recommended. Very sleek.

Patrick South (Patrick South), Monday, 22 September 2003 19:00 (eighteen years ago) link

one month passes...
Bill Nelson's 'Chimera' and 'Vistamix' should also be mentioned. Sakamoto and Takahashi and Karn all help out. Awesome.

Patrick South (Patrick South), Monday, 3 November 2003 15:09 (eighteen years ago) link

two years pass...
Perhaps of note, according to

15th October 2006
Ippu-Do "Magic Vox" CD and DVD box set due out December 20th in Japan.

Japan members, Sandii, Bill Nelson and Ryuichi Sakamoto all feature.

The box set will include the Ippu-Do albums "Normal" (1979), "Real" (1980), "Radio Fantasy" (1981), "Night Mirage" (1983), "Live & Zen" (1984), "Rice Music" by Masami Tsuchiya and "Out of Reach" by Akira Mitake. Included are many tracks featuring performances by Mick Karn, Steve Jansen and Richard Barbieri. Sandii provides backing vocals on several songs while Bill Nelson and Ryuichi Sakamoto make guest appearances on "Rice Music". The icing on the cake is that this set comes with a DVD of previously unreleased video clips and performances. All albums with the exception of "Real" feature bonus tracks.

Why be interested? Ippu-Do's front man and main songwriter Masami Tsuchiya was a member of Japan for their final tour and "Oil on Canvas". However, before that his band Ippu-Do were one of the groups contemporary to Japan that were directly influenced by their sound and style. From "Radio Fantasy" on there are clear similarities to the Japan sound, with all the subsequent relases featuring the group themselves. "Out of Reach" by Akira Mitake was produced by Richard Barbieri and is a lost gem, with a lovely smooth pop production - something later continued on the Dolphin Brothers album. I also enjoy the first two Ippu-Do albums, where Masami works through his interests in 60s guitar bands and German electronic and prog sounds - often in the same songs. Like the first two Japan albums, they have a raw sound that is pretty compelling and a nice contrast to some of the more refined material on the later recordings. Like "Nightporter"? Check out "Crystal Leaves" on "Night Mirage", a truly beautiful number. Nearer the release date there will be audio clips available on the Sony website so you can sample the sound of Ippu-Do for yourself.

Naive Teen Idol (Naive Teen Idol), Wednesday, 25 October 2006 20:44 (fifteen years ago) link

I have some video clips of Tsuchiya playing with Japan on TOTP. "Art Of Parties" stands out as esp. cool.

Anyone have the Akiko Yano single "Kang Tong Shonen"? Love that song. I have her performing it on a live 1979 YMO video and wonder how the studio version ( as well as her album w/ YMO + Japan folks) holds up.

Jay Vee's Return (Manon_69), Thursday, 26 October 2006 01:15 (fifteen years ago) link

Thank you for bumping this gem of a thread. I pre-ordered the Ippu-Do box last week. How exciting is it to have 'Night Mirage' and 'Live & Zen' on CD for the first time? I'm also thrilled to hear all the later-era b-sides, as well as the Mitake solo album. I'm still kind of in awe that this thing is actually getting released.

Patrick South (Patrick South), Thursday, 26 October 2006 05:30 (fifteen years ago) link

Wow, this thing is $125 (15,000 Yen)? Man... At a slightly more affordable price, I just ordered Japan's The Singles 2-CD set.

Also, has anyone seen the sheer VOLUME of music these guys did for Medium Productions? It's, like, 400 records that the YMO/Japan/etc. guys all have done together in various combinations. As my experience with Dolphin Bros. wasn't the highlight of my life, I have no idea if any of it is worth buying, but you can hear some of it at

Naive Teen Idol (Naive Teen Idol), Thursday, 26 October 2006 14:18 (fifteen years ago) link

three weeks pass...
I am finding Jansen/Barbieri's Other Worlds In a Small Room pretty soothing stuff -- it's about half stuff from 1984 and half new things from a decade later done by each guy seperately...

Naive Teen Idol (Naive Teen Idol), Monday, 20 November 2006 03:43 (fifteen years ago) link

three years pass...

Terrible news
Say a prayer.

ΒΏCan Your Gato Do the Perro? (Capitaine Jay Vee), Saturday, 5 June 2010 13:26 (twelve years ago) link


property-disrespecting Moroccan handjob (Trayce), Saturday, 5 June 2010 14:27 (twelve years ago) link

Awful news, he's one of the reasons I picked up a bass in the first place. Hoping for the best...

A prog venn diagram for you to think about (Matt #2), Sunday, 6 June 2010 07:32 (twelve years ago) link

terrible news indeed

a lagoon par la mer (psychgawsple), Sunday, 6 June 2010 07:42 (twelve years ago) link

There needs to be a more obvious thread for this :/

God bless Nick, you have always been one of my heroes.

property-disrespecting Moroccan handjob (Trayce), Sunday, 6 June 2010 07:50 (twelve years ago) link

Mick. Fuck. Typos.

property-disrespecting Moroccan handjob (Trayce), Sunday, 6 June 2010 07:50 (twelve years ago) link

His website's down at the moment but I googled and found the statement. This truly sucks.

Blog is a concept by which we measure our pain (Jon Lewis), Sunday, 6 June 2010 14:32 (twelve years ago) link

Heartbreaking news. I can't believe I started this thread 7 years ago. Clearly, he's had a giant influence on me. My thoughts are with him.

Patrick South, Monday, 7 June 2010 13:53 (twelve years ago) link

this is terrible news. seems like mick karn has had alot of hard luck during his career, despite his immense talent. will be making a donation

fuckd and bombd (r1o natsume), Monday, 7 June 2010 14:01 (twelve years ago) link

'advanced stages' :(

disastrous sixth series (MaresNest), Sunday, 13 June 2010 18:57 (twelve years ago) link

two months pass...

titles is sounding pretty good right now, i hadn't played it in a while. amazing how he makes his bass sound like a 303 on "passion in moisture"

vessels in distress (r1o natsume), Wednesday, 25 August 2010 23:41 (eleven years ago) link

nine months pass...

really digging some of these Ippu-Do albums

about half of "Real" is one big tribute to Neu!, and unlike what I've heard in the past, it's actually pretty spot-on and awesome. "Normal" has some ace tracks too and "Radio Fantasy" is a classic.

frogbs, Tuesday, 7 June 2011 15:01 (eleven years ago) link

one year passes...

Wow, Night Mirage is splendid. Super super lush and deep.

brimstead, Monday, 11 February 2013 01:29 (nine years ago) link

nine years pass...

fuck the haters.

mick karn+david sylvian β€” "buoy" (1986)

wonderful track, one of my favourite solo releases from either. Big fan of Dreams of Reason all round.

assert (matttkkkk), Friday, 29 July 2022 03:50 (two weeks ago) link

Numan couldn't get Palladino for Warriors but Bill Hubbard does a fine job of holding it down on the fretless & Bill Nelson makes the album great, single most underrated album (including by Numan) in his catalog

J Edgar Noothgrush (Joan Crawford Loves Chachi), Friday, 29 July 2022 12:14 (two weeks ago) link

I cherry-picked the "Warrior" tracks with Mick on bass. There's just no one that sounds like him.

Gerald McBoing-Boing, Friday, 29 July 2022 13:59 (two weeks ago) link

I'm enjoying Dreams of Reasons Produce Monsters more than Titles, but Karn really needed contributors to bring focus to his music. He's such an unassuming vocalist, and even when he's trying to specialize in texture, the results are thin.

Halfway there but for you, Saturday, 30 July 2022 01:17 (two weeks ago) link

"Dreams" is my favorite solo Mick but "Titles" is very good as well, I had passed on it for years before listening with fresh ears. "Weather The Windmill" is particularly great. I also dig "Bestival Cluster" but after that it's cherry picking time.

Gerald McBoing-Boing, Saturday, 30 July 2022 23:36 (two weeks ago) link

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