From minimalist orchestral classics to contemporary avant-pop tunes, the techno-kayō legend reveals a few important influences behind her most recent album, ‘Fairythm’.
Mioko Yamaguchi’s initial solo run – the now-legendary trio of Yume Hiko [Dream Flight] (1980), Nirvana (1981) and Tsukihime [Moonlight Princess] (1983) – remains a thrilling case study of techno-kayō (read our brief guide to the genre here) at its most powerful and influential. Those works alone cement Yamaguchi as one of the greats of Japanese popular music: works of particularly wondrous, pillowing electronic pop, the kind of that faultlessly blends technological innovation, contemporary experimentalism and popular appeal.
Following Tsukihime, Yamaguchi settled into a prolific career behind the scenes, composing and arranging songs for pop artists like Yuki Saito, Miki Imai and Hikaru Nishida. In 2018, however, Yamaguchi returned to releasing music under her own name. 2022’s Fairythm is the third work since that return, a record of huge scale and fantastical prettiness that combines pop and electronics with various traditional instruments like taiko drums, shamisen and biwa. It shows Yamaguchi as an artist still eager to experiment and progress; still willing to test out new sounds and collaborate with a diverse array of musicians.
Yamaguchi’s playlist delves into some of the crucial influences behind both Fairythm and her music in general.
This song by Meredith Monk is minimalist in that it is a piano-only performance. From the first time I heard her music, I felt she had something in common with me (especially in chord development, etc.). I like this song very much because it is lyrical.
When I write or arrange a song, I like to put a 'sacred' part somewhere. In that sense, I like this Caroline Polachek song because it is a very beautiful, 'sacred' and fantastic arrangement.
I like this song because, despite it being club music, it has a painterly use of sound. I think Jamie xx has a good way of painting songs. There are songs on my album Fairythm that also incorporate club sounds this time, but I was still very particular about the overall design.
This song played in the Netflix show Queen of the South. It has a very old-fashioned Moroder and synth-based sound, but in this day and age, I felt it was very fresh. I recently arranged the song “Dr. Karigari” on Fairythm with an emphasis on the synth bass.
I have always loved the sound worlds created by Trevor Horn, and among the songs he has produced, this song is the one I have listened to the most because of its aggressiveness, story development and spacious mix. I was also inspired by Horn's world when I added an English narration to my song “Dr. Karigari”, as mentioned above.
There are many musicians who have incorporated Japanese instruments into Western music, but Yutaka Yokokura is one of the best and most influential for me. He has a very good sense of how to blend Japanese instruments such as the koto and shakuhachi. Since my debut, many of my songs have used a lot of Japanese instruments – and this is partly due to his influence.
I can say that Mike Oldfield is one of my most listened to artists of all time. Nostalgic melodies, Celtic elements, delayed guitar, etc. – all were very influential!
This is from the early days of Steve Reich, and I listened to it a lot in the 80s. He is the founder of minimal music. I like the way he arranges the sounds, and the minimal yet melancholy song development.
Tags: Mioko Yamaguchi