Sometimes the wait for new material from a beloved recording artist can feel like an eternity, especially when their last album presaged a significant shift in one's personal musical tastes. In February of 2001 I picked up Takako Minekawa's Maxi On! on a heavy vibe-induced hunch (the cover art called to me for reasons I'll never understand -- this kind of thing happens to me all the time) and it forever changed the quality of pop music I seek and enjoy. I spent the next few years digging into her extensive back catalog, digesting it rapidly while anticipating a new release that never came. So began my fascination with an artist that had seemingly just shelved her career as a keyboard-collecting, color obsessed, cat-loving experimental electro-pop singer/songwriter indefinitely.
Twelve years later and I honestly can't remember the last time I checked Minekawa's near dormant website for news or scoured the interwebs for any new transmissions indicating fresh airs from one of my forever favorite recording artists. Then the other day a co-worker (and kindred spirit who knows me very well) uttered the words, "hey, have you seen that new Takako Minekawa album? We have two!" Gobsmacked. Yes, gobsmacked is the best word for my reaction to this query. No, I hadn't seen it. I hadn't heard it or heard of it, but I am listening to it, again, right now, all fifty seven minutes.
Back in 1978, on 25 November, pioneering Japanese group, Yellow Magic Orchestra released their influential, eponymous, debut full-length. The album and group are widely credited with being very influential on the development of several music genres, including ambient, chiptune, electro, hip hop, house, J-pop, synthpop, and techno, to name a few.
The band (also known as YMO) were also on influence on another Japanese scene that emerged around the dawn of the 21st Century, picopop (or ピコポップ). Bands and performers such as EeL, Hi-Posi, Motocompo, Plus-tech Squeeze Box, Sonic Coaster Pop, and Strawberry Machine updated the shibuya-kei (渋谷系) style popularized in the 1990s by Cibo Matto, Cornelius, Flipper's Guitar, Pizzicato Five, and Original Love by adding some good, old fashioned, electro elements with a sensibility that often recalls YMO.