The staff of World Music Network is taking audiences back to Japan. For the second time this year, the label is scheduled to release a compilation focused on music from the Far East in the form of The Rough Guide to the Best Japanese Music You’ve Never Heard. The latest entry in the label’s ongoing Rough Guide To… compilation series, this record is another presentation that any World Music fan will find engaging and entertaining. That is due in no small part to the record’s featured musical arrangements. They will be discussed shortly. While the songs themselves make for reason enough to take in this record, the general lack of background on any of the songs in the record’s booklet detracts somewhat from the compilation’s appeal. This will be discussed a little later. The sequencing of the record’s songs works with the songs themselves and rounds out its most important elements. This will be discussed later. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the compilation’s presentation. All things considered, they make the record another positive addition to WMN’s Rough Guide To… series.
World Music Network’s second musical journey to Japan this year – the first came in January through The Rough Guide to Avente-Garde Japan – is an interesting return trip to the Land of the Rising Sun. That is due in no small part to its featured songs. The songs run the gamut, stylistically speaking. The record offers listeners a little more of that avant-garde in ‘Saboten no Wakusei’ (roughly translated, it apparently means ‘Cactus’ Excitement’), as well as an intriguing East-Meets-West hybrid style work in ‘Eh! Eh? Eh!? Janaika.’ A close listen to this song reveals a subtle ska-type guitar line alongside the arrangement’s more distinct Asian influence. The airy kick of the snare drum and the light, bouncy bass line alongside that guitar line adds even more to the noted ska feel. The whole makes for quite an interesting work in itself. Audiences hoping for something more along the lines of some traditional Japanese music will get that in the form of ‘Kyuramun Rimse.’ The simple use of the vocals and obvious Asian instrumentation makes the nearly four-minute opus seem like something that one might expect upon taking a trip to Japan in terms of older music of the region. As if that is not enough, the compilation even offers a clearly 19060s/70s Western influence in its opener in ‘Don-Don Bushi.’ This song, with its instrumentation and overall sound, sounds like it belongs in the soundtrack to the original big screen adaptation of The Odd Couple, believe it or not. It is just one more unique addition to the album that shows the importance of the album’s presentation. Between the songs addressed here and the rest of those that fill out the 16-song record, the arrangements featured throughout are diverse. They are unique in that diversity, too. They form a strong foundation for the record’s presentation.
For all that the songs and arrangements featured in this record do for its appeal, the record is not perfect. As noted, its companion booklet is lacking any substantive background information on any of the songs. The maximum that audiences receive is a brief mention of the diversity as well as songwriting credits. Considering the noted diversity, it would also have been nice to know at least a little bit on that diversity. How much of the music is traditional and part of the nation’s culture? How much is more modern? Again, background on all of the songs is impossible, considering there are 16 songs. At the same time, having at least a little bit of background information would have been nice. It would have made for a good starting point for discussions and research on the songs. To that end, that lack of background noticeably detracts from the compilation, but not to the point that it makes the record a failure. Keeping that in mind, the sequencing of the songs works with the songs themselves to make up for that one detraction and make for one more positive.
The sequencing of this compilation’s songs shows a deliberate direction for the record in terms of its energies. It starts upbeat in ‘Don-Don Bushi’ and picks up even more from there in ‘Otemo-Yan,’ which boasts some vintage funk and Latin influences alongside the more Asian influences here. The record’s energy becomes increasingly laid back and relaxed as it progresses. It is not until the reaches ‘Hiyamikachibushi’ that it gets more up-tempo again. Between the two points, the stylistic approaches and sounds change just as much as the songs’ energies, making for even more interest along the way. The record’s energy eases off again from there right to the record’s end while the sounds and stylistic approaches vary just as much. The constant changes throughout the record and thought out changes in the songs’ energies works with those variances in style and sound to make the record well worth hearing and one more positive addition to WMN’s Rough Guide To… compilation series.
World Music Network’s latest addition to its Rough Guide To… compilation series is another positive entry in that series. That is due in part to its featured songs. The songs feature influences from East and West throughout. Those influences create a wide range of stylistic approaches and sounds from one song to the next. That ensures listeners’ engagement and entertainment throughout in its own way. While the record’s musical content ensures listeners’ engagement and entertainment, the lack of any substantive background on any of the songs and artists detracts from the presentation, at least to a point. That negative impact is not enough to make the record a failure, though. It just would have been nice to have had that information included. The sequencing of the record’s songs take the variety in the sounds and stylistic approaches into full account, as well as their energies to keep listeners engaged, too. That attention to detail works with the record’s songs to complete the compilation’s presentation complete and make it that much more engaging and entertaining. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the compilation. All things considered, they make The Rough Guide to The Best Japanese Music You’ve Never Heard a welcome return musical trip to Japan from World Music Network. The compilation is scheduled for release Friday through World Music Network.
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