Boomkat Product Review:
Finally - a completely remastered reissue of the original Japanese version of Ryuichi Sakamoto's 1984 hybrid synth-pop album 'Ongaku Zukan'. This one's for the city pop/'Thousand Knives' fans, properly eccentric smoove jazz, new age, dub and cold wave revisions sculpted in Sakamoto's instantly-recognisable image.
When 'Ongaku Zukan' (music encyclopedia) was released for the international market in 1986, it was called 'Illustrated Musical Encyclopedia' and contained a few different tracks - including the Thomas Dolby collaboration 'Field Work'. This new reissue is the original edition, boosted with an extra version of opener 'Tibetan Dance' for the heads. As the title suggests, Sakamoto guides us through different musical styles, putting his unique spin on everything from folky instrumentation to jerky, sampled drums and lite, lounge-pop guitars, into dubwise jazz-pop sunshine - all punctuated by Sakamoto's attention to compositional detail - even lapsing into walking bass and big band fanfares mid-way through.
Fans of the Sakamoto's more melancholy, synth-led material will be drawn to 'Paradise Lost' (a plasticky fusion of funk bass and whimsical canned electronic leads) or the disco-inspired 'Self Portrait', a track so melodramatic you can almost imagine it bellowing over the end credits of some '80s teen movie. But Sakamoto also scratches his experimental itch; 'Tabi No Kyokuhoku', despite the overblown jazz chorus, is mostly subterranean, industrial drums and mellotron-esque synths, and 'M.A.Y. In The Backyard' is the Japanese legend's take on 20th Century minimalism, like Steve Reich's 'Music For 18 Musicians' transformed into a General MIDI pop miniature. Even 'Mori No Hito', a soft-paced, romantic pop song at its heart, is spiked with Sakamoto's odd compositional quirks and extraordinary instrumentation, like sampled bells and talkbox vocals.
'Replica' is billed as a bonus track, finding Sakamoto shaping horror movie pads around uncanny jazz blasts. It's a fantastical take on the early '80s pop canon, made by an artist whose unconventional approach still guides so much contemporary music.