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11 Aug 2017

Mariah "Utakata no Hibi" うたかたの日々 1983 Japan Synth-pop, Avantgarde, Experimental

Yasuaki ShimizuMariah from left to right Takayuki Hijikata, Hideo Yamaki, Masanori Sasaji, Jimmy Murakawa, Yasuaki Shimizu, Morio Watanabe © Senji Urushibata (from Marginal Love inner sleeve, 1981)Yasuaki Shimizu of Mariah

Mariah "Utakata no Hibi" うたかたの日々  1983 Japan Synth-pop, Avantgarde, Experimental


Recognized in Japan for the hit, 'Shinzo No Tobira,'' the entire record is a masterful studio production of Japanes folk and pop idioms filtered through a chamber sounding more relevant today that upon its release over 30 years ago......

This mostly unknown early '80s record from Japan has been absent from conversation for the past 30 years. Now, it is reissued and ready to blow your mind. With mesh of Japanese and Armenian sounds, Mariah's unforgettable melodies walk the fine line they all but invented between its authors’ musical heritages.
Throughout its long, slow journey west, Mariah’s Utakata no Hibi has been an album without context. After a dormant period at home among Japan’s vinyl geek underground, the 1983 record began to spread farther in 2008, when the tastemaking Scottish DJ duo Optimo shared a cut online. That song, "Shinzo no Tobira", which they first heard in a Tokyo record store, has since earned a cult following worldwide for the ethereal lines it traces between Asian and Middle Eastern tonalities, folklorish Armenian lyrics, and futuristic Japanese synthpop leads. Its soundscapes are like those once dreamt by Brians Eno and Wilson. But for all the love "Shinzo" and its parent album have found in tiny nightclubs and Internet testimonials, surprisingly little has been asked or answered about its origins. It's almost as though Utakata—now reissued by Palto Flats—has at last arrived on our shores not simply through a crate digger’s time warp, but from some other world altogether. 

Or maybe a few of them: As befits an album that owes its broader discovery to a Shinjuku record store called Eurasia, Utakata’s plainspoken lyrics are sung in alternating Armenian and Japanese. In this regard—and most others—the record bears no resemblance to Mariah’s previous five, wherein a revolving door of popular Tokyo session men dabbled in everything from prog rock to jazz funk. By 1983, the project was being led by Yasuaki Shimizu, a relentlessly exploratory musician best known for the saxophone takes on Bach’s Cello Suites he would later record in both Japanese mines and Italian palazzos. His brilliant solo outing from the previous year, Kakashi, is Utakata’s only obvious relative. But that earlier work’s East-meets-West patchwork of genres, moods, and scales feels much more cut and dry than the seamless marvel Shimizu would soon create. Given how difficult it remains to find a fair comparison for any of Utakata’s seven songs, let alone synthesize the picture they form together, it’s an album that has well earned its reputation as an elusive classic.

The long tally of pleasant surprises begins with opener "Sokokara…" ("From Here…"), in which slash-and-burn no wave guitar and a frantically overloaded player piano somehow only add to the springtime optimism suggested by the song’s marching beat, blossoming synths, and Shimizu’s skyward warble. "Hana Ga Saitara" ("Were Flowers to Bloom") is a more eloquent draft of the dubbed out, sax-led post-punk that was then beginning to bubble up in England rock clubs, here powered by brass skronk and proto-techno synths. And "Fujiyu Na Nezumi" takes the British nursery rhyme "Three Blind Mice" and translates it into Japanese, Armenian, and a poetic syntax of spare bass, sustained synths, and simple percussion—indicating not so much the album’s sense of humor as the childlike wonder animating its every move. Mixer and engineer Seigen Ono would later work the boards for artists like John Zorn, Arto Lindsay, and King Crimson, but the way he focuses Shimizu’s playtime ruckus of international instrumentation and production techniques remains the accomplishment of his career.

Utakata’s most impressive feat of synthesis, however, lies in its coupling of East Asian and Middle Eastern sounds. The most explicit instance occurs in early highlight "Shisen" ("A Vision"), which weds gorgeous piano pentatonics and koto court music with Armenian vocalist Julie Fowell’s mesmerizing mantra, "Our eyes as one." When the lone, cavernous drum and piercing sine waves enter, the effect is devastating. The twinning effect is at its subtle best on the famously DJ-friendly "Shinzo no Tobira" ("My Life Is Big") that first got Optimo’s attention, where unforgettable melody walks the fine line it all but invents between its authors’ musical heritages.

In 2015, it remains a rare and enchanting thing to hear a piece of convergence culture this effortless—which, after all, may be one reason Utakata still sounds so otherworldly. Another could be the fact that the album owes its existence to a creative moment in Japanese pop that remains virtually unknown to the English-speaking world. Thanks to '80s electronic pioneers Yellow Magic Orchestra’s continued chart success and the glory days of the Japanese economy, the mainstream entered a renaissance of open-mindedness and ludicrous recording budgets, producing an abundance of records that answer Shimizu’s sonic adventures with ones every bit as bold and compelling. Maybe Utakata belongs, then, not to some wondrous alternate history, but a real one we’re just beginning to Jakob Dorof.............Pitchfork.............

Palto Flats is thrilled to announce the re-release of the 1983 classic Mariah – Utakata No Hibi as a double 12″ set. The long sought after final record on the legendary Better Days label, Utakata No Hibi is the culmination of composer and bandleader Yasuaki Shimizu’s early-80s work, often compared to his contemporaries Ryuichi Sakamoto and Haruomi Hosono, as well as experimental new wavers Flying Lizards/David Cunningham, all of whom Shimizu has worked with. Recognized in Japan for the hit, “Shinzo No Tobira,” the entire record is a masterful studio production of Japanese folk and pop idioms filtered through a chamber disco, new wave, synth production, sounding more relevant today than upon its release over 30 years ago. Utakata No Hibi is fully licensed by Nippon Columbia and the Artist, and remastered by Dubplates and Mastering in Berlin. The packaging features additional artwork from Yla Okudaira, who created the original stunning jacket drawings. It also includes a full English translation of the Japanese and Armenian lyrics on the printed inner sleeves

Mariah have long been revered in the Japanese underground rock and new wave scene via five albums which brought hefty jazz chops, avant-rock muscle, and atmospheric synthetic textures together in ways that very few of their peers managed in the 1980s with such consistency. It’s the group’s 1983 swansong, うたかたの日々 (Utakata No Hibi), that holds the most myth and magic, though; a slow-rolling yet celebratory album blending kinetic polyrhythms and fourth world dreamscapes which take traditional matsuri (or shrine festival) song structures and fuse the ancient with the modern to dazzling effect.”...Fact.....

“The record was originally released on Better Days in 1983, and has experienced a slight revival mainly due to its beguiling single “Shinzo No Tobira.” Originally making its way into the bags of DJs via diggers like Organic Music boss Chee Shimizu, that track was included on Swiss DJ Lexx’s entry in Claremont 56’s Originals series and wrapped up Lena Willikens’ RA Podcast. Recently, Tako Reyenga discussed the album’s writer/producer, Yasuaki Shimizu, in a Playing Favourites feature.”..............

I was introduced to Mariah's "Shinzo No Tobira" by Swiss digger Lexx, who included it on his 2012 compilation for Claremont 56, Originals Volume Eight. There were some inspired selections on the CD, but "Shinzo No Tobira" was its finest curveball, a gilded combination of gentle drums, soaring melody and indecipherable (to me, anyway) vocals. The song was originally released on the Better Days label in 1983. It was tucked away towards the end of Utakata No Hibi, the sixth and final album from Mariah, an experimental band led by Japanese musician and composer Yasuaki Shimizu.

"Shinzo No Tobira" was coveted by record nerds long before Originals. Lexx first heard it on Prins Thomas's DJ History Mystery Mix back in 2009. Prins Thomas had in turn picked up Utakata No Hibi on a trip to Japan. Though he's unsure who gave it to him, most roads of inquiry about Utakata No Hibi lead back to Chee Shimizu, a scholarly record collector who lives in Tokyo. (He's published an entire book devoted to strange and exotic music.) For a few years, Shimizu, who's no relation to Yasuaki of Mariah, would bring out copies of Utakata No Hibi on his trips to Europe to give to friends. But eventually the well dried out and copies became scarce and expensive.

Enter Palto Flats, the New York label that's just reissued No Hibi. They say licensing the record was a "tricky and complicated process." This is probably an understatement. Licensing Japanese music is notoriously difficult, and many have tried and failed where Palto Flats succeeded.

"Shinzo No Tobira" is undoubtedly the jewel in the album's crown, but it's by no means the only special moment. That same impeccable drum loop is audible on opening song "Sokokara," whose atmosphere—a combination of folk, new wave and pristine '80s Japanese pop—sets the album's tone.

Some songs, like "Shishen," gesture towards traditional forms of Japanese music, while "Hana Ga Saitara" slips nicely into the wonkier end of new wave. But mostly the album seems to exist in its own exquisite world, one where centuries of Japanese cultural isolation collides with 1980s studio wizardry. There's "Sora Ni Mau Maboroshi," which is busily decorated with clipped drums and little bursts of marimba, and introspective closer "Shonen," which provides a cushioned landing immediately after "Shinzō No Tobira" finishes on an abrupt piano chord. Utakata No Hibi is not just essential for diggers obsessed with weird '80s Japanese synth music. It's a timeless album that deserves a wider audience..........

This is the most popular release from MARIAH.
Band leader Shimizu himself admitted in interview that this was their last and best cd.
Based on listening to this cd I purchased a second cd from the same band - "marginal love".
The second cd didn't even come close in musical quality to the "utakata".

MARIAH is a japanese parallel to Miles Davis. Almost any collaborator in original cd went on to
become a jazz star in his own right. I checked one - drummer Hideo Yamaki....Bykaminsky.....................

When U.S. label Palto Flats reissued Japanese band Mariah’s album “Utakata no Hibi” (“Ephemeral Days”) in 2015, it wasn’t the first time an obscure record from the bubble era had been given new attention. However, the critical praise that followed the release triggered new interest in Japanese artists whose work is a mix of ambient, new age and world music elements.

Haruomi Hosono, formerly of pioneering rock band Happy End, developed an interest in the 1950s “exotica” sounds of American composer Martin Denny, who tried to imagine the music of Asia for middle-class Westerners. Hosono played around with this idea across his “Soy Sauce Music” trilogy of albums in the mid-1970s by exploring music from the Caribbean, North America and Asia, adding his own Japanese perspective to each.

His interest carried over to his subsequent project, Yellow Magic Orchestra, an outfit that subverted Orientalist views of Japan from the get-go via a disco version of Denny’s “Firecracker.”

Artists such as Mariah embraced global sounds in a less biting way.

“From the end of the 1970s, lots of small record shops started opening up in Tokyo and music from all around the world became relatively easy to obtain,” Mariah’s Yasuaki Shimizu told Red Bull Music Academy in 2015.

This openness was also reflected in the music of Midori Takada, Water Melon Group and others. They matched rhythms inspired by African music with Tropicalia, alongside flashes of jazz and rock. “Utakata no Hibi” is a fitting highlight from this period: a progressive melding of sounds that imagined a borderless world....BY PATRICK ST. MICHEL....................

Unfamiliar music can be like a difficult conversation; as you engage with your strange guest and get to know them, you might learn something even if there’s no shared context. Re-released due to a slowly growing DJ cult, Mariah’s 1983 album Utakata No Hibi is part of a musical conversation that may sound startling at first. A post-modern mix of Japanese folk, avant garde and dance pop, its rhythms and melodies are strange, intriguing and, soon enough, enchanting.

Mariah is led by Yasuaki Shimizu, whose versatile CV includes work with Yellow Magic Orchestra’s Ryuichi Sakamoto as well as saxophone adaptations of Bach. This is the career of a well-rounded and adventurous musical traveller, one who embraces whatever music he can get his ears on, no matter the source.

“Sokokara” (“From here”) starts the album with martial percussion that might lead you to think you’ve accidentally stumbled on a Japanese folk album in the dance section. But with that old-fashioned beat laying down a foundation, it soon picks up synth timbres that earn its dance cred, and the surprises keep coming, from Armenian singer Julie Fowell’s Middle Eastern lines and skronk guitar that sounds like it could have come from Arto Lindsay (who later collaborated with the album’s mixer-engineer Seigen Ono). It’s a manifesto for the rest of the album and for a dense, exploratory musical approach that takes yet another turn with a rippling piano melody that rises and ends with a gong. Full of new wave and no wave influences, it still never loses track of its folk roots thanks to that beating drum.

Wooden percussion opens “Shisen” (“A Vision“) with a delicate melody, but again, this folk-based music soon picks up a thumping beat. “Hana Ga Saitara” (“Were Flowers to Bloom”) brings in post-punk sax and a distorted male vocal. The dense arrangements seem to emerge from Remain in Light’s Afro-new wave synthesis, but with rhythms from the Far East. The pulsing eight-minute track sounds like the 12” remix of a new wave spy movie, its sax lines taking on dub echoes.

Fowell transforms the synth-driven “Three Blind Mice” motif of “Fujiyu Na Nezumi” and turns it into a dense drone that becomes ominous when it breaks out of the nursery theme. The album’s vocals may be its weak point, lacking the soul and rhythms of ’90s Shibuya-kei artists like Original Love and Pizzicato Five, but as those groups drew from a multitude of influences, so does Mariah.

Scottish DJs Optimo heard “Shinzo No Tobira” (“My Life Is Big”) in a record store, and their influence led to the rediscovery of Utakata No Hibi, but that marching dance floor favorite isn’t even the album’s strongest track. That would be “Sora Ni Mau Maboroshi,” its darkly percussive intro giving way to a lilting central melody that’s the album’s most persistent earworm. “Shonen” ends the album on another folk-pop hybrid, gong-like percussion following a mechanical groove that picks up timbres from all over: romantic piano chords, calmly searching sax lines, and Fowell’s exotic vocals. Even if you can’t identify the sources you can hear that this music is coming from all over the world; isn’t that a great thing? Utakata No Hibi comes from a restless and omnivorous musical appetite that greedily takes in everything and anything that can make a melody or dance beat. It’s a conversation you’ll want to PAT PADUA..........

A1 そこから……
Lyrics By – Julie Fowell, Seta Evanian
A2 視線
Lyrics By – Seta Evanian
B 花が咲いたら
Lyrics By – Aki Ikuta
C1 不自由な鼠
Lyrics By – Julie Fowell, Seta Evanian
C2 空に舞うまぼろし
Lyrics By – Aki Ikuta, Jimmy*
D1 心臓の扉
Lyrics By – Julie Fowell, Seta Evanian
D2 少年
Lyrics By – Julie Fowell

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..







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