Boomkat Product Review:
Another pearl from Freedom To Spend, reissuing the sole, solo side by Japan’s June Chikuma, originally released in 1986, a decade before she wrote the legendary D&B soundtrack for Nintendo’s ‘Bomberman’!
Leading on from some of 2018’s finest reissues (by Rimarimba, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Michele Mercure), FTS kicks off 2019 with another insta-favourite in ‘Les Archives’, which repackages June Chikuma’s 1986 LP as Atsushi Chikuma, ’Divertimento’, with bonus material relating to her later work as a composer of classic computer game soundtracks. While there’s seemingly no shortage of material from this era and region in circulation right now, ‘Les Archives’ is more rugged, whacked-out, and singular than most of what the Japanese reissue machine has churned out over the last couple of years.
Wielding sampler banks full of YMO and Art of Noise-like percussion, along with glassy syn-flutes, animated synth voices, and the mysterious Michio Toda String Quartet, there’s a singular funk and verve to June’s music that transcends its roots in Tokyo’s City Pop and fusion movements, and hints at the digitised future she would help to literally and subliminally shape via consoles in myriad bedrooms and living rooms across the world.
Where Chikuma's computer game soundtracks were necessarily limited by bitrates, here June plays to the full spectrum of mid ’80s hi-fi music, marrying melodic whimsy with a taste for the tang of experimental electronics and a deadly nose for rhythm programming that really sets her apart. We hear those playfully animated rhythms in beguiling effect on the iridescent, polyrhythmic cadence of ‘Broadcast Profanity Delay’, and with lip-bitingly tight fonk swaaang on ‘Pataphysique’ - an excellent word to sum up her approach - whereas ‘Divertimento’ sounds like Art of Noise doing neoclassical, and outta nowhere, ‘Climb-Down’ unfurls as an elegant piece for string quartet.
So far, so amazing. But then we factor in the bonus cuts; firstly the charming vignette ‘Mujo to Ifukoto’, a mad little congregation of chamber-esque string sweeps, drums and swannee whistles, while the 7” throws down two angular boogie gems in the drily dubbed-out swerve ‘Oddman Hypotheses’, and pointillist prangs of ‘Dual Use’, which only make this invaluable record even more indispensible.