As mainstream Japanese music continues to revolve around only a handful of pop-leaning acts – the biggest sales all come courtesy of groups with a “48” in their name or a boy group from Johnny’s – underground artists who will never have a shot at breaking through into the Oricon world have turned to the compilation as a way of forging a new musical world. Internet-based compilations have been happening for quite some time, but they have become even more common over the past few months. It’s a way for like-minded artists (or labels) to come together and get attention. PixaPhonica #2, a comp highlighting great electronic music from across the country, is one of the best compilations to come out in 2013 so far.
It starts off with a guy who is familiar with these things – Kai Takahashi delivered one of the best songs on Ano(t)raks recent collection, and here he once again steals the show with the woozy “Magical Spells.” It’s a bit more swirling than “1980,” the noises hear a bit more random and free-floating than the structured groove of his indie-pop-leaning cuts. Yet it manages to be just as pretty, anchored by a simple but warm vocal sample. What follows “Magical Spells” also deserves attention: quenoirs imagines what brostep might sound like if inverted in on itself with “Felted Fabric,” which has the menacing drums of EDM but all the violence held back. Alecks does his best Friendzone impersonation on “EAUCL,” while Kansai’s Rapunzel8083 don’t let down (I don’t think they have yet) with “Adam,” which stitches together several older snippets into one coherent piece. “Adam” features clips of children talking, lending the song a nostalgic vibe, which is echoed by Miche’s “In My Old School.” That one opens with the sound of a Japanese school chime ringing off before turning into a contemplative piano number aided by electronic glitches, the overall effect being like flipping though old photos and having bits of memories rush by. PNDR PSLY, meanwhile, delivers a stunner all his own with “The Heavenly Bodies,” a almost-ten-minute drone number recalling the grand creations of Los Angeles’ Infinite Body. This compilation is stuffed with highlights – get it here.