Since 2017, the world renowned, award-winning archival imprint Light In The Attic Records has been curating an ongoing series of collections chronicling Japanese pop music from the mid-70s to the late 80s during the country’s robust economic boom bolstered by the success of such companies as Sony, Sega and Nintendo.
And on January 22nd, LITA will be releasing the third title in their Japan Archival Series. Titled Somewhere Between: Mutant Pop, Electronic Minimalism & Shadow Sounds of Japan 1980–1988, the latest collection serves as a natural bridge between the periods covered by its two predecessors, Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980–1990 and Pacific Breeze: Japanese City Pop, AOR & Boogie 1976–1986. As a set, they represent the sonic quintessence of Japan in the 1980s, where the country made the greatest comeback in human history by leading the markets in stereo, arcade, toy and cartoon culture. It is also the first ever officially licensed compilation of its kind to be made available outside of Japan.
From the Avant–minimalism of Mkwaju Ensemble and Yoshio Ojima, to the leftfield techno-pop of Mishio Ogawa and Noriko Miyamoto (featuring members of the legendary Yellow Magic Orchestra), this third volume of the series serves as a showcase for the rising independent music scene in Japan. Indeed, major labels like Warner Music and Nippon Columbia continued to cultivate successful creative music at the time, the advent of such affordable media formats as 7-inch vinyl, cassettes and flexi-discs made it possible for indie labels like Vanity and Balcony and such homegrown artists as Ojima and Naoki Asai to navigate a clearer path to success on their own terms.
Comprised of 14 tracks (with an additional eight included with the digital version of the collection), Somewhere Between: Mutant Pop, Electronic Minimalism & Shadow Sounds of Japan 1980–1988 was curated by LITA reissue producer Yosuke Kitazawa and Mark “Frosty” McNeill of dublab fame, who also penned the liner notes to the collection as well.
“I’ve listened to the songs on ‘Somewhere Between’ countless times and they still feel like clouds,” says McNeill of the project, which also features artwork by renowned illustrator/designer Koichi Sato. “As a non-Japanese speaker, I can only grasp at their fuzzy frames while my imagination fills in the rest. Curiosity transcends the need for complete comprehension and spirit propels discovery. We have joyfully charted a vague terrain and assembled amorphous forms from an earnest perspective. These are the sounds of transition and searching—a celebration of the freedom found in floating.”
Somewhere Between is a collection of music, much of it released for the first time outside Japan, that is bound more by energetic vibration than shared history, genre or scene. Housed in a wide–spine jacket, the double LP edition is offered on black vinyl, with different color editions being available exclusively at LightInTheAttic.net and at independent record stores. The compilation’s first single, Mishio Ogawa’s “Hikari No Ito Kin No Ito,” is available now on all digital platforms.
Click here to pre-order Somewhere Between: Mutant Pop, Electronic Minimalism & Shadow Sounds of Japan 1980–1988.