Tokyo DJ’s sonic memoir spanning two decades of life and music in Japan - Japan Vibrations Vol. 1 will transport listeners in time to energetic nights at Japan’s legendary club venues and delight with a spirited journey of musical discovery and reflection.
**Rush Hour import exclusive**
Dive into the exhilarating era of Japan’s electronic dance music scene from the mid ’80s to the mid ’90s with Japan Vibrations Vol. 1. The hand-picked collection by DJ and musical storyteller Alex from Tokyo pays homage to the trailblazers and innovators who shaped the landscape.
Set for release this autumn, the compilation serves as a time capsule recording a vibrant point in Japan’s modern music history. Likewise, a love letter from someone who lived it.
11 newly remastered tracks spanning ambient, downtempo, dub, world beats, deep house, new jazz, and techno. Together they showcase the creative ingenuity and energy of a paradisiac era marked by a symbiotic fusion of international sounds with distinctively Japanese influences. Experience the vibrations of pioneers Haruomi Hosono, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and Yasuaki Shimizu. Of culture-shaping forces Hiroshi Fujiwara and Kan Takagi (T.P.O./Major Force), Susumu Yokota (Prism), Silent Poets, Mondo Grosso and Kyoto Jazz Massive. And of new-generation artists CMJK (C.T. Scan), Mind Design, Okihide, and Hiroshi Watanabe (Quadra). The evolution of a scene, a moment, presented with the progression of a DJ set.
Hi-fidelity remastering by sound engineer Isao Kumano (PHONON). License coordination by Ken Hidaka, album artwork by Takehiko Kitahara. Photography by Meisa Fujishiro and Beezer, and from Alex and friends’ personal collections. Pressed by Mother Tongue Records. Distribution by Rush Hour. Support by Carhartt WIP.
1. Haruomi Hosono — Ambient Meditation #3
The compilation opens with an invitation to tea in the dream layer. The tranquil track, dedicated to new age legend Laraaji and ambient great Brian Eno, features Hosono on the Prophet 5 synthesizer and the American multi-instrumentalist Laraaji plucking a glittering zither. Hosono released it in 1993 as the closing track of his Medicine Compilation From The Quiet Lodge. True to its title, the album charts the early ‘90s contemplative turn of one of Japan’s most influential musical artists. Recorded in the tea-room modelled RACOON studio in Yutenji, Tokyo, the album weaves together house, techno, and ambient elements with Hosono’s signature eclectic-exotica touch. The result is a divine elixir, and this track is especially captivating.
2. Silent Poets — Meaning In The Tone (’95 Space & Oriental)
The bubbling dub is impossibly vibey on this remix of “Meaning In The Tone” by Japanese electronic duo (turned solo) project Silent Poets. The original track by Michiharu Shimoda and Takehiro Haruno appeared on their 1993 sophomore album, Potential Meeting. This ethereal, downtempo reworking came out in 1995 for the compilation album New Chapter for DJ/artist Nobukazu Takemura’s newly launched label idyllic records. Silent Poets went on to garner international acclaim for its catching sound palette—spanning dub, trip hop, acid jazz, and downtempo like this track—and holistic approach to art fusing music, design, and culture. Shimoda’s original music and brand Poet Meets Dubwise continues to capture the meaning in the tones.
3. Mind Design — Sun
Soft and resonant with a cinematic build up, “Sun” by techno unit Mind Design (Tomonori Sawada and Koji Sakurai) feels like daybreak at Mount Fuji. Sawada and Sakurai made the track (and all their music at the time) using a sequencer to run synths and rhythm machines, and a DAT recorder to capture everything in a single shot. In 1993, Mind Design signed to Transonic (predecessor of Trigger Label), Kazunao Nagata’s underground electronic music label, after the muiltitalented DJ, musician, mastering engineer, and producer saw the duo perform live at a Tokyo techno party. Mind Design’s first and only album View From The Edge followed in 1994, paralleling Sakurai and Sawada’s rising careers as sound composers and designers in the video game industry, where they remain active today.
4. Quadra — Phantom
A rare downtempo gem by Hiroshi Watanabe under his Quadra alias featured on his debut album Sketch From A Moment. With its gently swaying synths and confident percussive stride, “Phantom” is a total vibe. Watanabe, a prolific and versatile artist, is a man of many aliases (Quadra, Kaito, Hiroshi W, Tread [with Takehiko Kitahara], 32 project), label homes (Nite grooves, Kompakt, Third Ear Recordings, Ibadan, Transmat Records), and sound profiles (deep slow house, uptempo, melodic techno, to name a few). The mid ‘90s found Watanabe hard at it, studying composition at Berklee College of Music in Boston, spreading from New York the deep house gospel with EPs released on Japanese label Frogman, spinning hard house and techno at NYC clubs like the legendary “Save The Robots,” and more. “Phantom” captures the spaces between—a mid-album track with a subtle, unrushed flow. Nothing dramatic, everything chill and beautiful.
5. Yasuaki Shimizu — Tamare-Tamare
Few artists create a vibe as timeless, innovative, and totally fun as Yasuaki Shimizu. Singing and sax-ing (he does both on this track), connecting dots across the world, tinkering with scales and studio techniques—Yasuaki’s organic and highly experimental flickering about is an artform itself. Enter “Tamare Tamare,” an electro, world-fusion dance-floor killer featuring renowned Senegalese singer and musician Wasis Diop. Recorded in Paris’ ADS-Colour studio with Martin Meissonier, worldbeat and ethnic music producer extraordinaire (think Fela Kuti, King Sunny Ade, Salif Keita, and Manu Dibango) and released on Shimizu’s 1987 Subliminal, the track shines like the sun. “Tamare Tamare,” as the maestro himself says, is a potent spell in sound form.
6. Ryuichi Sakamoto — Tibetan Dance (Version)
A groovy collage of deep slaps, snappy beats, feathery strums, ethereal windings, rolling keys, and plenty of experimental tweaks, the track feels like a joyful gathering of friends. And it should—Sakamoto invited his YMO colleagues and collaborators Haruomi Hosono (bass), Yukihiro Takahashi (drums), Kenji Omura (electric guitar) and string instrument master Ayuo Takahashi on the Japanese zither instrument the koto into the studio to make “Tibetan Dance”. The revolutionary Fairlight CMI synthesizer joined the party, too, providing the perfect foil for an epically funky, buoyant tune. This slightly stripped down, club-oriented version first saw the light of day in 2015 with the Japan-only re-issue of Sakamoto’s 1984 Ongaku Zukan, remastered in high-resolution format (DSD) by Seigen Ono. Our “professor" Ryuichi Sakamoto, prodigious (and pioneering) musician and beautiful human, passed away in March 2023. His astonishing body of work - some 25 solo albums, 41 albums with YMO, 14 live albums, 19 collaboration albums, and 40 EPs and singles - will enliven and inspire for generations to come!
7. T.P.O. — Hiroshi’s Dub (Tokyo Club Mix)
Thunderclaps and a driving downpour of beats—we’re deep in the club now, Japan vibrations at max amplitude. This atmospheric club classic tells a story of scenes and genres—whole worlds—merging at the close of the ‘80s in Japan. An early release by the powerhouse hip-hop label and posse Major Force, the track is a remix twice over. It started with the uptempo “Punk Inc.” by Tiny Panx Organization” (T.P.O.), brainchild of Hiroshi Fujiwara, Kan Takagi, and K.U.D.O. Next came the dub take by Hiroshi, supreme music and culture tastemaker. And here we have the Paradise Garage-inspired deep-house reworking by Sapporo-hailing DJ Heyta. Got that? Now imagine taking it in at the tiny basement club Aoyama MIX during one of DJ Heyta’s wildly popular Wednesday nights back in the day. Lights out!
8. Okihide — Biskatta
Cycling through sugar cane fields in Okinawa, intense sun overhead and a glistening ocean stretching out into infinity. That’s a sweet memory Okihide Sawaki was recalling when he made this track in his Kyoto “Sleepy Room” home studio. Okihide, a sound otaku since childhood (proud owner of a Korg Mono/Poly at age 12!), caught the attention of Fukuoka’s top DJ and producer Ken Inaoka in 1994 when he was playing live under the moniker Tanzmuzik at Shibuya On Air in Tokyo. Inaoka signed the young artist, now going just by Okihide, to his just-launched techno label “Syzygy Records,” and in 1996 A boy in picca season came out. This smooth, uplifting, Detroit-inspired jam from his eclectic, “intelligent” debut album is full of feeling.
9. Mondo Grosso — Vibe PM (Jazzy Mixed Roots) (Remixed by Yoshihiro Okino)
Peppy, elegant, and massively jazzy bops from 1994 that feel so familiar and fresh. The Kyoto-based acid-jazz collective Mondo Grosso roared to life in the early 90s, led by the multitalented Shinichi Osawa. “Vibe.P.M” (Jazzy Mixed Roots) appeared on the compilation Kyoto Jazz Massive (For Life Records), the brainchild and handiwork of Shuya Okino who, along with his brother Yoshihiro, formed the eponymous musical project (Shuya had been managing Mondo Grosso while working at the Kyoto club “Container”). Yoshihiro’s remix presented here is a slice of Japanese crossover jazz that “makes me feel so alive,” just like American vocalist Brenda Kay Pierce beautifully sings on the track. Thirty years on, Kyoto Jazz Massive and Mondo Grosso, together and as individual artists, continue to evangelize good vibes and heady crossover dance music.
10. Prism — Velvet Nymph
A masterful straight-up deep-house track by one of the masters of Japanese electronic music, the late Susumu Yokota. Working under the pseudonym Prism, and fittingly so, Susumu refracted and refined the Detroit techno sounds he loved into Metronome Melody, released in 1995 on the newly formed Japanese label Sublime Records ran by Yamazaki Manabu. The track and album came on the heels of several pioneering moments for Yokota and, by extension, the Japanese electronic music scene. First, he created a storm in December 1993 performing live at club Yellow as the opening act for Underground Resistance (their first appearance in Japan!). Then, in June 1994, Yokota rocked his unique acid-techno sound at Berlin’s Love Parade to huge fanfare (the first Japanese performer at the legendary technoparade!). The dearly missed Susumu Yokota left us with an amazing, eclectic body of work—some 70 albums and singles over 2 decades.
11. C.T. Scan — Cold Sleep (The Door Into Summer)
The compilation closes with an epic techno gem that spins the story of an era: Frogman Record’s 15-year history as a key incubator of Japanese techno music. Among those discovering techno music in the early ‘90s in Japan was a crew of club-going music writers and industry workers that included Kengo Watanabe, Tsutomu Noda, Dai Sato, and Masakazu Hiroishi who would all in different ways influence and innovate the whole scene. Watanabe and Noda launched the groundbreaking electronic music magazine ele-king. Moved by the Berlin techno scene and spurred on by German-Japanese techno ambassador DJ Toby Izui (aka Tobynation), Watanabe and Dai created the techno label Frogman. They tapped C.T. Scan (better known as synthpop artist and producer CMJK of J-pop fame) for the label’s first and final releases. This version of “Cold Sleep (The Door Into Summer)” appeared on Frogman’s 2008 entering-into-hibernation compilation, Fine – The Best of Frogman. Inspired by Robert A. Heinlein’s sci-fi tale about traveling back in time to find oneself, the track is reflective, floating, and gently futuristic. Looking back to create the future, the highest Japan Vibration.