A few weeks ago we compared the progression of mainstream music scene between Japan and Korea and how it also reflects the continuous contention and battle to lead the tech scene between the two countries . And Korea has the upper hand in both fronts at the moment, with appropriate and effective mass appeal. We showcased Japan’s Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, the quintessential representation of how deeply rooted Harajuku-kei has on the Japanese popular culture (which is reflected, again, in not only music, but in fashion, and in tech).
But that does not mean there isn’t a counter-movement in the brewing. Japan, to my knowledge, is a deeply “disturbed” society. On one hand we see the “hoarders of colors” with the kids of Harajuku, but just a train ride and a few stations away, the Nezu Museum represents probably the complete opposite – Japan’s traditional, zen, heritage. Then we have (somewhere in the middle?) the Aomori Museum of Art with its post-modern, minimalist aesthetics. We see the multitude of dichotomies manifested not only art and fashion, but in the everyday Japan life.
Now going back to Sunday Music Day, instead of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, we introduce you Yoshinori Sunahara. The video above is from his 1999 album Pan-Am. A track titled Hypnotize consisted of groovy, funky sound of the then lounge era. But even by today’s standard, it’s probably already hard to imagine the sound is created by a Japanese DJ.
Now we move to 2 years later, the Spiral Never Before from the 2001 Lovebeat album has progressed tremendously, already deprived much of “colors,” but reduced to minimalist beats and rhythm. Given the fact we are still around the time of N’Sync’s Bye Bye Bye, Spiral Never Before is far more advanced in its time.
Sunahara didn’t do too much afterwards for 10 years, but when he did in 2011, the new album Liminal shows the other side of Japan’s multi-faceted music front, in the minimalist electronic genre. Now give Hypnotize another listen, and see how different the sound Beat It has become.
You may not like any of these 3 tracks, but it is interesting to see how an artist progresses, in a country like Japan, where so much diversity together composes the entire music scene. And the difference is so apparent and polarized it really is “disturbing” (because we are so confused). But while across the Sea of Japan the Koreans are leading the pop/tech scene with winning but rather homogenous sounds and creations, Japan still has an anti-mainstream front that continues to thrive and excel. Sticking to their roots and continue to improve and evolve. So the battle is not over yet, and with consistent innovations a revolution may always overtake the mainstream, and becomes the norm.
Bonus: Check out Yoshinori Sunahara’s subliminal from the same titled 2010 album subliminal (the only one we were able to find is hosted on a Korea site).