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Light In The Attic Releases first Anthology for their Japan Archival Series

Posted by Kells, October 27, 2017 11:56pm | Post a Comment

Record shopping in Japan is an incredible and humbling experience and, when in Tokyo, I enjoy exploring as many record stores as possible, regularly testing the limits of my willpower wallet while discovering one long-sought gem after another. What's more, records in Japan are more often than not found in great if not near mint condition and almost always come crisply wrapped in those snazzy resealable outer sleeves. Whether you're digging through one of Japan's many mega music emporiums, curated record boutiques, or any old hideaway/warehouse situation stuffed windows-to-the-walls with miscellaneous wax, the scope of excellently kept, hard-to-find vinyl stocked in record stores here never fails to amaze. That said, scoring coveted original releases by Japanese artists at a "nice price" can be surprisingly tough, which means acquiring the same prized/pricey titles stateside can be doubly difficult and hardly worth it (itinerant flippers be damned). Enter the warm glow of Light In The Attic Records...

Since announcing their Japan Archival Series last April, the Seattle-based label has finally brought their inaugural release for the project to US ears with Even A Tree Can Shed Tears: Japanese Folk & Rock 1969-1973, the "first-ever fully licensed compilation of this music to be released outside Japan". This collection of nineteen tracks spans an era when Japan's youth culture shifted from championing the Surf instrumental (think The Ventures) Eleki trend and the Beatles-inspired Group Sounds (G.S.) movement that dominated Japanese pop culture in the 1960s to more poignant, living room singer/songwriter sounds reminiscent of Bob Dylan, mellow Laurel Canyon boho vibes, soft psychedelia, and miscellaneous Americana (à la The Band and Neil Young). Fueled by mass student protest demonstrations and an underground ("angura") movement bent on subverting long-standing stuffy traditions, young musicians rejected Beatlemania replications in favor creative authenticity, giving birth to fresh genres like the aptly named New Music and Kissa Rock (literally "Café Rock, so-called due to the venues they frequently played). Some of Japan's most beloved and influential music-makers made a name for themselves during this crucial period, and many of those heavy-hitters whose early works are featured on this comp would go on to further enrich the fabric of music history in Japan and beyond long after the angura movement's hippie heyday. For example, Haruomi Hosono, who lends his distinct James Taylor-esque vocals to two tracks on this compilation (both as a member of influential Folk Rock band Happy End and with a track from his 1973 self-titled solo debut), would later form the innovative electronic band Yellow Magic Orchestra with Ryuichi Sakamoto and Yukihiro Takahashi (whose Sadistic Mika Band bandmate Kazuhiko Kato also has a solo track featured on this comp). This example is by no means representative of the extent of Hosono's legacy as one of the most important figures in Japanese music history and his career trajectory is but one slippery slope of many rabbit holes one can fall into exploring via this compilation. Plus, aside from being a lovely aesthetic object featuring original artwork by illustrator Heisuke Kitazawa, the total package includes extensive liner notes and bios (put together by compiler/producers Yosuke Kitazawa and Jake Orrall) that dig deeper into this music that has been, as Light in The Attic puts it, "tantalizingly out of reach for decades" while setting the stage for overlaps and other points of interest that'll surely connect this particular anthology to forthcoming releases and reissues for the Japan Archival Series.

Stay tuned for the next two announced anthologies Pacific Breeze: Japanese City Pop, AOR & Boogie 1975-1985 and Kankyo Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990 in addition to "dozens" of other as-yet-unspecified "special projects" and more exciting things to come from this LITA label series. No doubt this noble effort won't make shopping original Japanese pressings by artists featured on any of these anthologies and reissues any more affordable, but it will extend the reach of these works to a broader audience at a price point that definitely guarantees more bang for your buck. That is until you realize that each song in the sequence comes from records that are pretty much all killer/no filler and you find yourself in a catnip-like state of obsession hellbent on a quest to acquire them all at any cost because record collecting. But seriously, kudos to Light In The Attic for embarking on this journey to bring some wonderful fully-licensed music from Japan to the US. Keep on keepin' on, I can't wait to get more of it on my turntable!
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Relevant Tags

Light In The Attic (11), Kissa (1), Rock (26), Folk (39), Japanese (10), Japan Archival Series (1), Japan (41)