Boomkat Product Review:
The excellent Death Is Not The End label has done it again with this stunning collection of early Japanese ryūkōka music, documenting the beginnings of a sound that was popular in Japan until the 1960s.
Before the US occupation of Japan and the dominating influence of Western pop, there was ryūkōka, which literally means "popular song". The term now means a specific style of music that emerged in the 1920s, and fused Western classical music techniques with traditional Japanese folk sounds and kobushi singing.
On "Longing for the Shadow", we get to hear the subtle beginnings of the form, before it was influenced by postwar US presence in Japan. The music's theatrical qualities stand out most, with decadent vocal parts hovering over folk instrumentation. Due to the time period, the quality of the recording itself gives the music its own unique character, offering us the chance to travel into a completely different universe.
Some of the sounds might be hazily familiar from their usage in Japanese cinema, but most of the pieces here are startlingly unique. If you enjoyed the Kouta Katsutaro tape Death Is Not The End put out a couple of years ago, this one's going to be completely essential.