Japanese Gentleman, Stand Up Please
Last Christmas I revealed, to anyone remotely surprised, a rampantly sentimental streak by writing (via Momus' rendition) about Ryuichi Sakamoto's fantastically emotionally manipulative Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence theme. Well, a recent and especially fine charity shop hoard included not only the whole OST, but also his ridiculously rare B-2 Unit, which I've been looking for since hearing 'Riot in Lagos' and wondering whether there was anything else as utterly, compulsively head-spinning as that. There isn't, of course, but it's still wonderful. Surprisingly harsh, in fact - it seems to inhabit the same kind of brutalist space as Katsuhiro Otomo's psychic warfare in council estates masterpiece Domu (the only example of Team 10's architectural ideas in a comic book, anyone?). The constant chatter and noise of the sequencers, a sense of restlessness, a metallic beauty...The El Lissitzky reference on the cover was very appropriate as well - the electro-mechanical show he promised in all its glory.
However it really isn't as fantastic as Technodelic, the subsequent, bafflingly overlooked Yellow Magic Orchestra album. While the earlier YMO albums are rather cute, this one harnesses all the chaos, overloaded motion and multilevel ciculation of the (then much-mythologised) Japanese city, without any of the jingle elements that they're better known for. It seems divided between dreamy, bleary-eyed Roxy Music electro-glam and clattering urbanity. 'Seoul Music' especially is a perfect musical evocation of the terror and jouissance of congestion, with gamelan, Neubauten and Kraftwerk all seemingly drawn into its vortex. It's all very different to the serenity of his work with David Sylvian. They appear as different times of day in the same block of flats - one cramming itself into the elevator on its way to work, the other languidly surveying the view. An aesthetics of the urbane that parallels the life of the executive class: Kraftwerkian bachelormachine as organisation man.