Filed under: Music | Tags: electronica, japanese music, technopop, video game music, yellow magic orchestra
Seeing as we’re having us a video game themed week over at my blog Persona Don Dada, (check out my list of my top 10 video game songs) I’d be remiss not to head on over to Killer Pop and tell you about Japan’s greatest electronica band: Yellow Magic Orchestra.
YMO formed in 1978 by Haruomi Hosono, Yukihiro Takahashi and Ryuichi Sakamoto. Ex-hippies Hosono and Takahashi were already popular musicians in Japan, having played in the bands Happy End and the Sadistic Mika Band; Sakamoto would go on to prominence following the dissolution of YMO as a film composer, scoring Bernardo Bertolucci’s Oscar-winning film The Last Emperor.
In the late-’70s, when the trio embarked on YMO, they saw it as a one-off gig until their debut became a surprise hit. YMO pioneered early digital synthesizers and samplers and basically invented a brand of synthpop that became known as technopop in Japan. You can hear the big debt the band owes to Kraftwerk, but there’s no denying that YMO were much more playful than their emotionless German counterparts.
The first video (above), “Computer Games/Firecracker,” is a medley from the band’s self-titled debut album. “Computer Games” was a then-cutting edge sound collage of bleeps and pings and various other noises that resemble a clusterfuck of early arcade games. Sakamoto himself saw the unique promise of early video game music and released a solo record entitled Video Game Music that featured mixed and edited game music and sounds. About 2 minutes in the track explodes into a robotic cover of Martin Denny’s “Firecracker”. I can’t verify where the video comes from or if it’s official, but its look definitely fits.
The second song, “Nice Age” from the album ×8 Multiplies, finds the band at a poppier stage. The clip is from a live 1980 show at the legendary Nippon Budokon.
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