Various Artists Nippon Psychedelic Soul 1970-1979

Label
Time Capsule
Released
22nd March 2024

Format Info

LP - black vinyl
The kaleidoscopic psychedelia of 1970s Japan captured a fragile and fertile moment as the country sought its future in funk grooves, heavy reverb and lyrical hallucinations.

The follow-up compilation to Time Capsule’s Nippon Acid Folk, Nippon Psychedelic Soul takes myriad pathways into the tripped-out undergrowth of 1970s Japan. Finding their feet at home and looking for inspiration abroad, the musicians featured here were engaged in the communal soul-searching that followed the breakdown of the 1960s protest movements. Some made it big, others drifted into oblivion. The music they left behind shimmers with intensity.

At the core was Happy End, the first project of YMO’s Haroumi Hosono, whose distortion-heavy guitar and crisp back-beat laid the foundations for Japanese lyrics that flipped the paradigm of Japanese rock music on its head.  With it came a new found sonic ambition, such as in the bold Philly-soul style arrangements of producer Yuji Ohno, whose work with occult wandered Yoshiko Sai shares some of the bittersweet grandeur of Rotary Connection or David Axelrod.

Then there was Jun Fukamachi, a pioneer of Japanese synthesis, whose debut album was a carnival of orchestral funk, euphoric horn lines and rich production, complete with soaring guitar solos, psychedelic organ and a truly cinematic finale. The first and only time Fukamachi would sing on record, ‘Omae’ rips like the ultimate end-of-nighter.

Influenced by giants of the US soul scene, maverick composer Hiroshi “Monsieur” Kamayatsu (otherwise known as ‘the Brian Wilson of Japan’) went one step further, enlisting Tower of Power to play on ‘Have You Smoked Gauloises?’ The B-side to Monsieur’s biggest-selling single, it coasts with sophisticated cool – a liquid bassline and suave keys comping under a roaring trademark ToP sax solo. No surprise it found favour once more on the Acid Jazz dance floors of ‘90s London.

Such was the spirit of experimentation that big studio productions and private press releases sat side-by-side, with the likes of Momotaro Pink and Kazushi Inamura, taking their hopes of success into their own hands with the resources available to them. More reflective but no less robust, theirs was a heavy, fat-backed drum sound, soaked in dramatic, soulful psychedelia.

If some were dreamers and others space cadets, none were further out than sci-fi writer, musician, activist and self-made scientist Tadashi Goino, who transformed his own fantasy novel Messenger from the Seventh Dimension into an operatic prog odyssey with few discernible musical reference points – a majestic and completely bonkers outlier even among company as strange and brilliant as that which is collected here.

Less a compilation of a scene, as a compilation of a sentiment, Nippon Psychedelic Soul is a wild ride from start to finish, shattering the narratives of the Japanese folk and rock tradition into a million tiny pieces.

Other Releases by Various Artists