Oto No Wa: Selected Sounds Of Japan 1988-2018.

Label: Music For Dreams Denmark.

Each and every week of the year, record companies from all over the world, release countless compilations into the global music marketplace. These compilations range from lovingly curated compilations released by small indie labels to the cheap and cheerful, nostalgia-inducing budget box sets like released by majors and often sold in supermarkets alongside cheap plonk and even cheaper pizza. Everything Tesco thinks your average suburban Lothario needs for a Saturday night in.

It’s no exaggeration to say that there’s something for everyone in the modern day compilation market. There’s genre specific compilations that include everything from acid house and easy listening to gospel, hip hop, dream pop, hard rock, R&B, reggae and zydeco. 

Then there’s compilations that concentrate on music from one particular country. Over the last few years, record companies have traversed the globe looking for  released compilations of music from all over Western and Eastern Europe, Africa, North and South America and Asia. This includes Japan, which since the seventies has always had a vibrant and eclectic scene.

Recently, there’s been lovingly created compilations of J-Jazz and ambient music released to widespread critical acclaim. The most recent compilation of Japanese music was Oto No Wa: Selected Sounds Of Japan 1988-2018, a two LP set released by Music For Dreams Denmark. 

Oto No Wa: Selected Sounds Of Japan 1988-2018 is the fifth instalment in Music For Dreams Denmark’s Collector’s Series. This time around, they brought onboard a triumvirate of musical connoisseurs based in Japan. This includes Ken Hidaka, Max Essa and Dr. Rob who are responsible for a compilation of fourteen chilled out Japanese tracks that were released between 1988-2018. 

There literally is something for everyone on Oto No Wa: Selected Sounds Of Japan 1988-2018 including ambient music, dancefloor fillers, a contribution from the nine piece reggae band Little Tempo, a track by percussionist Kazuya Kotani and one by the organic, psychedelic collective Olololop. This is an eclectic and loving curated compilation from three top tastemakers.

Opening the album is Yoshio Ojima’s  Seale which is an example of late-eighties environmental music. This beautiful, meandering track was computer generated and is a stunning example of the genre. 

There’s also contributions by two of Yoshio Ojima’s contemporaries who in the nineties released albums of music designed for art galleries and museum installations. BGM was made using the nascent technology and sometimes the counterpoint was played by tapping sticks and stones. This includes Yoshiaki Ochi’s Balasong from his 1990 album Natural Sonic, and later, the filmic and ruminative ambient sound of Takashi Kokubo’s Quiet Inlet. It paints pictures and sets the imagination racing.

As the eighties gave way to the nineties, Susumu Yokota was making a name for himself as a pioneer of electronic music. An example of this is Uchu Tanjyo, one of the highlights from his 1999 classic electric album Sakura, which is a reminder of a musical visionary.

In Japan some critics compared Scha Dara Parr to The Beastie Boys. The prolific rap trio released Nice Gus as a single in 1991, and the third and final track was Nice Guitar Dub which is mellow, melodic and truly memorable. 

Then as the new millennia dawned, Flower Records released a series of post house productions. This included  the title-track to Kentaro Takizawa’s 2006 album Gradual Life. However, this is the album version of this captivating track where a lush orchestral arrangement is successfully combined elements of dub, jazz, electronica and house. The same year 2006, Little Big Bee released their sophomore album Waterman which featured the cinematic sounding post house of Scuba.

Another track from 2006 is Wave Traveller from  Kaoru Inoue’s album Slow Motion. It’s a blissful and mesmeric fusion of ambient and new age music which will soothe even the weariest soul.

Since Coastlines released their debut single East Dry River, on Flower Records in 2018, great things have been forecast for the group. They draw inspiration from the classic fusion of the late-sixes and early seventies, library music and subtle nova bossa nova rhythms on East Dry River which also featured on their 2019 eponymous debut album.

Other contributors to Oto No Wa: Selected Sounds Of Japan 1988-2018 included the sun kissed electro acoustic sound of Karel Arbus and Eiji Takamatsu’s Coco and The Fish. Then there’s Time and Space which is a previously unreleased meandering, spacious analog-modular genre-melting jam by Chillax. It’s a welcome addition to the compilation.

Unlike so many other compilations released each week, the trio Ken Hidaka, Max Essa, and Dr. Rob dig deep in their search for musical treasure. They’ve struck gold and as a result, Oto No Wa: Selected Sounds Of Japan 1988-2018 which is a lovingly compiled and eclectic compilation that’s a musical treasure trove that discerning record buyers will want to add to their collections and discover its delights. 

Oto No Wa: Selected Sounds Of Japan 1988-2018.

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