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Good Branding: Cool Japan Featuring Sarah Bonito And Lovely Summer Chan’s “Rush Hour”

I have no idea who Cool Japan is, even though I THINK I know who it is (rhymes with “mofu wheats”), but that’s just a sinking suspicion with no real proof. Damn you journalistic conscience. Whoever Cool Japan is, they’ve released a fair amount of material…the bulk of it being vaporwave, the outfit itself cheering on the idea of plunderphonics, taking sounds from other sources and bending it how you want. New song “Rush Hour” is a slight departure from all the slowed down, yanking-from-commercials tracks appearing on previous Cool Japan full lengths…it still sounds like the bulk of the music is built around a sampled loop (with some various other sounds sprinkled about), but it isn’t vapored down, but left to move at a pretty fast tempo. Also, there are guest singers – Sarah Bonito from Kero Kero Bonito in England and (what makes it firmly eligible for this blog) Lovely Summer Chan.

And thank goodness for that, because “Rush Hour” is an absolute blast. The music is a horn-led, never-stopping whirl that matches the track’s entire fast-moving-city vibe…only taking a breather for a mid-song interlude featuring some sampled dialogue. It is foot-moving stuff, even without the guest singer’s parts, but those additions add more character to the song. Sarah Bonito jumps between Japanese and English to sing about city life, somewhere between a portrait of fast-moving life and a bit of dullness (shouts out to Starbucks, Burger King, cola, the train, among others). It is a bouncy treat, whoever put it together. Listen below.

Make Believe Mix For February 2012 Featuring Occult You, Seiho And Super VHS

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This month, the Make Believe Mix shuts the curtains and stays under the covers as we feature mostly bedroom artists from all over Japan…and beyond. The ability to make, record and distribute music by yourself has been great for artists who would otherwise never get exposure, and this scene has taken off in Japan in recent years. This month’s mix opens with Occult You (who you might also know as Taquwami) and their lovely “Cassette Girl (Minami),” before heading out west to Kansai to check in on Day Tripper Records mastermind Seiho and his mind-scrambling new song “Evening.” We stay in the region to meet up with Cat Statues, a project made by Benjamin Landau as a means to document his time in Osaka, and listen to the song “Trappers/Palace.” Then we jet to England, because Kero Kero Bonito live there. “But wait, they aren’t Japanese!” Astute, but their track “Ms. World” features Mayu Tanaka on vocals. Rounding things out, producer OMEGABOY and lo-fi pop architects Super VHS.

Below is a list of artists and songs appearing in this month’s mix, in chronological order. Click the links to read more about them and find out how to buy/get their music. All artists featured gave me permission to include their music in this mix.

Occult You “Cassette Girl (Minami)” – From the Psychic Feelings EP. Free download here.

Seiho “Evening” – New online track. Visit Day Tripper Records here.

Cat Statues “Trappers/Palace” – Online track. Visit his blog here.

Kero Kero Bonito “Ms. World” – Online track. Get here.

OMEGABOY “Rustyslide” – Online track. Get here.

Super VHS “Remember The Night” – Online track. Get here.

Small World: Kero Kero Bonito Featuring Mayu Tanaka Of Contrary Parade “Ms. World”

Kero Kero Bonito, despite the Japanese name, operates out of London which usually would mean they wouldn’t be appearing on a blog devoted to music in Japan. Yet Bonito have one ear turned to this side of the world, and not just as a way to come up with a good moniker. Last month, they “remixed” twee-crunk duo Love And Hate’s “Money.” I break out the air quotes because Bonito doesn’t just give the actual music of “Money” a new look – though the smooth-as-the-back-of-a-credit-card feel they conjure up is plenty nice – but really transforms the playful semi-hip-hop of Love And Hates into something new and better. Bonito’s “Money” works as a response to the original, the group adding original vocals about lacking the titular item and having a conversation with the snippets of Love And Hates throughout. It’s funny and affecting, a vast improvement over what stands as Love And Hate’s worst track thanks to it coming dangerously close to jokey rap stereotype.

Now Bonito has teamed up with Mayu Tanaka, a member of Japanese pop-leaning outfit Contrary Parade (here’s an example of what they do) for the original song “Ms. World,” a bouncy bit of electro-pop. The beat brings to mind the shinier material an act like Mimosa puts out, an electronic wave passing over authoritative hip-hop drums. The vocals contributed by Bonito’s vocalist aims for clever twists – “I’m so proud/of our country right now/as the whole world watches us jack off” brings to mind commentary of…royal wedding? Olympics? Riots? Downtown Abbey’s success?…while Tanaka’s contribution is just butter on top of an already lovely piece of toast. Whereas her singing in Contrary Parade veers towards J-Pop safe, here she is able to stretch out a little more and works as a lovely foil to the male singing. Listen below.

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