"BGM" by the Yellow Magic Orchestra is the greatest electronic pop album ever.

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I searched for posts on this album and found a poll and a general YMO thread, but for me this album is so remarkable that it really deserves a thread of its own. I seriously think this is the best techno/electropop album ever made. The production on this shit is so dense that I notice different things about each track depending on what stereo system I'm playing it on.

1. Ballet - I love the rump-shaking beat and the spooky surrealistic lyrics sung by Yuki (who is probably a better vocalist in Japanese than English, but I think his voice has tons of character. The Bryan Ferry comparisons seem lazy)on this. The snare hits are recorded so dry, upfront and middy that they sound like sticks of bamboo cracking and the layers of synths at the end make what would otherwise be repetitive mesmerizing. And that woman speaking French who is in like 10 YMO-related tracks, who is she?

2. Music Plans - More strange English lyrics chorused and vocoded to death (I've listened to this dozens of times and still haven't decoded all of them), apparently about making music itself. The synth textures are more varied and considerately-handled than pretty much anything I've heard — I notice a synth squiggle buried in the mix that I'd never noticed almost every other time I hear it, and any one of the melodies in this could be a hook in itself. Probably my favorite track on the album.

3. Rap Phenomena - The general consensus seems to think this is an ill-advised foray into rap, either forgetting or not knowing that YMO were as famous for their comedy skits as their music. More great production and just lots of fun.

4. Happy End - Probably the weakest track on the album but still fascinating and prescient. Lots of swirling synths and flashes of color with a water-drop drum track under it all — this is "ambient techno" 12 years before the fact.

5. 1000 Knives - I think I prefer Sakamoto's own version, but the one here is a great trove of 808 sounds — and that super-distorted guitar/synth solo!

6. Cue - Another great Yuki vocal with Harry Hosono backing (who also has a very characteristic voice). The fifth-y drone and the insistent bass make this sound hopeful and driving. In fact, it actually makes great driving music!

7. U • T - I don't know what UT stands for, but I imagine this as the theme song to the greatest police drama that never was, with a bizarre middle section with wasp-nesty synths, watery piano and what sounds like a distorted phone conversation.

8. Camouflage - the 808 rhythm on this reminds me of early Aphex twin (like the first Analogue Bubblebath or Selected Ambient Works), and the synths are once again super-layered and varied, with some nice dubby delay effects. The lyrics are short but provocative and imagistic and the bell-like tones closing out the track are gorgeous.

9. Mass - Great sequencer sounds like Tangerine Dream from around the same time and the melodic line sounds an 80s retro-futurist version of the national anthem of some dictatorial country.

10. Loom - the "THX" sound in a watery cave followed by some drones that sound like "On Land" Eno. A slightly anticlimactic ending but still interesting — sounds amazing on headphones!

Whole Foods Employee Typecasting Computer (corey), Monday, 21 June 2010 00:37 (ten years ago) link

Hear Hear! My favorite YMO album by a long stretch and the versions they played in their Winter Live tour (see Youtube) are even more stripped down, dark and aggro. Gorgeous music.

¿Can Your Gato Do the Perro? (Capitaine Jay Vee), Monday, 21 June 2010 00:42 (ten years ago) link

I picked this up cheap on vinyl a few weeks back while in Detroit and was especially blown away by the itemized list of their touring gear on the back cover. A synth nerds wet dream for real.

¿Can Your Gato Do the Perro? (Capitaine Jay Vee), Monday, 21 June 2010 00:45 (ten years ago) link

Haha, Sakamoto's hair in that video is great, and I love the live percussion and the "Gentlemen Take Polaroids" synth sounds.

Whole Foods Employee Typecasting Computer (corey), Monday, 21 June 2010 02:12 (ten years ago) link

yeah the gear list on the back of the vinyl is insane

there's a darkness to this album that was never present in ymo previously, i guess coinciding with their recent friendship with sylvian and japan. bgm and technodelic is kind of their "dark" period. they became conscious of the new romantic and synth pop scenes, began styling their hair and wearing make up; yukiihiro takahashi's croon is stronger and more pronounced, definitely a sylvian influence. there's also an industrial/synth wave influence, a kind of cold and arid european approach

the japan influence is also their in the sense of rhythm, more disjointed and percussive than their earlier disco/lounge hybrids. obv it's all about the 808 on this album, coated in a sheen of thick chorus and gated reverb so it sounds even clankier and mechanical than usual. the prophet 5 also features heavily, lots of glowing cross-mod fx and wide-screen pads. the prophet 5 in its various revisions was probably the most widely used analog synth in japanese pop up until the early 90s, this album solidified that status

it's certainly one of those albums where you hear something new every time you listen. it's somehow incredibly dense yet spacious and airy, credit to hosono-san for the ability to mix so many sounds with such precision. credit should also go to engineer and programmer hideki matsutake, the task of syncing so many machines to tape must've been immense!

ymo were on top of their game at this point -- everything released by ymo and their immediate family between 1981 - 1983 is pure gold. technodelic continues the bgm vibe except with more samples and a pronounced asian feel, lots of gamelan and kecak for example, but it sounds slightly cleaner and more polished, painting over the dark greys of bgm with warmer colours. kinda blows my mind that both albums were released in the same year

wavestation (r1o natsume), Monday, 21 June 2010 12:24 (ten years ago) link

btw if you like this period of ymo you should check out testpattern who released on hosono and takahashi's label, yen records

a thread for TESTPATTERN/INTERIOR (cosmic electronic music from japan)

wavestation (r1o natsume), Monday, 21 June 2010 12:28 (ten years ago) link

btw the woman speaking french is akiko yano

wavestation (r1o natsume), Monday, 21 June 2010 12:41 (ten years ago) link


wavestation (r1o natsume), Monday, 21 June 2010 12:48 (ten years ago) link

man "happy end" is such a strange piece of music. there's a different mix included as a bonus track on sakamoto's collab with robin scott, with a deep 808 kick drum pushing it even further into proto-dub techno territory

wavestation (r1o natsume), Monday, 21 June 2010 14:11 (ten years ago) link

How I wish somebody would write a book on YMO.

disastrous sixth series (MaresNest), Monday, 21 June 2010 14:39 (ten years ago) link

also "rap phenomena" is neither ill-advised or comical -- hosono touches on some pretty deep stuff if you listen to the lyrics. dude was on a higher plane

wavestation (r1o natsume), Monday, 21 June 2010 14:53 (ten years ago) link

So happy there's a thread about this album. BGM totally influenced an ep I put out about a year ago and continues to inspire me.. Rio - love your info re: all things YMO. Thanks!

¿Can Your Gato Do the Perro? (Capitaine Jay Vee), Monday, 21 June 2010 21:49 (ten years ago) link

hey i'd love to hear your ep! message me privately if need be!

wavestation (r1o natsume), Tuesday, 22 June 2010 00:02 (ten years ago) link

Hey R1o - the EP is "Down There" as Professor Genius. It's on iTunes, Emusic etc. but pm me and I'll be happy to send you mp3s.

¿Can Your Gato Do the Perro? (Capitaine Jay Vee), Tuesday, 22 June 2010 01:13 (ten years ago) link

Isn't there an Akiko Yano album from this period where YMO and Japan members collaborated with her? Always wanted to hear that.

¿Can Your Gato Do the Perro? (Capitaine Jay Vee), Tuesday, 22 June 2010 12:28 (ten years ago) link

you're professor genius? cool music dude

wavestation (r1o natsume), Tuesday, 22 June 2010 12:32 (ten years ago) link

Yes, that's me. But - not wanting to derail this awesome thread - I thinkthere needs to be a comprehensive YMO comp released outside Japan. With live footage, demos, the works. Up there with the Chic Organization box on my list of fantasy comps.

¿Can Your Gato Do the Perro? (Capitaine Jay Vee), Tuesday, 22 June 2010 13:06 (ten years ago) link

"Isn't there an Akiko Yano album from this period where YMO and Japan members collaborated with her? Always wanted to hear that.

― ¿Can Your Gato Do the Perro? (Capitaine Jay Vee), Tuesday, June 22, 2010 1:28 PM (Yesterday) Bookmark"

yeah her second album ai ga nakucha ne is co-produced by her then husband ryuichi sakamoto, and features cameos from the rest of ymo, david sylvian -- the rhythm section is basically all karn/jansen. i think her first record was also produced by sakamoto but it's in more of a jazz fusion vein

pretty much everything i've head from that period that's related to ymo is excellent and worth hunting down -- a few highlights include miharu koshi's hosono-produced album tutu, all of the yen records stuff, testoattern, imoyagi land etc etc as discussed in the thread i linked above (also bands all produced by hosono), all the takahashi solo records, hosono's philharmony album, the first couple of sandii and the sunsetz albums, the various things hosono produced for jun togawa and the first guernica album, the amazing awe-inspiringly perfect "bamboo houses"/"bamboo music" single by sylvian & sakamoto, sakamoto's left handed dream album and "the arrangement" single, the ippu do stuff and masumi tsuchiya's solo album, and a lot more that i'm forgetting or haven't even heard of yet. bearing in mind that all of this music and more (not to mention three more ymo studio albums!) was produced in a three year period it's quite impressive

someone else said it on here before, but it's such a cool "scene" where you get ymo, japan, bill nelson, masami tsuchiya, percy jones, members of the plastics and many others all hanging out and featuring on each others records

wavestation (r1o natsume), Wednesday, 23 June 2010 13:00 (ten years ago) link

plz excuse the typos^^^

wavestation (r1o natsume), Wednesday, 23 June 2010 13:14 (ten years ago) link

also one of the few 80s music scenes that hasn't been repackaged for 00s hipster beardo types. maybe the music is just too sentimental at times, and the weird bits too infrequent. or is it just too difficult to get hold of this stuff?

it seems like with ymo most people tend to stop at bgm though, and prefer the cosmic disco-lounge of the first two albums. wonder why this is? are the later records just not as easily available?

wavestation (r1o natsume), Wednesday, 23 June 2010 13:25 (ten years ago) link

Natsume, let's be friends (actually--do I know you from the Jihen board?).

Japanese techno-pop is my favorite genre of music. I think the reason it's not more popular is because there's so little information about it that's written in English. Also, I think Westerners are quick to stereotype '70s/'80s Japanese music as carbon copies of Western music, which is simply wrong. Sakamoto gets all the hype (and I love love love his synth and production work), but Hosono is a treasure of a songwriter. He has worked on thousands of songs. His stuff in the early '80s is so unique and magical. Have you heard Miharu Koshi's 'Boy Soprano' album? The production is amazing.

Naughty Boys is my favorite YMO album. I think it's less popular here because it sounds the most J-pop. I think the average music fan simply doesn't connect with music that sounds too "Asian."

Patrick South, Wednesday, 23 June 2010 13:58 (ten years ago) link

hi patrick, i think it was you who wrote about how cool the ymo-family scene is!

wavestation (r1o natsume), Wednesday, 23 June 2010 14:12 (ten years ago) link

I would love to read about any more recommendations anyone might have for more Japanese Techno-Pop/New Wave/J-Pop. I would love to delve further but historical context etc is somewhat hampered by the language barrier.

I would like to rep for this site tho'


disastrous sixth series (MaresNest), Wednesday, 23 June 2010 14:30 (ten years ago) link

I would like to be able to concentrate on the football and typing simultaneously and without typing 'I would like' too much also.

disastrous sixth series (MaresNest), Wednesday, 23 June 2010 14:31 (ten years ago) link

i only own one miharu koshi album, tutu, which is of course amazing. i think this was made before hosono went all digital so i'd be interested in hearing how boy soprano sounds different. he is a fantastic songwriter of course, and is just as good as sakamoto is at balancing catchy melodies with the weirder sound design and experimental stuff. i love the post-ymo stuff he made with the kurzweil k250, the four experimental/ambient albums collected on the monad box are incredible and just as far ahead of the pack as sakamoto's esperanto (another unfuckwithable record). after that, much like sakamoto he delved deeper into traditional pop structures with alot of success. sakamoto got an oscar for the last emperor and went global, while hosono became a national treasure of japan

patrick, have you heard the apogee and perigee single hosono made with jun togawa? i think it's one of my favourite post-ymo thing of hosono's -- it's almost excessively sentimental, but the pristine production, gorgeous melody and ridiculously good vocal performance from jun togawa is completely addictive and saves it from becoming mere karaoke fodder

wavestation (r1o natsume), Wednesday, 23 June 2010 21:18 (ten years ago) link

I have to track down that Akiko Yano! My fave recent Sakamoto finds are GEMM Collection and Garden Of Light And Life ( I think those titles are correct) Lots of fantastic Fairlight and DX experiments going on there as well as some great J-Pop productions for a variety of vocalists. Oh - and the "Computer Obachan" single is wonderful as well.

¿Can Your Gato Do the Perro? (Capitaine Jay Vee), Wednesday, 23 June 2010 22:39 (ten years ago) link

Ha I was just going to ask when Patrick was going to pop up :)

One of my favorites in this period as well is Chakra's "Satekoso" LP- (thanks to Patrick actually). I've had some luck with OG LPs of this stuff but that one is waaayyy scarce.

I'm surprised that nobody has made moves to reissue any of this stateside.. especially if you look at the pre-80 side of things, including tin pan hosono solo LPs, etc. seems like it would have a pretty reasonably broad-ranging appeal

Bangelo, Wednesday, 23 June 2010 23:15 (ten years ago) link

I've had this on my list for ages, but have not had luck finding the 2003 remaster for under $30. Just might have to give in and dl it. I've had Solid State Survivor, Technodelic and Naughty Boys for a long time. What else? Is Xoo Multiplies worth hearing?

Fastnbulbous, Thursday, 24 June 2010 04:45 (ten years ago) link

Not if you can't track down the version of "Tighten Up" elsewhere or have a perverse taste for semi-comprehensible YMO sketch comedy

Bangelo, Thursday, 24 June 2010 05:17 (ten years ago) link

XP - Patrick, are you the chap that runs Tokyo Recohan by any chance?

disastrous sixth series (MaresNest), Thursday, 24 June 2010 06:58 (ten years ago) link

I discovered YMO a few years ago and they quickly became one of my favourite bands ever, and opened the doors to this strange undiscovered world of Japanese "technopop" or "techno kayokyoku", new wave, etc.

There's quite a lot of info here: http://artcontext.org/music/artskool/jem/index.html
Also http://park10.wakwak.com/~techno/
But these are by no means complete or error-free

There's also a couple of Yahoo Groups (pretty old-world internet, I know, but still quite active):

There's a few compilation albums from this era worth finding:
- P-Vine "Techno Kayō" (テクノ歌謡) series (8 albums divided between record labels, no CBS/Sony album though), often weirdly transliterated as "Techno Ca-Yo" (with other mistakes in titles).
- SMEJ compilations "Yellow Magic Kayōkyoku" (イエローマジック歌謡曲) and "Techno Magic Kayōkyoku" (テクノマジック歌謡曲), also the newer "Techno Kayō - The Ultimate Collection 1" (テクノ歌謡 THE ULTIMATE COLLECTION 1)
Unfortunately there's a lot of duplication between these though, and the mastering of the SMEJ albums is pretty bad. Loads of YMO-related stuff here though - Hosono especially composed and produced a ton of pop songs around the late '70s/early '80s.

Other stuff I recommend:
- Hosono's SFX and Making of Non-Standard Music (both on the same CD on earlier issues), also all his pre-YMO albums are quite good too though the first few aren't electronic at all (Cochin Moon is all synth, and Paraiso a bit)
- Pizzicato V - Before they were called "Pizzicato Five" they were on Hosono's Non-Standard label (so he produced) as a synthpop band rich in DX7-ly goodness (different singer too)
- Jullan - very obscure but pretty good synthpop
- Nearly everything on Hosono and Takahashi's short-lived Yen Records - Testpattern, Apogee & Perigee, Miharu Koshi, Jun Togawa, Sheena, Guernica, Hajime Tachibana, Interior, Inoyama-Land, etc.
- Takahashi's solo albums Murdered By The Music (1980), Neuromantic (1981) and What, Me Worry? (1982) (his other Yen-era albums are ok-ish, after that it's all a bit meh)
- The Beatniks "Exitentialism" (1981) - Yukihiro Takahashi and Keiichi Suzuki (Moon Riders)
- Moon Riders albums from this era are pretty good from what I've heard so far (Modern Music and Camera Egal Stylo)
- Plastics
- P-Model
- Sakamoto's Ongaku Zukan (音楽図鑑)/Illustrated Musical Encyclopedia (note the latter title is the European version with significantly different tracklisting) and Miraiha Yarō (未来派野郎, often called "Futurista" although not officially titled this AFAIK)
- Saeko Suzuki
- Chakra (mentioned above)
- Logic System - sequencer guy Hideki Matsutake's solo stuff, his 3 '80s albums are great but don't waste your time looking for anything newer

I'm sure there's others I'm forgetting! YMO's live stuff is also pretty good, quite different sound to their studio work and some interesting improv and changes. Also they used no backing tracks until 1983 - it was all played or seqeunced live (their setup in their 1979 and 1980 tours is quite amazing). Loads of great live bootlegs around as well.

"yeah her second album ai ga nakucha ne is co-produced by her then husband ryuichi sakamoto, and features cameos from the rest of ymo, david sylvian -- the rhythm section is basically all karn/jansen. i think her first record was also produced by sakamoto but it's in more of a jazz fusion vein

― wavestation (r1o natsume), 23 June 2010 13:00 (Yesterday) Bookmark"

Ai ga Nakucha Ne is her sixth studio album, her two albums before that - Gohan ga Dekitayo (1980) and Tadaima (1981) are also quite synth heavy and have lots of input from YMO members and Matsutake. Her earlier albums are also quite good, not much synths (though still some, and at least one Matsutake appearance) but lots of Hosono collaborations. There's also her 1978 live album "Tokyo wa Yoru no Shichi-ji" (東京は夜の7時) which has all YMO members playing throughout. I think her work gets less interesting by the mid-80s though, OSOS (1984) has a couple of good tracks but it goes downhill from there.

@Fastnbulbous: If you like music and like dynamic range don't bother with the 1999 (Toshiba-EMI) or 2003 (SMEJ) remasters, they are awful.

@Bangelo: The Snakeman Show sketches on the Multiplies EP aren't YMO, but they were on the same record label and seemed to like each other so collaborated a lot (e.g. the single "Sakisaka To Momonai No Gokigen Ikaga 1-2-3" (咲坂と桃内のごきげんいかが1・2・3), later covered by Sketch Show). But all the YMO tracks on Multiplies are pretty good if you like their earlier stuff.

Zilog Jones, Thursday, 24 June 2010 16:55 (ten years ago) link

"btw the woman speaking french is akiko yano

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― wavestation (r1o natsume), 21 June 2010 12:41 (3 days ago)"

It's actually Tomoko Nunoi who's speaking French, same as on La Femme Chinoise (she's credited for that, but not on BGM for some reason).

Zilog Jones, Thursday, 24 June 2010 20:56 (ten years ago) link

A little hunting online tonight and I found the Akiko Yano albums from '80 through '82, including Ai Ga Nakucha Ne. These are fantastic. A YMO lover's dream. I was familiar with several tracks on these already but as a whole they are superb. The one with Japan guesting on some tracks is a real odd bird. Great to hear Sylvian and co. backing AY.

¿Can Your Gato Do the Perro? (Capitaine Jay Vee), Friday, 25 June 2010 04:22 (ten years ago) link

you should hunt down masami tsuchiya's rice music as well if you haven't already. bass duties are shared by mick karn and percy jones, drums are all steve jansen. bill nelson plays some guitar and sakamoto contributes a song. it's an amazing album, kinda continues from where japan's tin drum left off. still looking for night mirage by ippu do which is meant to be really good

love that beatniks record. haven't heard much moon riders stuff, what i've heard sounded like quirky devo-esque new wave. keiichi suzuki went on to do the beyond classic earthbound soundtrack for the snes

wavestation (r1o natsume), Friday, 25 June 2010 12:14 (ten years ago) link

superb record. bought it on a whim for a couple of bucks a few years ago. wasn't into the ymo i had heard up until that point (s/t, ∞ multiples) but bgm really hit me. in a way, it sounds more expansive and wide-ranging than other synth-pop of its time (i may not be schooled enough to really stand behind that claim).

9. Mass - Great sequencer sounds like Tangerine Dream from around the same time and the melodic line sounds an 80s retro-futurist version of the national anthem of some dictatorial country.

yeah, totally. it sounds like they're almost quoting the imperial death march at points. such a great, weird song.

i picked up naughty boys and service recently and have been really enjoying 'em both. wonderful, slightly strange-sounding pop. i also got bill nelson's a love that whirls and (not surprisingly) it has sort of the same vibe (lotsa layers and all sorts of different synth sounds swarming all over the place w/killer melodies)

cheers to all y'all for the recommendations (not that i'll likely be able to score physical copies of most of them) :)

hobbes, Friday, 25 June 2010 22:33 (ten years ago) link

xpost Yes! Rice Music is excellent. Tsuchiya is/was a hell of a guitar player. I wish Japan would've made an album with him before they split up. His guest playing with them on The Old Grey Whistle Test (or was it TOTP?) is awesome.

Listening to the Ai Ga Nakucha Ne album for the rhird time today as I type. "What's Got In Your Eyes?" is ... Aaaah!

¿Can Your Gato Do the Perro? (Capitaine Jay Vee), Saturday, 26 June 2010 00:54 (ten years ago) link

hobbes - I found the Yano stuff for sale online but as super expensive import cd's (I'm in the US ). I went the BAD WAY and found them as free 128 mp3s easily enough on some weird Viet site.

¿Can Your Gato Do the Perro? (Capitaine Jay Vee), Saturday, 26 June 2010 00:59 (ten years ago) link

some of these records were released on major labels and were pressed up in quite large numbers, many finding their way over to the west. rice music for example always turns up on vinyl -- currently $5.00 and £4.45 on discogs. the sandii records as well can be found quite easily. i think the rule is, the more members of japan that feature, the more likely it is to turn up on vinyl

wavestation (r1o natsume), Saturday, 26 June 2010 10:50 (ten years ago) link

Exactly how popular are YMO in Japan itself? Cult hit? Mondo pop band?

earlnash, Sunday, 27 June 2010 04:34 (ten years ago) link

Solid State Survivor was the best selling album in Japan in 1980 (over a million copies if you combine LP and cassette sales), Multiplies and Public Pressure also topped the charts that year so they were pretty big then. BGM and Technodelic, however, were commercial suicide in comparison but still peaked at no. 2 and 4 respectively in the Oricon album charts. Their only singles that got in the top 10 were Technopolis (9), and Kimi ni Mune Kyun (2) which was a pretty big success. They played in Nippon Budokan in Tokyo on several occasions in 1980 and 1983, this was probably the biggest venue in the country at the time (it's where The Beatles played in 1966).

Zilog Jones, Sunday, 27 June 2010 21:35 (ten years ago) link

Gah, and here I thought no one would respond! Excellent comments and recommendations, guys. I've gotta finally track down Ippu-Do's stuff. I've read a lot about them but for some reason have never actually heard them. Time to remedy that.

The Bitter Tears of Petula Clark (corey), Saturday, 3 July 2010 21:32 (ten years ago) link

Maybe a tough proposition: Name some good post-1984 YMO-related stuff.

The Bitter Tears of Petula Clark (corey), Saturday, 3 July 2010 21:55 (ten years ago) link

i think ryuichi sakamoto's album Beauty from 89 (90?) is pretty nice. "We Love You" is a rolling stones song with robert wyatt and brian wilson singing on it


jaxon, Wednesday, 7 July 2010 17:46 (ten years ago) link

^ awesome. thanks

jaxon, Friday, 16 July 2010 20:37 (ten years ago) link


Fairlights, Mallets and Bamboo- Fourth-world Japan, years 1980-1986
By Spencer Doran

Haruomi Hosono – “Down to the Earth“ from Mercuric Dance
Ryuichi Sakamoto – “A Rain Song” from Esperanto
Mkwaju Ensemble – “Ki-Motion” from Ki Motion
Haruomi Hosono – “Air Condition” from Philharmony
Mariah – “Shisen” from Utakata no Hibi
Yasuaki Shimizu – “(Untitled Pieces for Bridgestone)” from Music for Commercials
Mkwaju Ensemble – “Lemore” from Mkwaju
Seigen Ono – “Mallets” from Seigen
Masahide Sakuma – “WINDOWS/Hi!!” from Masahide Sakuma
Geinoh Yamashirogumi – “Agba’a” from Africa Genjoh
Yasuaki Shimizu – “(Untitled Piece for Tachikawa)” from Music for Commercials
Danceries – “Grasshoppers” from End of Asia
Phew – “Closed” from Phew
Haruomi Hosono – “Windy Land” from The Endless Talking
YMO – “Loom” from BGM

jaxon, Friday, 16 July 2010 20:39 (ten years ago) link

Very nice, thanks.

the food has a top snake of 1 (ulillillia), Friday, 16 July 2010 20:40 (ten years ago) link

Brilliant mixes, many thanks!

disastrous sixth series (MaresNest), Friday, 16 July 2010 20:48 (ten years ago) link

yeah thanks alll

不合作的方式 (r1o natsume), Friday, 16 July 2010 21:11 (ten years ago) link

_9. Mass - Great sequencer sounds like Tangerine Dream from around the same time and the melodic line sounds an 80s retro-futurist version of the national anthem of some dictatorial country._

yeah, totally. it sounds like they're almost quoting the imperial death march at points. such a great, weird song.

Somehow this song had escaped me all these years but agreed, this is a fabulous description. Not that I sit around listening to this sort of thing much but many nationalistic songs have a sort of earnest facelessness to them, where they sound very serious, heroic and deliberately composed yet as tunes are almost completely anonymous. “Mass” absolutely nails that – and I would be fascinated to know what the hell they were thinking when they wrote it.

Naive Teen Idol, Tuesday, 20 November 2018 14:41 (two years ago) link

one month passes...

Posted these on the Hosono thread, but a couple of YMO performances from the Hosono TV special that broadcast in Japan on 2nd January have appeared on Youtube. Includes Gen Hoshino guesting on Firecracker!


bamboohouses, Wednesday, 16 January 2019 17:35 (two years ago) link

awesome thanks!

clouds, Thursday, 17 January 2019 17:45 (two years ago) link

six months pass...

Wow, excellent catch on 4'33! Surely it's a John Cage reference! B.ack G.round M.usic !

3×5, Friday, 19 July 2019 14:50 (one year ago) link

two weeks pass...

listening to this with a little 420 and holy hell does it sound weird. all those freaky vocal effects and strange lyrics about metaphysics. the massive amounts of reverb. all those sad, mangled melodies. the really uh...random sense of rhythm on a few tracks. even "Cue", a song I've heard performed a dozen times by a variety of artists, sounds particularly paranoid and disturbed here. I love this album but it's also sort of a nightmare isn't it?

frogbs, Sunday, 4 August 2019 04:42 (one year ago) link

Agreed. I recently started getting into YMO and find this a peculiarly compelling album in that I've played it more than any other this year despite not really falling in love with it. "Cue" sounds like the fading human element working to reconcile himself to life as grinding machine repetition, as if reminding himself that this was, after all, his aspiration.

eatandoph (Neue Jesse Schule), Sunday, 4 August 2019 19:01 (one year ago) link

BGM is really very unique. All the detuned sounds and strange arrangements -- I've rarely heard anything like it.

Yasuaki Shimizu was friends with Ryuichi Sakamoto, and apparently took a lot of notes. Lots of innovative, post-BGM production on stuff he did with Yumi Murata, Jimmy Murakawa or Kazumi Band.

I've also been listening to Shinobu Narita, who had two bands: 4-D and Urban Dance (1, 2). His stuff also blends catch pop melodies with these chromatic, detuned sounds and slightly dissonant accompaniment in places.

I know ILX prefers 80s YMO to late 70s, so I hope you guys like these recommendations.

3×5, Monday, 5 August 2019 20:36 (one year ago) link

Whoops, I linked to Urban Dance when I meant to link to Shinobu.

3×5, Monday, 5 August 2019 20:39 (one year ago) link

four months pass...

you know what stresses me out? trying to figure out which ymo thread to bump. especially for today's situation, when i want to talk about technodelic, which is not BGM (which is not the greatest electronic pop album ever, although it's fantastic).

i came home to find 3 records that i recently ordered from discogs, all initial pressings with the obi and original liner notes, in fantastic shape:

takahashi - what me, worry?
takahashi - neuromantic (a contender for greatest electronic pop album ever. my old copy was scratchy and skipped in multiple spots during 'drip dry eyes', which is just unacceptable)

and of course, ymo's Technodelic. i only have three things to share, all of which you may already know:

1) according to wikipedia.org, "[Technodelic] is considered the first released album to feature mostly samples and loops, influencing the heavy use of sampling and looping in popular music." i didn't know that! that led me to

2) an interesting red bull music academy overview of YMO gear from a few years back, which talks a little bit about how ymo began to move from synthesizers to computers, digital sequencers, and samplers. there are also some interesting (and unsourced) tidbits about the influence of kraftwerk and devo in their early years. an excerpt:

The centerpiece of early YMO sets was a giant modular synthesizer, the Moog III-C; affectionately known to people in the scene back then as the “dresser.” It was the personal possession of the “fourth member” of YMO, engineer and programmer while on tour, Hideki Matsutake. He began his career as an assistant to Isao Tomita, and became a programmer at the dawning of electronic music in Japan. Matsutake synthesized music for TV commercials as well as doing electronic cover albums of the Beatles and various oldies before linking with the band. The first time Matsutake was called on was for the second recording session of the debut single, “Firecracker” (later included in the album Yellow Magic Orchestra). The first recording session, which Matsutake was not a part of, was said to have been done without the use of a computer but instead with an Arp Solina in a fusion style.

YMO didn’t think to use a computer in the beginning because Haruomi Hosono, Yukihiro Takahashi, and Ryuichi Sakamoto were all highly skilled players. In 1977, when Hosono had begun to formulate the idea for a new disco instrumental group, he first approached Tatsuo Hayashi of Tin Pan Alley and Hiroshi Sato of Huckle Buck, players active in the fusion genre at the time. However, when these invitations were turned down, Hosono called on two players who were still relatively unknown, Yukihiro Takahashi and Ryuichi Sakamoto. In an era when the majority of drummers refused to play while keeping time to the clicks from a rhythm box, Takahashi’s boundless curiosity enabled him to session with enthusiasm. Sakamoto, meanwhile, was an arranger who had finished graduate school at Tokyo University of the Arts, and was in the process of recording a solo project, A Thousand Knives, which was being created on the then brand new Roland MC-8.

The Roland MC-8 was the world’s first ten key input digital sequencer. It was an invention of a bygone era which quantified note information (a quarter note = 48) and inputs were punched in via a calculator type keypad. The reason why Sakamoto had no qualms about computer recordings was that he studied and experimented with the works of Iannis Xenakis, among others, while at university. Sakamoto probably was the only session musician that Hosono knew who had a thorough knowledge of computers at the time that was able to apply that knowledge to popular music.

The spark which led to Hosono’s use of a computer during the second recording of “Firecracker” was his discovery of Kraftwerk. Hosono was drawn to the German group’s method of recreating a perfected groove, expressed through a machine, which eliminated the subtle variations in timing that occurs when an instrument is performed by a human being. Matsutake was incorporated as a programmer due to his involvement in Sakamoto’s solo project. The swingy funk element present throughout their first album Yellow Magic Orchestra was expressed by programming through subtle variations of the input (if a quarter note = “48” they used inputs such as “45” and “47” to produce swing).

One reason Hosono wanted to create an instrumental group was that it got around the language barrier. He saw Kraftwerk and Giorgio Moroder’s ability to use computer created music to overcome the handicaps that prevented most foreign acts from being able to make it in America. Luck was also on their side, as shortly after their debut they received a call from A&M Records about releasing their record in the United States. As YMO gained traction, they were struck anew by the music of Devo, a post-punk group from Ohio. YMO quickly emulated Devo’s mutant-like sounds and synth overlays, abandoning their original philosophy of hermetically sealed computer compositions. This change in direction became YMO’s second album, Solid State Survivor.

3) the original issue of Technodelic is GORGEOUS. it's not this, which is the one that i most often see:


instead, it turns out the original cover is:


i hear you saying "yes, i know that. i know everything about technodelic. in fact i was the audio engineer on that album and also contributed important ideas to the art direction on th-"

but did you know there's also an amazing foldout booklet, roughly 8"x11", that's included inside? i found one place on the internet that had some scans:





i especially love that last image. that is my dream desk for work. notice that in this dream work situation, i use a large box with a giant dial on it instead of a computer.

4) i lied, here is a fourth thing. this is also something you all already know, but the original pressing of Neuromantic ALSO has a really cool foldout liner notes. this came out the same year as technodelic (1981):





i am having a very good ymo-tangential day, and i hope you are too

But guess what? Nobody gives a toot!😂 (Karl Malone), Saturday, 28 December 2019 21:01 (one year ago) link

one more:


But guess what? Nobody gives a toot!😂 (Karl Malone), Saturday, 28 December 2019 21:02 (one year ago) link

btw, i got all of these records for about $20 a pop at this discogs store: https://www.discogs.com/seller/teebeetee/profile

each one came in absolutely perfect condition, even though the condition of all three items was described as

Media Condition: Very Good Plus (VG+)
Sleeve Condition: Very Good Plus (VG+)
Media: EX (some hairlines. some foxing spots on labels.) / Sleeve (with insert & obi): EX (some foxing spots & some wear)

A+ seller, would buy again, and if i ever find this person's store in Tokyo I'm going to go bankrupt, and by that i mean i'd spend $200

But guess what? Nobody gives a toot!😂 (Karl Malone), Saturday, 28 December 2019 21:05 (one year ago) link

This is a great thread, you chose wisely :)

Maresn3st, Saturday, 28 December 2019 22:07 (one year ago) link


budo jeru, Saturday, 28 December 2019 22:39 (one year ago) link

Ah yeah my "Neuromantic" has the booklet as well! Still love BGM above all other YMO albums, personally.

SQUIRREL MEAT!! (Capitaine Jay Vee), Saturday, 28 December 2019 22:40 (one year ago) link

actually did not know a lot of that

a Hayashi/Sato/Hosono YMO would've been something to hear. super thankful it didn't happen though

YMO records are pretty tough to find around here. I got BGM & the US version of Xoo Multiplies but other than that I've never seen one. Much less a YT solo album. I've heard the s/t album makes its way around sometimes but it must get snapped up quick.

currently listening to YT's recent live album "One Fine Night", which spans his entire career in 33 songs...very nice

frogbs, Monday, 30 December 2019 14:38 (one year ago) link

Still can't quite believe that I saw them together at the London Hosono gig, even though I saw the HAS/YMO Meltdown thing in 2008, which was a bit limp to be honest.

Maresn3st, Monday, 30 December 2019 15:00 (one year ago) link

that's so awesome KM

clouds, Wednesday, 1 January 2020 18:49 (one year ago) link


this is going to be a very ymo year because my partner is now super into that whole scene and has started finding and recommending things for me to check out. i feel like we're now experiencing exponential growth :) it also helps that after years of repetition and reading this and other threads, i'm finally beginning to put the pieces together. like i was reading some more about hideki matsutake (the "4th member of YMO" who was basically their resident computer programmer nerd for their early albums), and then realized he recorded as Logic System, and it's just so much more satisfying to understand that connection on a slightly deeper level.

But guess what? Nobody gives a toot!😂 (Karl Malone), Wednesday, 1 January 2020 18:59 (one year ago) link

what a kickass album cover (1982)


But guess what? Nobody gives a toot!😂 (Karl Malone), Wednesday, 1 January 2020 19:01 (one year ago) link

Yeah I love that cover. “Clash” off the first album is amazing if you slow it down (thank u DJ Harvey)

brimstead, Wednesday, 1 January 2020 19:08 (one year ago) link

great posts, btw, Karl

This solo album of his: https://www.discogs.com/松武秀樹-今藤小苗長十郎-小松原まさし-江戸-Edo/master/902345

Is cool sort of 70s style electronic mixed with some trad Japanese sounds. Very fun listen if you’re into like the epic euro kind of electronic stuff that preceded YMO (TD, schulze, vangelis etc)

brimstead, Wednesday, 1 January 2020 19:11 (one year ago) link

Acc to Discogs I think all the YMO albums were reissued last year on vinyl. Some of them have weird super pixelated covers. They’re official though, looks like. Haven’t seen em in stores myself (I see the early hosono albums everywhere which bemuses me)

brimstead, Wednesday, 1 January 2020 19:14 (one year ago) link

yeah, I've seen those around in a few stores. so expensive! and since the old pressings are not exactly uncommon and sound nice enough to my ears, I think I'll pass.

(⊙_⊙?) (original bgm), Wednesday, 1 January 2020 21:57 (one year ago) link

even though I saw the HAS/YMO Meltdown thing in 2008, which was a bit limp to be honest.

well, now I don't feel so bad for missing it!

not much of a fan of the recordings from that era either. it's cool that they didn't want to repeat themselves but... I don't find those rearrangements very satisfying at all. like, this isn't bad or anything but I can't really think of any situation where I'd prefer to listen to this version of "rydeen" instead of the original -


(⊙_⊙?) (original bgm), Wednesday, 1 January 2020 22:06 (one year ago) link

your experience as original bgm must be different from the average person, but yeah they are expensive! i prefer to hang back and eventually become a world traveler to that record store in tokyo buy $200 worth of it, possibly even $250

But guess what? Nobody gives a toot!😂 (Karl Malone), Wednesday, 1 January 2020 22:11 (one year ago) link

i don't know if you lot saw this already, but you might be interested in the studio mule album 'bgm' that came out last summer which had covers of ymo ('ballet'), mariah, taeko ohnuki etc. rediscovered it the other day while i was going through stuff i'd saved on spotify. it's very pleasant btw



NickB, Wednesday, 1 January 2020 22:28 (one year ago) link

your experience as original bgm must be different from the average person, but yeah they are expensive!

heh. well, ymo-related stuff has gotten much pricier the last few years but... those were something like 50¥+ a pop when I saw em. and the covers are ugly! seems like weird rabid collector bait.

(⊙_⊙?) (original bgm), Wednesday, 1 January 2020 22:46 (one year ago) link

it's missing a ton (and much of it isn't available), but here's a first stab at a ymo + solo chronological playlist: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3wiA1XXpeNR07R680rvJRg?si=j0zTWq5ISA-FN-hhl0Kmvw

But guess what? Nobody gives a toot!😂 (Karl Malone), Thursday, 2 January 2020 00:22 (one year ago) link

Acc to Discogs I think all the YMO albums were reissued last year on vinyl. Some of them have weird super pixelated covers. They’re official though, looks like. Haven’t seen em in stores myself (I see the early hosono albums everywhere which bemuses me)

Bob Ludwig remastered the whole catalogue. The pixilated covers are box sets with the album pressed on two (maybe three for some) 45 rpm 12"s. There are also standard single-LPs and hybrid SACDs, though they're still expensive (around $50 or $35, respectively). The remasters I've heard (they're on Spotify too) are of the very-clear-but-kind-of-loud variety.

eatandoph (Neue Jesse Schule), Thursday, 2 January 2020 00:31 (one year ago) link

Ah thanks for the info

brimstead, Thursday, 2 January 2020 00:36 (one year ago) link

How I wish somebody would write a book on YMO.

― disastrous sixth series (MaresNest), Monday, June 21, 2010 9:39 AM (nine years ago)

did this ever happen? or at least on one of the members? did anyone ever do a 33 1/3? i would devour that shit

But guess what? Nobody gives a toot!😂 (Karl Malone), Friday, 10 January 2020 20:51 (one year ago) link

Not in Eigo, to my knowledge.

Here's where they seem to be at with the 33 1/3 Japanese Music series.


Maresn3st, Saturday, 11 January 2020 15:43 (one year ago) link

It's maddening to me, cause their whole story is so fucking deep, you could write acres of material about each member's solo work and pre-YMO work alone.

Maresn3st, Saturday, 11 January 2020 15:44 (one year ago) link

Just listened to BGM immediately followed by Technodelic and I gotta say, while the former is cool weird, the latter is them going to the next level entirely. I love the fusion of their style with Bill Nelson and Japan's post-punkness. So many cool sounds and ideas all jumbled together.

Gerald McBoing-Boing, Sunday, 12 January 2020 01:41 (one year ago) link

We should poll them, who would win, Hosono?

Maresn3st, Sunday, 12 January 2020 12:33 (one year ago) link

Totally agreed about how odd it is there's not a book on these guys yet. Don't know if the recent surge in interest piqued some interest in writing it over in Japan, but like MN said, there is sooo much to write about!

Hosono would probably win, yeah.

Le Bateau Ivre, Sunday, 12 January 2020 12:52 (one year ago) link

YMO poll: Sakamoto vs. Hosono vs. Takahashi

Kim Kimberly, Sunday, 12 January 2020 15:59 (one year ago) link

Ah, there we go :)

Maresn3st, Sunday, 12 January 2020 16:41 (one year ago) link

Still, my memory lapse has sent me off to listen to Bon Voyage Co whilst tidying the house

Maresn3st, Sunday, 12 January 2020 16:55 (one year ago) link

eight months pass...

thread title is still accurate

frogbs, Saturday, 26 September 2020 04:18 (three months ago) link

the part on "Rap Phenomena" where Hosono loops himself going "WOOP WOOP WOOP WOOP" is so fucking funny

frogbs, Saturday, 26 September 2020 04:24 (three months ago) link

he sounds so despondent telling everybody to rap

brimstead, Saturday, 26 September 2020 04:30 (three months ago) link

How I wish somebody would write a book on YMO.

― disastrous sixth series (MaresNest), Monday, June 21, 2010 7:39 AM (ten years ago)


sleeve, Saturday, 26 September 2020 04:43 (three months ago) link

Surely it must already exist, and needs to be translated?

If anything they taught us about the free market is correct, even one thing, this book has to be out there already. Otherwise, maybe the uncomfortable feeling we’ve all had over the years is actually the free hand, harassing

Karl Malone, Saturday, 26 September 2020 15:02 (three months ago) link

I had a mooch around the book dept in Disc Union in Shibuya a few years back, there looked to be some YMO related books there but the poor chap behind the counter's eigo was non-existent and he was petrified of the wacky westerner asking daft questions.

Maresn3st, Saturday, 26 September 2020 16:03 (three months ago) link

There's a chapter on Happy End/YMO/etc. in Michael K. Bourdagh's Sayonora Amerika, Sayonora Nippon: A Geopolitical Prehistory of J-Pop. I got it out of the library just to read that chapter, and now I have to say I can't remember much about it! It was engaging Japanese pop's ambivalent relationship to the West post-WWII, which seems pretty obviously key to what YMO was. But I think I wanted a bit more of your conventional rock biography stuff, about recording the albums, relationships in the band, the industry, etc.

eatandoph (Neue Jesse Schule), Saturday, 26 September 2020 16:28 (three months ago) link

I'd like to think that W David Marx would be a good candidate, his book 'Ametora' is fascinating and his music blog writings were always pretty great.


Maresn3st, Saturday, 26 September 2020 17:20 (three months ago) link

Japanese pop's ambivalent relationship to the West post-WWII, which seems pretty obviously key to what YMO was

Can you elaborate on this point?

Gerald McBoing-Boing, Saturday, 26 September 2020 18:19 (three months ago) link

Maybe calling it "key" or speaking of "the West" here is imprecise, but something of the sort was certainly part of the group's conceptual foundation. Calling themselves Yellow Magic Orchestra ironically incorporates Western racism into the name of the group. They do giddily ironic covers of "oriental" easy listening exotica on synthesizers. Their techno-futurism conjures Japan's newfound position as a producer of premier appliances and automobiles such that the country is admired but feared and loathed as a source of economic threat and potential decline in US hegemony. Some of this is gestured at pretty clearly in the English-language skits on X∞Multiplies. Mind you, I don't perceive this theme so much after that point — someone who knows the history/Japanese would be better equipped to address the question. I'd like to read that book too!

eatandoph (Neue Jesse Schule), Saturday, 26 September 2020 22:21 (three months ago) link

three months pass...

here's one cool thing I just discovered - you know that bit on "Ballet" where the French woman (same one from "La Femme Chinoise"??) has that speaking bit? well, apparently this is what she's saying:

Je suis fatiguée du même vieux chaos
J'en suis malade
Il devrait y avoir une sortie à ce cul-de-sac

which is the same as the bridge from "Cue"

I’m sick and tired of the same old chaos
there must be a way out of this cul-de-sac.

frogbs, Wednesday, 13 January 2021 14:29 (one week ago) link

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