Ryuichi Sakamoto


After writing up Komuro, I realized that I’d be remiss if I didn’t say something about Ryuichi Sakamoto, too. According to the wiki entry, Sakamoto was born in 1952 and studied music composition, and electric and ethnic music at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music. He worked as a session musician with Haruomi Hosono and Yukihiro Takahashi, and the three of them formed Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO) in 1978. The wiki entry goes on to say that YMO helped pioneer electropop, technopop, ambient house and electronica. Sakamoto had his first solo album in 1978 (Thousand Knives of Ryuichi Sakamoto). He’s worked with David Byrne, Thomas Dolby, Nam June Paik and Iggy Pop. He also composed the soundtrack to Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence and The Last Emperor (for which he won an Academy Award along with David Byrne and Cong Su). He was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2014. His latest studio album, Perpetual, came out in January.


(Image from amazon, used for review purposes only.)

Technodon (1993)
Back when I was still living in Austin, around 2001 or 2, I wanted to get a YMO album, but I had no idea which one was best. There still weren’t that many options for obtaining Japanese-influenced music (although YMO had been based in New York for years by that time), and I kind of had to guess from only a couple albums that were available used at Cheap-O’s. I picked Technodon, which was the last of the seven studios albums they put out. It struck me as very avant garde; not particularly danceable, or easy to listen to, and Be a Superman had a spoken track that sounded like something from Allen Ginsberg. It didn’t inspire me to buy anything else from them.

However…
I was back on youtube (again) weeding through the videos for KMFDM and I took the opportunity to see if there was anything for YMO. Naturally the answer was “yes”, but the important point was that “yes” referred to a live performance on NHK TV. The first song is Fire Cracker, which just has a regular piano sound on the keyboard. This is followed by Behind the Mask, with Sakamoto singing with very heavy vocoder effects. The entire set is much more relaxed and easy to listen to than anything on Technodon.

If you want to hear some of his work, Live at NHK is a decent introduction.

Direct youtube link

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