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Watch Traditional Performances by Yellow Magic Orchestra, the Japanese Band That Grew to become One of many Most Modern Digital Music Acts of All Time

Music modifications when expertise modifications. Few musicians have demonstrated as eager an consciousness of that reality as Haruomi Hosono, Yukihiro Takahashi, and Ryuichi Sakamoto, who collectively as Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO) burst onto the scene making sounds that the majority listeners of the late nineteen-seventies had by no means heard earlier than — by no means heard in a musical context, a minimum of. They’d by no means seen a band make use of a pc programmer, nor deliver onstage a tool like Roland’s MC-8 Microcomposer, an early musical sequencer designed strictly for studio use. That YMO didn’t hesitate to make these unconventional selections, and plenty of others moreover, received them years as the most well-liked band of their native Japan.

It will be unimaginable for YMO to have emerged in another place or time. “Japan had lengthy since remade itself as a postwar financial engine, however by the late Nineteen Seventies it was changing into one thing else: a worldwide emblem of techno-utopianism and futuristic cool,” writes the New York Occasions‘ Clay Risen. “Sony launched the Walkman in 1979, simply as Kenzo Takada and Issey Miyake had been taking on Paris trend runways with their playful, visionary designs.”

Japan had turn into economically, technologically, and culturally formidable on a worldwide scale, and YMO had been positioned to turn into its perfect representatives: they’d the askew hipness and the cutting-edge sounds, nevertheless it was their humorousness, evident within the playfulness of their music, that took the remainder of the world unexpectedly.

You’ll discover no higher introduction to YMO’s work than the hour-long YMO live performance on the Nippon Budokan on the prime of the put up. It befell in 1983, not lengthy earlier than Hosono, Takahashi, and Sakamoto packed the band up and returned to their already well-established solo careers. As a unit they’d achieved world stardom, enjoying overseas venues like Los Angeles’ Greek Theatre in 1979 and, unbelievably, occurring Soul Prepare in 1980. Their early hit “Behind the Masks” even caught the eye of Michael Jackson, who recorded his personal model of the tune for Thriller however left it unreleased till 2010 — by which era YMO had reunited to carry out in Japan, Europe, and America, enjoying for brand spanking new generations of listeners who had grown up immersed of their music, immediately or not directly.

Influences on YMO included the work of Brian Wilson and Giorgio Moroder, in addition to music from India, China, the Caribbean, the late-fifties-early-sixties “exotica” fad, and even arcade video games. However their very own affect has unfold out farther nonetheless, shaping not simply varied subgenres of digital music but additionally sure formative works of hip hop. In case you take heed to YMO’s albums as we speak — practically 45 years after their industrial debut, and only a few weeks after the dying of co-founder Takahashi — their music nonetheless, in some way, sounds totally Japanese. Like Isao Tomita (whose assistant turned their laptop programmer), YMO understood not simply that music modifications with expertise, but additionally that it emerges from a selected tradition, and of their discography we hear these rules pushed to their thrilling limits.

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Based mostly in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and tradition. His initiatives embrace the Substack e-newsletter Books on Cities, the e-book The Stateless Metropolis: a Stroll by Twenty first-Century Los Angeles and the video sequence The Metropolis in Cinema. Comply with him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Fb.




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