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re: happy happy joy joy

> I would hope that people on this list have broad enough tastes in music that
> they would give a listen to some of the releases on Happy...I have known
> Taylor for many years and think he will make Happy a label very much worth
> checking out...I am not all that familiar with jap-pop except for an
> occasional track I've heard here and there but I'm looking forward to
> hearing whatever comes out on his label...
> exploring music  (regardless of the genre) is what makes being a musician
> fun...

As someone who, at least as Steve McClure puts it the book "Nippon
Pop", when it comes to synth music "knows his subject frighteningly
well", I just want to point out that J-POP is a term that commonly
refers to just about all commercial music made for the Japanese market
that you could possibly pin the word 'pop' onto, it almost just
functions as a dividing line to separate made in Japan from music by
made by foreigners and stuff that has nothing traditionally to do with
pop like jazz, classical, etc.

So just as you can say of the music of say the U.S. you get all the
major label output together and if you can say that +98%? of all USA-Pop
is crap if there was such a widely used blanket term like USA-Pop. Japan
is kind of like that with it's major labels though until the last couple
years independent labels were far smaller and more marginalized than
quite a few other major markets. You have a similar
situation too where majors will have concocted imprints, quasi indy
labels and real labels with distribution deals under their wing. (I've
found in the big cities obscure small label imported music tends to be
easier to find retail than domestic labels). All this holds true pretty
much everywhere, not just Japan, especially with many non-mainstream
genres where most of the action is on the independent scene.

I guess what complicates things a little is the mainstream J-pop is
generally, at least to me, is intollerable in any kind of regular doses.
The thing is very little of it gets out of Japan so I can see why it has
a novelty to many, if it catches you then you get extra props for
something that probably isn't getting out of Asia. Plus you hear
something like it in most Anime. In general what gets out of Japan is
predominantly the alternative to very fringe scenes. Plus to the average
person reading the list, one probably has little fix on what mainstream
really sounds like. Even Puffy Amiyumi is a vintage US-UK flavored twist
that's not quite the norm.

So if anyone actually cares, what do I think is going on here? It's what
I've been unofficially calling post-Shibuya. You had Shibuya-kei which
was coined around 1993 but dates back to the late 80s. Arrangement
intensive eclectic pop refabricated from predominatly retro and select
kitsch elements (think Pizzicato 5). IMHO the technical aspects make it
a little tough to do in the bedroom, not that one can't. Anyway that
sort of died out with parts absorbed into the mainstream and what's
being called that by some now seems to be actually bossanova or
jazz-electronica in origin. Then there is a genre Guitar-Pop which was
very much a personal back to the basics kind of music countering the
mainstream with its teams of producers, arrangers, session players, etc.
Then there is Takemura's Childisc label and roughly similar works on
many other small labels. More of them seem to be from Kansai than Tokyo.
What I hear is a foundation of simple often pretty melodies with a do it
yourself expreimental approach to actually producing it. That I guess is
the underlying charm. You have music valued for being experimental all
over the place but here you have an intentional or unintentional
foundation that is likely far more maybe naieve than experimental, then
the assembly and performance are experimental. Maybe reinvention is the
operation as a whole? Though one wonders how much will be discovered
after working within this process? Does it become a formula? Can you
continually rediscover? Will the next thing be discovered or will the
next thing be a reaction to too much of this? So intentional or not what
comes out appears to be a happy accident.

nicholas d. kent