The Japanese have perfected many things. Food, gardens, electronics, cars...and also vinyl. Japanese vinyl releases are renowned for their quality, in particular the packaging. Those lovely wax discs come in resealable dust proof jackets, the record itself is never encased in scratch inducing paper but rather a poly inner. Audio quality, artwork and pressings are also mostly excellent, plus you usually get a nice looking OBI and practically always an insert containing extra artwork and detail about the artist and release.
The result of this attention to detail, and the great care taken by previous owners, means many Japanese records from previous decades are still in fantastic condition today.
Not that this is news to any serious wax collector. Here at VLSI it's only across the last five or so years that we've delved into the musical goldmine that is Japanese music. There was undoubtedly a bit of a golden period across the '70s and '80s when a number of contributing factors, such as a booming economy, cheaper electronic equipment and insatiable music consumption, led to many interesting and unique records being made.
Recently, it's been fantastic to see this music becoming more available in the West with some excellent up and coming archival releases from Light in the Attic as well as top quality reissues of classics such as Mariah's Utakata No Hibi via Palto Flats.
There is plenty more underrated music to unearth too - to help you on your way there are great online resources such as Listen to This, Organic Music and a host of mixes from the likes of Revelation Time , Listen to This & Visible Cloaks that showcase the incredible array of sounds to discover.
Below we highlight a few of our favourite discoveries with pictures of the inserts that came with the records - whose secret life, much like some of this music, is largely unknown until you open up your record to play it for the first time.
Osamu Shoji - Welcome to the Sci-Fi World
Serious kit was required to make this 1978 release - the huge modular Roland System 700 takes up the bulk of the studio. What's that weird iPod type thing on the keyboard? This is a pretty out there and intense cosmic synth album from this Anime soundtrack producer - impressive work for those of us used to computer based sequencing.
Cochin Moon - Haruomi Hosono & Tadanori Yokoo
This release rarely leaves the VLSI turntable. Another from 1978, it's Hosono's first electronic album and a psychedelic electronic masterpiece in our humble opinion. It's the kind of stuff that even one hundred years in the future, will still sound like it's beamed in from another planet. Almost proto-techno in places, tracks like Hepatitis are as original and entertaining as they come. Inspired by a trip to India, this was originally meant to be a collaboration between Hosono and Yokoo but, according to Wikipedia, a lengthy bought of stomach bug put Yokoo out of action (although he did manage to produce the excellent artwork). Here we see the party of artists relaxing in India, presumably before the stomach bug hit. Don't hesitate if you get the chance to cop this on wax - the album undoubtedly benefits from a full fidelity listen.
RA - Visions
Quite a strange experimental new wave type release this. It's peppered with short staccato samples, perhaps from an Emulator which was an 'affordable' sampling synth in '80s. The insert comes complete with this weird, probable Hieronymus Bosch, futuristic artwork - pay particular attention to the boffins in the lab bottom right, complete with mind reading head gear. Pressed at 45, this is also interesting at 33.
World Standard - World Standard
This embossed fold out insert accompanies the amazing Hosono produced first album from Soichiro Suzuki and Masaharu Mikami's World Standard. All sorts of instrumentation are used as detailed within the insert. It's pretty hard to categorise musically - is it experimental pop ambient? Whatever it might be it's guaranteed to put a smile on your face.