Thursday, May 18, 2017

Band Review: Yellow Magic Orchestra

One of the unintended themes of this month has been finding musicians of amazing longevity. Yellow Magic Orchestra is no exception, having begun recording in 1977. They have had off periods and performed under different names, but even in the band's down times the individual members have been very productive.

I do not remember anything about them from their first time around. Their song "Firecracker" was mentioned in Mad World (Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980s by Jonathan Bernstein and Lori Majewski). "Firecracker" became a song of the day when I was going over music from there, but I also made a note to check out the band later.

I'm glad I did. If "Firecracker" was all I knew, YMO could fit into the field of random synth pop instrumentals, like "Music Box Dancer" or "Popcorn"; they are so much more.

"Computer Game" goes in the realm of chiptunes, which I can't listen to for very long. That was the first other song I heard, which was discouraging. There was still more.

That may be one of the most impressive things - how much YMO did and did early. They sampled and reconstructed and were cutting edge for a few different genres, some more trippy and some more poppy. They can be suggestive like on "See-Through" (I guess the name kind of sets you up for that).

"Thousand Knives" and "Rydeen" are good listening. I especially liked "Kai-Koh" and "Expecting Rivers". Still, I don't think anything matches the joyousness of "You've Got to Help Yourself". And it's odd, because there is a subdued delivery to the song, that seems incongruous with the joy, but that's still how I end up feeling.

One of the most frustrating parts of listening is that there were skits on Service, and I have no idea what they were about. I suspect they were smart, and had points that mattered.

At least music is universal.


No comments: