Live performance – YMO cover
Yellow Magic Orchestra is the first official studio album by Japanese electronic music band Yellow Magic Orchestra, who were previously known as the Yellow Magic Band. Originally released by Alfa Records in Japan in 1978, the album was released by A&M Records in Europe and North America in early 1979, with the United States version featuring new cover art but without the closing track of “Acrobat”. Both versions would later be re-issued in 2003 as a double-disc format, with the American version as the first disc.
The album was an early example of synthpop, a genre that the band helped pioneer. It was also as an early example of a computer-themed album, and contributed to the development of electro, hip hop, techno, bleep techno, and chiptune. The album’s innovations in electronic music included its use of the microprocessor-based Roland MC-8 Microcomposer music sequencer which allowed the creation of new electronic sounds, and its sampling of video game sounds.
The album sold 250,000 copies in Japan and entered the Billboard 200 and R&B Albums charts in the United States.Its most successful single was “Computer Game / Firecracker”, which sold over 400,000 records in the United States and was a top 20 hit in the United Kingdom.
FACT has a new article on YMO out now – a well worth read featuring all the bands most prominent albums and tracks, below is a preview/intro, enjoy:
Their reach spreads from the charts to the deepest corners of the underground, influencing hip-hop, numerous strains of dance music culture, and even the world’s shiniest pop tunes. Formed in 1978 by songwriter, bassist, and singer Haruomi Hosono, the original aim of YMO was to release a one-off album of technological exotica which spoofed the West’s archaic and offensive fetishization of the “oriental” while simultaneously paying tribute to the musical talents of Martin Denny and Les Baxter, two American bandleaders whose instrumental albums took the post-World War II fascination with tribal primitivism and tropical calm to vibrant extremes.
That album, Yellow Magic Orchestra, made huge waves in Japan and also found its way into Western ears, making connections with a diverse array of talents and sparking inspiration for new listeners. What casual fans seldom recognize about YMO is that they weren’t dilettantes twiddling their way through relatively new technological breakthroughs, but rather were all seasoned players and veterans in the industry by the time of their formation. Over the course of their career they continued to embrace new technologies while finding ways to fuse these breakthroughs with classic pop forms. Subversion was always there, whether it was sociopolitical, technological, or musical.
Hosono initially rose to prominence as a member of Happy End, one of the first Japanese rock bands in the late ’60s and early ’70s to write, record, and release songs in their native language rather than simply aping Western styles with awkwardly enunciated English lyrics. That same desire for a strong cultural pop identity led to the creation of a subverted take on the styles of southern R&B, northern soul, and jazz fusion in Hosono’s next project Tin Pan Alley, which fused those sounds with Hawaiian and Okinawan tropical flourishes in a genre dubbed “city pop”. This smooth, cosmopolitan pop music then led directly to the vibrant “technopop” that Hosono brought to the top of the Japanese charts with the help of powerhouse drummer and singer Yukihiro Takahashi (previously a veteran of glam rock/boogie group Sadistic Mika Band) and a talented young university student named Ryuichi Sakamoto, who was then using his keyboard talents as a session musician, producer, and arranger for a number of city pop artists in Hosono’s orbit.
Operating behind the scenes was programmer Hideki Matsutake, who had mastered the inner workings of early analogue synthesizer technology while working as an assistant to electronic composer Isao Tomita and whose invaluable knowledge helped the group remain on the cutting edge of the era’s deluge of new music technologies.
Together, their respective talents gelled into a zeitgeist-defining moment whose powers dominated much of popular music’s sound in Japan for the first half of the ’80s, and whose aftershocks are still felt today in both popular and underground music circles worldwide. While each member’s discography is vast and deserving of its own respective feature, over the next few pages I’ll investigate some of the key works made during YMO’s initial tenure as performers and producers, beginning in 1978 and ending in 1985.
There’s a wealth of wonderful music to be heard beyond this list, but it’s one hell of a starting point.
Mr. Hideki Matsutake tries the setup of YMO’s synthesizer drum kit (1979) for the exhibition. He was a member of YMO’s world tour in 1979, as a synthesizer programmer (for Moog modular and Roland MC8, etc).
Shot by ZOOM Q4 at Gakki Fair 2014 (Musical instruments Fair) in Japan.
Got a tip on Facebook of this really nice song with YMO. Definitely one of my old time favorites
Strange to see sakamoto-san on drums, but then again i’m sure the ‘roles reversed’ was all part of this video
A slowed-down ambient-ish cover of Rydeen (ライディーン) by Yellow Magic Orchestra, written by Yukihiro Takahashi. Played on a Roland Juno-6 with a Korg Microkorg providing the ‘percussion
Justcame to think about it, if you are a fan of YMO, just like me than you really should check this old 80’s band out. They are especially good if you are studying since this music is good enough to get you into a relaxed moe when trying to focus, but “bad” enough not to get you engaged and start sing a long (this is especially tru since it is instrumental, at least mostly, and you do not understand any of it since it is in japanese.
So let me introduce one of my old time favorites the Logic System
Enjoy and have a nice weekend…
btw sorry it is only still images in the “video”