Soichi Terada – Sounds From The Far East

Posted: April 2nd, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , | No Comments »

I am an avid longtime collector of 70s/80s Japanese Synthpop music, and being based in Europe that always proved to be quite some task, particularly in the pre-internet shopping days. You had to start from scratch, mostly starting with Yellow Magic Orchestra and their affiliated labels like Yen, Monad or Alfa, and you studied the credits of every record and learnt about new artists, crosslinks and local scenes. But finding those records in some continental crates was a rare and lucky occasion, and then when internet offered more purchasing options, it appeared to be a rather pricey habit because of shipping costs and Japanese sellers who were perfectly aware that their items were considerably out of reach beyond their own soil. But it also became very apparent that their was way more to discover, and it was well worth trying. Still, the Japanese music scene was frustratingly hermetic. I had gathered a collection over the years, but regularly you came across sellers with pages and pages of offers, complete with listening clips, and you had to admit that you were not scratching the surface, you were not even near it. I could have bought the bulk of it if possible, it all sounded fantastic, but it was not possible, and as I tried to at least learn about the artists I read in the item descriptions via web search engines, information was very scarce. For a nation so obsessed with technological progress and cultural information, there was mysteriously little given away to the outside world, only a few hideously designed websites by American or European enthusiasts who lived in Japan and fell in love with what they heard. I was really glad they made the effort, but their discographies, as thorough as they were, offered not much beyond artists I already knew about, and sooner or later every such site disappeared from sight again, only to be replaced by, well, not much else. I’m perfectly convinced that a well researched book about Japanese music would sell profitable quantities, there must be more people like me, but it can only be written by a Japanese author.

And then it always fascinated me that it was well acknowledged that Japan contributed a lot to electronic music in said period of time, but once House came along in the mid to late 80’s, and Techno shortly after, there were so few notable Nippon producers reacting to it. And as the Chicago pioneers operated mainly on musical equipment built in Japan and later neglected for the international bargain market, it was even more curious that those sounds originated so far away from where they were originally developed. No matter how hard you tried, the Japanese equivalent to the early House music masters was nowhere to be found. But you had this feeling there just had to be someone.

Years later a good friend of mine, a serious Deep House completist collector, pointed out that there were some interesting releases by Japanese artists on Hisa Ishioka’s King Street Sounds, a New York based label established in 1993, which was inspired by the Paradise Garage experience. He investigated further and found Ishioka’s sub-label BPM Records, which from 1991 on showcased a small wealth of Japanese producers taking on the trademark mellow but crisp Big Apple Deep House style established on imprints like Nu Groove, Strictly Rhythm, Nervous and a plethora of smaller labels. The producer with the most credits was Soichi Terada, and he also seemed to have the most distinctive signature sound. It is known that Larry Levan toured Japan at the end of his career, and even shortly before is death, and there must have been some interaction with the local scene, as he remixed Terada’s gorgeous 1989 track „Sunshower“ two years later, as did fellow New York DJ legend Mark Kamins. So there he was at last, the House music master from Japan. He even had his own label, called Far East Recordings, and though it only had a small back catalogue the few sound bits I could track down had me locking target on every single one of them. Terada’s sound admittedly owed a lot to its US prototypes, the whole lush smoothness of it, but it also had a weirdly bouncing funk, and more importantly, it had all this charming humour to its melodies and arrangements, and this all-embracing both respectful and freeform use of Western influences interpreted with Japanese music traditions I so fell in love with the first time I ever heard YMO.

But the other parallel was that it was as hard to find as any other record I had in my Nippon wantslist, or even worse. At least the releases pre-House were pressed in suffcient runs, but these were only done in quantities of a few hundred. Enter this fine compilation, which although interest in Nippon House had increased over the years, appeared a bit out of the blue. It was put together by my friend Hunee, a DJ and music enthusiast with a fine tendency to dig that little deeper, and he managed to secure all the essential tracks by Soichi Terada and his frequent collaborator Shinichiro Yokota. And even when reissues of rare records are quite common these days, this is really something special. Now someone please do that complete collection of Koizumix Production tracks, and make me an even happier man.

Electronic Beats Magazine Issue 01/15