Yasuaki Shimizu-Music For Commercials: Made To Measure Volume 12.

Label: Crammed Discs.

Thirty years ago, in 1987, Marc Hollander’s label, Crammed Discs, released an album that went on become one of their most sought after releases. This was Yasuaki Shimizu’s Music For Commercials, which featured a total of twenty-four tracks.  Twenty-three of them were short pieces of music which were originally meant to provide the soundtrack to commercials on Japanese television. They showcased Yasuaki Shimizu’s versatility as a composer and saxophonist as he flitted between musical genres on tracks that featured titles like Seiko 1, Boutique Joy, Sharp 1, Honda and Bridgestone 4. These tracks lasted less than two minutes. The exception was  Ka-Cho-Fu-Getsu which was the soundtrack to a computer animated short film. Just like the rest of Music For Commercials it captivating introduction to Yasuaki Shimizu, who was a truly talented, versatile, and innovative composer and musician.

Since then, Yasuaki Shimizu’s career has gone from strength-to-strength. He’s released numerous albums and soundtracks, and has also collaborated with everyone from  Björk to Elvin Jones and Manu Dibango right through to Van Dyke Parks, Ryuichi Sakamoto and DJ Towa Te. Despite having released so much music during the last thirst years, still, Music For Commercials continues to generate interest amongst record buyers and old and new. 

So much so, that Marc Hollander’s Crammed Discs has just reissued  Yasuaki Shimizu’s Music For Commercials on LP and CD. This made sense as copies of Music For Commercials were almost impossible to find. Those that had a copy weren’t willing to part with their copy.  With demand outstripping supply, Crammed Discs decided to reissue Music For Commercials as Volume 12 in their critically acclaimed Made To Measure Series.

When the Made To Measure series began in 1983, this was just two years after Marc Hollander had founded his new label Crammed Discs in Belgium in 1981. For the nascent Made To Measure series, Marc Hollander came up with a loose concept. Each album in the Made To Measure series could’ve been made as a soundtrack for film, television or dance. With this concept in mind, the Crammed Discs series began in 1983.

Over the next twelve years, Crammed Discs released thirty-five albums of mostly instrumental music by musical pioneers and innovators. This included albums of new and intriguing music from Arto Lindsay, Aksak Maboul, Benjamin Lew, Brion Gysin, David Cunningham, Fred Frith, Harold Budd, Hector Zazou, Minimal Compact, Peter Principle, Steven Brown and Peter Principle. These albums were described as the aural equivalent of a collection of art books, and were released to critical acclaim. Sadly, the Made To Measure series came to an end in 1995.

That looked like the end of this popular and crucially acclaimed series. Then in 2013, with no fuss Crammed Discs decided the time was right to bring back the Made To Measure series. Since then, there’s been five new instalments in the series from Bérangère Maximin, Brown Reininger Bodson, Jozef Van Wissem, Le Ton Mité and Tuxedomoon and The Cult With No Name’s Blue Velvet Revisited soundtrack. They were welcome and worthy additions to this long running series. 

Still, though, many people wanted Volume 12 of the Made To Measure series reissued. They got their wish when Music For Commercials: Made To Measure Volume 12 was recently reissued by Crammed Discs. It was originally released in 1987, and by then, Yasuaki Shimizu was well into his second decade as a musician.

Composer, saxophonist and producer Yasuaki Shimizu was born in Shimada, Shizu on August the ‘9th’ 1954. Growing up, he embraced music and learnt to play the saxophone. By the early seventies Yasuaki Shimizu had decided to embarked upon a career as a professional musician. 

The first many people heard of Yasuaki Shimizu was when the twenty-four year saxophonist released his debut solo album, Get You, in 1978. This carefully crafted combination of jazz and jazz-funk and would introduce Yasuaki Shimizu to Japanese music fans. 

A year later, and Yasuaki Shimizu returned with his sophomore album Far East Express in 1979.  By then, Yasuaki Shimizu had formed a new experimental rock band, Mariah.

The newly founded Mariah released their eponymous debut album later in 1979. This was the first of six albums that Mariah released between 1979 and 1983. 

Mariah returned with their sophomore album Yen Dreams in 1980. By then, Mariah music was continuing to evolve. That would be the case throughout the band’s career.

Despite leading the experimental rock band Mariah, Yasuaki Shimizu continued his solo career. He released his sophomore album Berlin in 1980, with his third album IQ 179 following in 1981. Meanwhile, Yasuaki Shimizu’s groundbreaking band Mariah were about to release two albums during 1981.

The first of these albums was  Auschwitz Dream. It was followed by Marginal Love in 1981, and then Red Party in 1982. By then, Mariah’s music continued to evolve and was being discovered by a wider, international audience.

It was a similar case with Yasuaki Shimizu’s solo albums. He was already regarded as a musical pioneer, and someone who was capable of pushing boundaries to their limits, and sometimes, way beyond. That was the case on Kakashi, which was released in 1982, and nowadays, is regarded as a genre classic. However, it was the last album Yasuaki Shimizu released until 1987.

The following year, Mariah released what was their swan-song Utakata no Hibi which fused traditional Japanese festival rhythms with rock tempos and sounds. It was an hailed as ambitious classic album, and a fitting farewell from Mariah.

With Mariah consigned to musical history and Yasuaki Shimizu’s solo career seemingly on hold, the musical pioneer embarked on yet another musical project, Yasuaki Shimizu and The Saxophonettes. This was essentially a one-man band, and over the next two years, Yasuaki Shimizu released two albums as Yasuaki Shimizu and The Saxophonettes.

Later in 1983, Yasuaki Shimizu and The Saxophonettes released their  debut album was L’Automne à Pekin. It was an ambitious homage to the golden age of Hollywood, albeit with a twist. Yasuaki Shimizu and The Saxophonettes combined lush, underrated strings with a myriad of electronic sounds and a reggae rhythm section. It was an intriguing and captivating combination that found favour with critics. So did the followup Stardust, when it was released in 1985. By then, Yasuaki Shimizu had left Japan, and was spending his time in Europe.

Yasuaki Shimizu was dividing his time between London and Paris, where he became part of both cities vibrant music scenes. Marc Hollander remembers: “I met Yasuaki Shimizu when he was living in Paris, around the mid-eighties. We were mutually interested in a Shimizu/Crammed collaboration, and we came up with the idea to gather the short pieces he had created for television commercials, and release them in our Made To Measure composers’ series which, at the time, already included ten releases of mostly instrumental music.”

Now that Crammed Discs had agreed to release a Yasuaki Shimizu album, the Japanese composer, saxophonist and producer began choosing the tracks that would feature on Music For Commercials: Made To Measure Volume 12. It featured twenty-four instrumentals, with twenty-three tracks lasting two minutes or less. There was one exception, Ka-Cho-Fu-Getsu which was the soundtrack to a computer animated short film. Mostly, though Yasuaki Shimizu was keen to showcase his work creating Music For Commercials.

Yasuaki Shimizu recalls how: “TV commercials in the late ’70s and ’80s didn’t advertise the practical features of products, they were meant to build strategic corporate images. You might even say they took a musical approach in their visual expression, though perhaps that’s an overstatement. Being restricted to a time span of a minute or less made it ideal work for refining my intuitive powers. I made a conscious choice not to remix the tracks for this album. The final version of the original recordings appear here untouched, although I do remember working to link the individual tunes, and on the overall mood.” That is apparent throughout Music For Commercials: Made To Measure Volume 12.

When Crammed Discs released Music For Commercials: Made To Measure Volume 12 in 1987, critics and cultural commentators lavished plaudits and praise on this captivating and intriguing compilation of music. Little did anyone know that over the next thirty years, that Yasuaki Shimizu’s Music For Commercials: Made To Measure Volume Kakashi would become one of Crammed Discs most sought after releases. 

Now thirty years after the original release of Music For Commercials: Made To Measure Volume 12, Crammed Discs have recently reissued this compilation of twenty-four inventive and innovative short soundscapes. It makes a welcome return after three decades out of print.

On Music For Commercials: Made To Measure Volume 12, Yasuaki Shimizu flits between, and fuses musical genres on  Music For Commercials: Made To Measure Volume 12.  He combines elements of ambient, avant-garde, classical, electronic and experimental with jazz and traditional Japanese music. These genres are combined twenty-four tracks that are very different. 

Tachikawa is elegiac and ethereal, before Seiko 1 becomes urgent and dramatic, while Seiko 4 has a similar urgency. Very different are Seiko 2 and Seiko 3 which are understated soundscapes with an enchanting minimalist sound. Sen-Nen 1’s is a beautiful ambient sounding track, and like many of the tracks in evocative and rich in imagery. It’s a similar case with tracks like Boutique Joy. By comparison, Ricoh 1 has a much more experimental sound. So does Ricoh 2, which is a genre-melting track with a mesmeric and futuristic sound. Laox also showcases a futuristic eighties sound and combines with this with lush strings. This is an intriguing and successful combination, and like all the tracks on Music For Commercials: Made To Measure Volume 12, has a cinematic sound and is full of imagery.

Shiseido has an orchestrated and evocative sound that is guaranteed to paints pictures. It’s also one of the most memorable tracks on Music For Commercials: Made To Measure Volume 12. Seiko 5 has a jaunty robotic sound, as if trying to sell a groundbreaking futuristic product. It gives way to Sharp, which mixes sultry jazz with electronics, avant-garde and industrial music. Sen-Nen 2 finds Yasuaki Shimizu combining his jazz saxophone with experimental and ambient music. Mesmeric but beautiful describes Honda, which is one of several tracks which incorporates elements of Japanese music. It’s a similar case on Suntory, where a myriad of percussion adds an almost hypnotic sound. Knorr is another genre-melting track where classical vocal and cello combine with occasional flourishes of piano and crisp drum rolls. They may be unlikely bedfellows but play their part in the success of this beautiful, evocative soundscape. It gives way to the Bridgestone 5.

This is the five soundscape that Yasuaki Shimizu recorded for Bridgestone. They have a much more experimental sound than many of the other tracks. Bridgestone 1 head in the direction of free jazz So to some extent does Bridgestone 2, which combines a myriad of experimental and ethereal sounds. Then on Bridgestone 2 found and experimental sounds are fused with a braying horn and drama. Very different is Bridgestone 4 where the saxophone plays slowly and ruminatively before strings sweep and swirl on Bridgestone 5. It closes the Bridgestone quintet. 

Ka-Cho-Fu-Getsu is ten minute soundtrack where Yasuaki Shimizu showcases his skills and versatility during this captivating musical adventure. It takes twists and turns as Yasuaki Shimizu throws curveballs springs surprises, as a myriad of subtleties unfold as this musical pioneer creates a groundbreaking and genre-melting opus. This leaves just Seibu, which sounds like an excerpt from an opera. It closes Music For Commercials: Made To Measure Volume 12, which was recently reissued by Crammed Discs thirty years after its original release in 1987.

For many music fans, the recent reissue of Music For Commercials: Made To Measure Volume 12 will be a  welcome one. After its release in 1987, Music For Commercials: Made To Measure Volume 12 became Crammed Discs most sought after release as new record buyers discovered the delights of this groundbreaking album. Eventually, it was almost impossible to find a copy of Music For Commercials: Made To Measure Volume 12. Those that owned a copy of the album were holding on to them. As a result, demand was greatly outstripping supply. It made sense to reissue Music For Commercials: Made To Measure Volume 12, which showcases Yasuaki Shimizu’s versatility as a composer and saxophonist as he flits between and combines musical genres. The result was a captivating album from a true musical pioneer, and one of the best instalments in Crammed Discs’ Made To Measure series. 

Thirty years later, and the Made To Measure series recently released the fortieth volume in the series. Still, though Yasuaki Shimizu’s Music For Commercials: Made To Measure Volume 12 is still regarded as one of the best instalments in Crammed Discs’ long-running and prestigious series. That will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future as Yasuaki Shimizu’s Music For Commercials: Made To Measure Volume 12 was an ambitious album of inventive, innovative and cinematic music that is evocative, rich in imagery and is truly timeless.

Yasuaki Shimizu-Music For Commercials: Made To Measure Volume 12.

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