Japanese music recommendations

For the past month or so Apple Music has been suggesting new music from Japan in my weekly “New Music” playlist. I’m not quite sure what flipped the bit in their recommendation engine, but I’m happy it did. If I had to guess I’d say it was the music I was listening to whilst finishing off Sparrow Solitaire for Playdate which has an excellent soundtrack by young Japanese musician Yuyake Monster.

It’s so great to receive tailored recommendations of music that I enjoy, and occasionally find so good it has me doing somersaults. I’m attempting to keep the most enjoyable from each week in playlists on my Apple Music profile, so feel free to check them out. There are a lot of artists featured and I only have time to explore those that make the biggest impression.

So, I’d like to mention a couple in particular:

Nathalie Wise

The track 何もない世界の果てに “A world of nothingness” was featured in the third week of recommendations and it immediately struck a chord with me thanks to its lush synthesisers, range of live instruments and the particular poetic style of vocal delivery. I immediately listened to the rest of the EP and it was all equally good.

A quick google later and it turns out that Nathalie Wise is the name of the band rather than an individual, and the EP was a taster for “Open Sky” their first album in 19 years! What a splash.

I figured if the band thought they still had something to say in 2023 then they must have really had something to say back in the day. So I listened to their 2004 album “raise hands high” and …it blew me away. Instant Super Fan!

The “Open Sky” album launched on the May 2023 Bandcamp Friday, and bandcamp is the only place you can get it digitally at this point. Sadly I wasn’t able to watch the live album launch event video stream as it required a Japanese credit card for payment, but I tried my best! I hope the band release the footage after the album launch period.

Masakatsu Takagi

Marginalia is an ongoing series of daily piano recordings made at Takagi’s private studio in the mountains of Hyogo, Japan. He opens all the windows, welcomes in the sounds of nature, and proceeds to play the piano without any further preparation. In these recordings there are no overdubs, no edits or fixes, everything is just …as it happened. I love this sort of passion project!

At the time of writing 130 recordings have been released since April 2017, making up a total of more than 11 hours of music spanning a handful of albums and dozens of singles. Everything is on bandcamp, and I’ve created a playlist of them all on my Apple Music profile.

Since my introduction was to some of his recent pieces, I’ve gone back to the beginning of the project and am listening to every piece in the series in chronological order. I’m only part way through at this point, but am enjoying it immensely.

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Comments: @gingerbeardman