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Anime Feelings: Ujaku

The opening minute of producer Ujaku’s “Tonakai” sounds like a lost snippet of some Studio Ghibli film soundtrack. It’s nothing but some plaintive piano strokes with a few additional affects added in. It’s the emotional core of the song, which bursts open into a rollicking dance number soon after the minute mark, Ujaku dropping in a skittery beat that mutates over the course of “Tonakai.” Yet even as the drums eye the dancefloor, that mournful piano plays on, casting everything in a solemn light. And then, the kicker – every sound drops out and strings just begging to appear in a Miyazaki film (maybe they did???) rise up as the song dashes into one more bouncy…but heart-tugging…segment.

Anime…whether in the form of samples or just as an aesthetic…has become a common element of Japanese music both mainstream and indie. Plenty of artists can wring really affecting music out of these animated inspirations, evidenced by Shortcake Collage Tape’s wistful Spirited Summer or many of the head-swirling songs released by Maltine Records. Others, though, use anime like a cheap reference point to score points with a specific community. Ujaku isn’t necessarily directly utilizing anime sounds in his music, but rather evoking them through elegant movie-soundtrack-worthy sounds as on “Tonakai” or via a chirpy-and-warped voice on the wobbly “Bass Test.” “Kono Intro Maji” threads in bubbly cartoon noises alongside a voice that sounds suitable for the end credits of some cartoon, all while Ujaku plays around with the electronics with interesting results. Listen below, or here.