07 November 2012

Greeen Linez: City Pop Top 10

If you've never heard of Japanese genre city pop, or its close relation J-fusion, here is a Top 10 (in no particular order) very kindly put together for me by Matt Lyne of Greeen Linez.

Greeen Linez are Christopher Greenberg (Hong Kong In the 60s) and Matt Lyne (A Taut Line) and they make music which is somewhere between a recreation of, tribute to and extension of, city pop. Matt and Chris were also kind enough to talk to me about their album Things That Fade, city pop, the past, the future, MIDI, American Psycho, muzak, Donald Fagen, The Residents, The Specials, Mastercuts and more. Transcript up shortly.

Greeen Linez City Pop Top 10:

Toshiki Kadomatsu - 52nd Street (1987)

We never get tired of this tune, so many fantastic elements. We played it in London during a DJ set earlier this year and it was interesting to see 18-year old British girls really getting down on the dancefloor to music probably most popular amongst middle-aged Japanese salarymen! The bass, the electric-pianos, that hard-to-pinpoint synth-koto sound at the start...brilliant.

Sunshine Lovers - Evening Shadows (1983)

An amazing tune with lots of great use of the Yamaha DX7 (perhaps the key instrument for this era/style of music). Particularly love that "Harmonica 1" sound when it's used so well, and those sweeping pads near the end are just mind blowing. The track is pretty much a rip-off of Roberta Flack's "Feel Like Making Love", but for some reason that just makes it even better!

Noriki - Night Lights (1984)

Coastal bliss. Electric pianos and guitars played without any inhibitions, creating a funky muzak wonderland. If that cover art looks slightly familiar, well...nuff said, really!

Momoko Kikuchi - Mystical Composer (1986)

A tune which pretty much sums up everything that we love about City Pop. Yamaha DX7 synth bells and chimes, detuned FM whistle sirens,and Nile Rogers-inspired guitar so thin and delicate it could almost be made of tatami, all backing an incredibly fragile and ethereal vocal line.

Ramu - Ai Ha Kokoro No Shigoto Desu (1988)

Ramu was a funk/fusion group that featured Momoko Kikuchi on vocals. This tune in particular shows off the unique juxtaposition of pretty heavy Minneapolis-style synth-funk with Kikuchi's daintily childlike vocals. On paper it perhaps shouldn't work, but it just sounds fantastic. There's also lots of totally nonsensical English in this tune (another hallmark of classic City Pop), particularly the babytalk rap halfway through.

Makoto Matsushita - This Is All I Have For You (1981)

A beautiful song, both utterly robo-tight and airily blissful, with wonderfully laconic vocals.

Kanako Wada - Sunday Brunch (1987)

What Madonna's Into The Groove could have/should have been, if it were performed by a Japanese girl, and rather than dancing/sex lyrical analogies seemed literally just to be about going for a walk in the park with a boy after having curry for lunch. Great use of guitar and strings on this tune and absolutely stunning synth marimba breakdown, followed by some excellent harmonica, near the end of the song too. Once again the tone of the vocalist's voice also wins us over.

Shimada Nami - Moonlight Whisper (1988)

Lots of people know her song Sunshower, particularly Larry Levan's famous remix of it. Don't get us wrong, we totally love that track too, but it's perhaps a little out of place amongst other City Pop and fusion of the time. However, this tune from her definitely comes from a similar place to a lot of our other picks.

Akemi Ishii - Cha Cha Cha

Something about the tone of her voice that we really love, and her look is incredible too. Really  unashamed levels of cheese in this track (which we like). We're also fans of her cover of "Lambada" and, for some reason, both these tunes seems to recall childhood summers spent on campsites in the south of France - except with an Asian spin.

Kimiko Kasai- Steppin' Outside Tonight (1982)

Quality synth-reggae-jazz-funk-fusion written by Minnie Riperton's co-writer/husband Richard Rudolph (also Kasai's husband later on). One of the few Japanese jazz artists to achieve any significant recognition in "the West". There's just something incredibly unique and magic about this tune.