Make Believe Melodies Logo

July Japanese Music Catch-Up Post: group_inou, Ykiki Beat, Virgin Babylon Comp And Towa Tei

Starting today, we are starting a new monthly feature, where we highlight some of the music that somehow didn’t get attention during the prior month. A lot catches our attention, but for various reasons (mainly, me being sleepy) doesn’t get the attention it deserves. This new feature will hopefully at least put a tiny light on things worthy of far brighter spotlights.

– The best act I saw at this year’s Fuji Rock Festival was group_inou, a duo who incorporate elements of rap music into their sound even though they don’t consider themselves rappers. It makes sense — this article I wrote for the Japan Times about a new wave of women rappers is missing one thing, which is how group_inou are every bit as influential on this group as Halcali, a fact driven into my skull while Suiyoubi No Campanella was tweeting about the pair’s Fuji set. Without diving into histrionics, few groups in Japan…and honestly, beyond…sounds as urgent as group_inou, who seem like they need to gesticulate and create woozy electro beats or they would just die.

They released a new album this month, and “Eye” serves as a wonderful first insight into it. It’s an emotional number highlighted by the moments where group_inou just let it rip (rapper cp screams only once…but he makes it count). Few artists are doing what these two are, and this (above) is a reminder of just how special they are.

– Ykiki Beat are getting a pretty big push into the mainstream sphere following the release of their debut album When The World Is Wide. I’ve found the music the Ykiki Beat project makes (at least in light of an opportunity to jump up the ladder) to be hit or miss, a bit too polished especially when compared to the far more intriguing rock the lead singer makes with his other band DYGLW. But “The Running” finds a lane the band does well in — slow-burning numbers seemingly built for a festival audience to sway back and forth to before kind of hopping along. If you are going to shoot big, sound big. Listen above.

– Virgin Babylon Records is celebrating five years of life in a big way — they’ve released a 50-song compilation titled One Minute Older, loaded up with great Japanese acts. There’s a lot of songs to take in — a few familiar names include World’s End Girlfriend, mus.hiba, Smany, De De Mouse and many more. Right now, you can hear samples of each song here, though we encourage you to shell out the $11 to hear it all.

– Some artists stumble across one amazing idea, milk it for an album and leave enough of a legacy from that. Others are incredibly consistent, spending decades releasing solid — but never show-stealing — music. Towa Tei falls into the latter category, to the point where writing about him in a non-introductory context (so uhhhhh remember Deeee-Lite) feels boring. Yet dude keeps pumping out wonderful electro-pop like “Luv Pandemic,” a track featuring the likes of Haruomi Hosono, Yukihiro Takahashi (those last two guys are 2/3rd of Yellow Magic Orchestra), Keigo Oyamada (aka Cornelius), Leo Imai and Yuka Mizuhara (sister to another Tei go-to). So yeah…hell of a guest list, but the song delivers with a simplistic (so many repeated syllables) but catchy structure. Listen above.