Our monthly digging through the crates of Two Side Records store in Bucharest, brought our attention to some Japanese records. Seven out of ten records are based on this music. From city pop to jazz and electro, our findings brings out some amazing jams from the far island.

Have a listen to the playlist of our selected tracks from this digging.

01. Videotapemusic – Souvenir 
180g | 2020

Music and film producer Videotapemusic released in 2018 Souvenir, an 8-track record, using samples from recovered VHS tapes, which he also used as a visual accompaniment to the music.

If this was not enough to convince you to give it a chance, then the features that you will find on the eight tracks in Souvenir will surely do.

You will find one of the most appreciated artists from the current Japanese scene. Beipana on steel guitar, MC Sirafu on steel pan, saxophonists Satomi Endo, Satoru Takeshima, and Kaoru Masuda, trumpetists Taichiro Kawasaki and Makoto Takahashi, DJ Eskimo, guitarist Yuichi Ushioda, percussionist and hand sonic player Hajime Matsushita, keyboardist Yu Arauchi, Videotapemusic on pianica and vocalists Sansuke Yamada, Toshihiko Ikeda, and Ryu Tsuruoka. Aint's this a collection?

Souvenir is a record you need to have in your bag.

02.  Ajate - Alo
180g | 2020

Another must-have release form the universe of Japanese music comes from Ajate. Formed in 2011 by the band-leader John Imaeda, Ajate reunites 10 Japanese musicians. Known for their blend of afro-groove dance music and traditional Japanese music called ”Ohayashi”, the band creates a unique musical soundscape.

After releasing their critically acclaimed and sold out Abrada LP three years ago, Ajate returns in 2020 with the long-awaited brand new album Alo!

03. Inoyama Land - Commissions: 1977-2000

Released at Empire of Signs, a label ownd by Spencer Doran of Portland experimental ambient duo Visible Cloaks and Maxwell August Croy of Root Strata, the project created by Makoto Inoue and Yasushi Yamashita’s spans nearly four decades.

The “Land” of Inoyama hovers between imagined mythical space and concrete reality, extending beyond physical releases into installations, site-specific sound design and theatre scores.

After their famed Haruomi Hosono-produced 1983 release Danzindan-Pojidon, the duo became involved in the budding environmental music business that was taking shape in Tokyo during the development boom of the asset bubble – working directly with figures like Hiroshi Yoshimura (with whom they developed sound design for the International Stadium in Yokohama) and Takashi Sekiguchi (Bamboo from Asia). This collection expands upon their sound heard on Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990 (LITA 167) to illuminate material that is even lesser known outside of Japan – some of it presented publicly for the first time.

04. Masahiro Sugaya - Horizon, Vol. 1

More than 40 years have passed since Masahiro Sugaya started composing and producing music in a wide range of fields and practices.

From arrangements for musical acts like the acoustic guitar duo Gontiti to acousmatic diffusion at spaces like Paris’s Groupe de Recherches Musicales (GRM), Sugaya's reach is almost exhaustive in its breadth, but it was in the 80s bubble-era kankyō Ongaku scene that he first found his musical voice. Horizon, Volume 1 presents a window into these works, culled from Sugaya’s early scores for experimental Tokyo theatre group Pappa Tarahumura.

05. Piper - Summer Breeze

Piper`s Summer Breeze was released on Yupiteru in 1983. Led by guitarist/vocalist Keisuke Yamamoto, Piper formed in Hamamatsu in Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan. He later moved to Tokyo where he released his first album on Yupiteru Records, thanks to the original guitarist Yuji Suzuki who had become an A&R man for the label.

Summer Breeze is Piper`s second album and it`s inspired by the sounds of Masayoshi Takanaka and Tatsuro Yamashita, as well as the concept of “BGM” (background music) championed by YMO.

Embark on Piper`s boat and enjoy a smooth sound trip, crafted with vocoders and drum programming to recording guitars, direct through the board. This might be the best idea to prolong your summer.

06. Piper - Gentle Breeze

Yes, we got caught in Piper`s sound world. Their third album, Gentle Breeze continues their blend of groovy and synth-pop funk beats.

This is the first time the LP is available on vinyl since its original launch in 1983 in Japan.

As Gentle Breeze is considered to be an extension of the previous release, Summer Breeze, we recommend you listen to both albums on shuffle and step into Piper`s sound journey. How about that?

07. Victor Cavini - Japan

Victor Cavini, aka Gerhard Trede was able to play over 50 instruments being a prolific composer. He was born in 1917 in Hamburg and composed for cinema newsreel in the `50s and `60s, ticking everything from nature documentaries to political segments.

With more 3.000 compositions, Trede reflects on political developments and experiences of the time, including the one form World War Two.

On Japan release, he reinterprets traditional folk rhythms from across Japan using a koto - the national instrument of Japan, as well as other stringed instruments, funk beats, and psychedelic guitar sounds.

We are sure you need this koto-funk madness in your collection!

08. Teebs - Anicca

Teebs, aka Mtendere Mandowa, released Anicca after five years since his last body of work. The album features collaborations with ​Panda Bear (Animal Collective), Sudan Archives, Ringgo Ancheta, and many others.

Reflecting on his 5-year hiatus from releasing music, he says: “It feels like it [the music] comes from a different place now. My inspiration to work has changed and my choices with it. I’ve explored more with what tools and instruments I used and tried to be more open to collaboration.”

Teebs is a full-time artist being also a well-respected visual artist. On Annica you will find its blend of music productions and visual arts, as Teebs signs the album cover.

09. Oneness of Juju - African Rhythms 1970-1982

African Rhythms 1970-1982 is a repress of a compilation released on Strut in 2001, with a master by Frank Merritt at The Carvery.

Led by Plunky J. Branch, Oneness of Juju style blends melodic vocal lines with interplays between drums, bass, tenor sax, keyboards, and different various percussion instruments. It a smooth trip through African culture touched with funk and R`n`B influences.

We love the introduction that initiates you in the universe created by this masterpiece. It sounds like this:

These are African rhythms, passed down to us from the ancient spirits.Feel the spirits, a unifying force.Come on, move with the spirits!Stand up. Clap your hands. Groove with the rhythms.Get down. Get off.

10. Soul Jazz Records Presents Fashion Records: Style & Fashion 

For the last selected disc, we propose you a Soul Jazz Records release centered on the Fashion Records - one of the iconic independent labels to come out of the UK, with a nearly 20 years activity.

Fashion Records earn their respect by having a uniquely British perspective that shaped both lyrical content and musical fashion. And like all the great music labels – from Studio One to Blue Note – Fashion was able to create a significant roster of its artists.The release is a ride through some of the unique and heavyweight tracks to come out of the Fashion stable. Some classics, some lesser-known, but they are all 100% killer!