HOSONO KEEPS PUSHING THE MIX DEEPER
We came across a nice article (via the Twitter acount of Far Side Music) from 1995 about Haruomi Hosono, written by Giovanni Fazio. We extracted the text for a better read.
Like many dinosaurs, Japanese supergroup Yellow Magic Orchestra went out with a thud two years back. Although their final album, "Technodon," contained their trademark style of combining the avant-garde with the pop, the "magic" was gone. Solo careers and increasingly disparate interests had led to a fatal lack of communication between the members, and that one last tour turned out to be the last straw.
Haruomi Hosono doesn't seem to mind. These days this YMO alumnus can be spotted with a smile on his face in clubs like Gold, spinning obscure records for the late-night denizens of the chill-out rooms. With the weight of YMO off his shoulders, Hosono has returned to the underground. There he pursues his love of spiritually informed electronic music, a love that dates back to his 1985 solo album, "Mercuric Dance," but is only now being fully developed. Before you think "new age," think "new edge": Ho-sono's latest music is informed by the hypnotic grooves of trance techno, the wah-wah pterodactyl squawks of acid and the floating tranquillity of ambient. This year two new releases prove Hosono's continued ability to reinvent himself while continuing to have it both ways: "Love, Peace & Trance," on major label Epic Sony, uses the fame and faces of three idol singers to bring ambient into the mainstream, an experiment in ethereal pop that works surprisingly well. "Near Death Experience," released this month on the indie label Sun and Moon, is a darker and uncompromising album of trance and ambient dub. Both works consist almost entirely of remixes, with Hosono's original constructions submerged deep down in the mix. It's part of the new Hosono, the non-Hosono, as it were.
"I don't need 'myself,' " says the veteran musician, sitting in his cozy new studio, hidden in the sprawl of Meguro. Surrounded by racks of keyboards, the soft-spoken and deep-voiced Hosono stares down into his coffee while trying to explain his new status as an artist: "My own career up until now has become a kind of obstacle, I don't need it. Like, my name and all that.... When I listen to various music these days, I'm not really interested in who is making it anymore, the personality behind it, the image, the ego. If the music's good, then I'm happy with that. "Nevertheless, there are plenty of "names" involved with his latest release. "Near" was remixed by NYC producers Bill Laswell (Material) and Go Hotoda (YMO, Madonna), while "Love" received the treatment from San Francisco's Kim Casone, label head of ambient nirvana Silent Records, and Tokyo's Think Synch production team. When you hear the end results, it's nearly impossible to discern what was Hosono's original idea and what was the remixers' input. Hosono seems to enjoy this new obscurity. "Of course, part of me is a control freak... But with ambient, I allow room for things that couldn't come from myself. My obsession is taking a bit of a break. But it will be back, perhaps." "Near" represents the darker side of Hosono's sound, no doubt influenced by Laswell's and Hotoda's hard-edged styles but also by a real-life brush with the other side: One day, after carrying some heavy bags and running up a flight of stairs, he found that he couldn't catch his breath. "I thought I was gonna die," he recalls. "My consciousness detached itself from my body, and I was looking down at myself from an arm's length above my body.
"When I was mastering the album those memories came back to me quite strongly. The music had an effect on me, and took me into a very similar state. The sounds are really pretty heavy. Even if you call it ambient, it's a very stressed-out ambient, that's for sure." Featuring the vocal trio of Miyako Koda (from Dip in the Pool), Mimori Yusa and Mishio Ogawa, "Love, Peace & Trance" is infinitely lighter, even pop at times, though retaining both a spiritual dimension and radical beauty. The success of the project is remarkable when one considers that it was forced on Hosono by Epic Sony. "At first, I wasn't planning on including singing. But, you know, Japanese record companies..." says Hosono, with a sardonic grin. "Those girls are pop music singers, and I was a guy thinking I don't need any tarento, but they were a kind of a bridge, I guess. Despite the label's push for something marketable, the record is brilliant, a perfect balance between abstract soundscapes and structured lullabies. In trying to explain his fascination with ambient music, Hosono struggles for words, like he's trying to explain a cloud to a blind person. "As a genre, it doesn't seem like it's going to become a trend or create hits, it's not sensational. Pop music is centered around the market, but ambient grows in the wild. Ambient is the first music to have dispensed with structure; it can take any form, from the nebulous to the precise .. . Ambient is like an interface between you and a given situation or mood or environment."
Fundamental to Hosono's view of ambient is that the music must come from the soul. reflecting the spiritual side of the musician. Nevertheless, it isn't an easy thing for modern man. "I've been influenced by things like esoteric Tibetan Buddhism, but it's so complicated, labyrinthine," he says. "All these religions are piled up from more than 2.000 years ago, it's hard to tell what's what. Man's spiritual structures are all tied up in knots. But with the Ainu or American Indians, what they're saying is so direct. It's like (their music) has crossed over those 2,000 years of history to teach us something important now." Hosono says he found the true essence of ambient, while in Bali. "I was in Ubud, sitting in a wide circular
clearing in the middle of the jungle. Around 6 p.m. the sun went down, it got a little cool, and the insects started to sing. The cicadas started to cry from deep within the jungle, I closed my eyes, and heard the sound travel begin at one point and travel in a 360-degree circle — natural surround-sound.
"That was perfect... ecstasy. It gets to the point, where you just don't need music.''