World Citizen
August 9, 2012 3:23 PM   Subscribe

The Groundbreaking Japanese Electronic band, Yellow Magic Orchestra, has been mentioned on the Blue before, and, not too long ago, the band’s most famous album, Solid State Survivor, was noticed as something every science fiction fan should listen to(#98 on list). But if one really wants forward looking and innovative it is worth taking a closer look at the career of YMO’s most prolific member, Ryuichi Sakamoto.

Despite being a “lazy” student early in life Sakamoto has gone on to have a prolific career that musically incorporates many influences, won him an Oscar and has lead him, in art and beyond, to pursue a life of activism and collaboration.

Most recently He has spoken out at Tokyo’s largest anti-nuclear rally since the Fukushima disaster. In the past he has been committed to the removal of landmines. He is also an outspoken critic of copyright laws which lead him to found a music label, Commmons in 2006.

This stance on activism and freedom of artistry is perhaps one of the reasons he has managed to work with such a wide variety of other artists and musicians.

He has a long standing collaboration with Japan’s (the band) David Sylvian:
Sylvian does the vocals in a 1983 version(“Forbidden Colors”) of Sakamoto’s theme to the film Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence. Sakamoto also acted in the film. Sakamoto can be heard in Sylvian’s work such as the track “I Surrender” from the 1999 album, Dead Bees on a Cake. Decades after their first collaboration they are still working together (Sakamoto’s “World Citizen” 2004)

Other Collaborations include:

The track “Risky” off of his 1987 album, Neo Geo, with Iggy Pop that won the first MTV Breakthrough video award.

An audio production of the Japanese folktale, Momotaro (Peachboy) with actress, Sigourney Weaver.

When he doesn’t collaborate with other artists they find ways to incorporate Sakamoto anyway, by sampling pieces like Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, Zen Gen, and Bibo No Aozora . Sakamoto, of course, has done some sampling of his own from sources such as Blade Runner on his 1986 album, Ballet Mecanique.

Aside from Music and Film, Sakamoto has also dabbled in the medium of videogames. He co-created and scored the Dreamcast game L.O.L: Lack of Love and was responsible for the sound that is heard when the Dreamcast console is turned on.

While Sakamoto shows no signs of slowing down, his daughter, J-pop singer and basis for one of Yamaha’s newest vocaloid programs, Miu Sakamoto, ensures that there will be a Sakamoto making music for a long time to come.

Notable Examples of Sakamoto's Solo, non-soundtrack work:

“Thousand Knives” from Thousand Knives (1978)

“The End of Europe” from B-2 Unit (1980)

“Garden of Poppies” from Left Hand Dream (1981)

“Dolphins” from Esperanto (1985)

“Amore” from Beauty (1990)

The first movement “Grief” from his first non-soundtrack classical album, Discord (1998)

Oppenheimer’s Aria from his Multimedia Opera, LIFE (1999)

Notable examples of Sakamoto's soundtrack work:

Koneko Monogatari ( The Adventures of Milo and Otis)

Royal Space Force The Wings of Honneamise

The Oscar winning score to The Last Emperor

The Sheltering Sky

Wild Palms Miniseries

Little Buddha

Love is the Devil

Femme Fatale
posted by sendai sleep master (18 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a weirdly big fan of his score to the Brian De Palma film Snake Eyes.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:32 PM on August 9, 2012

Oh, holy shit, I didn't realize that the band Doves incorporates part of the score to Snake Eyes into their track "Storm." Well, there you go.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:34 PM on August 9, 2012

Auto-winner of best post contest.
posted by azarbayejani at 3:49 PM on August 9, 2012

Okinawa Song from Neo Geo is one of my favorite Ryuichi Sakamoto tracks.
posted by needled at 4:10 PM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

and this, with Thomas Dolby: Field Work. (NB: has not aged well. The mid-80s were awkward.)
posted by scruss at 4:12 PM on August 9, 2012

I also really love his collaborations with Alvo Noto. Much better than Noto's solo work, imho.
posted by smoke at 4:27 PM on August 9, 2012

Slightly off-topic, RA recently had a pretty interesting interview with Isao Tomita, as well as Hideki Matsutake of YMO.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:35 PM on August 9, 2012

This post is great simply for mentioning David Sylvian. Seriously, very nice post. Thanks.
posted by davebush at 5:02 PM on August 9, 2012

I also really love his collaborations with Alvo Noto . Much better than Noto's solo work, imho.

Smoke, oh man am I grateful you dropped by. I had an example of his work with Noto all cued up and ready to be part of the collaborations paragraph of this post but it somehow managed to escape that fate. One hive-mind is better than none as always.

Anyway, yes, everyone listen to smoke, his work with Alvo Noto is very good and, like a good chunk of Sakamoto's work, it makes you feel a bit like you're in the future!
posted by sendai sleep master at 5:32 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

This Perky Jean Cosmetics comercial (with music by Sakamoto) is pretty close to 80s perfection for me.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 5:34 PM on August 9, 2012

also two great albums with christian fennesz, cendre (2007) and flumina (2011).
posted by facetious at 5:54 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I actually thought I had no idea what any of this stuff was, and then you mentioned Lack of Love. A little poking around on Wikipedia shows the company that made it, Love-de-Lic, was named because the creator loved Yellow Magic Orchestra's Technodelic. Sakamoto wasn't a member at first but is credited as the only writer on their third (and final game).

Sounds like I have some listening to do.
posted by 23 at 6:21 PM on August 9, 2012

Tokyo Melody: a 1984 French documentary (w/ English subtitles) on Sakamoto
posted by inqb8tr at 7:03 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I also really love his collaborations with Alvo Noto. Much better than Noto's solo work, imho.

I came into this thread just to post that. UTP_ is my favorite, but Insen is a close second.
posted by Foosnark at 7:19 PM on August 9, 2012

Also his collabs with Christopher Willits.
posted by Foosnark at 7:22 PM on August 9, 2012

His soundtrack to Ichimei (Eng. Hara-kiri: Death of a Samurai), Miike Takashi's 2011 remake of Kobayashi Masaki's 1962 classic Seppuku (Eng. Harakiri), is sublime.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 7:37 PM on August 9, 2012

A personal favorite: Undercooled, also available sans Korean rapping and in piano-only form.

For reasons I find hard to explain, the lyrics are not what I expected from the song.
posted by koucha at 9:51 PM on August 9, 2012

I really started being interested in YMO when I read the lineup on Public Image Ltd.'s Album (a favorite listen during my teenage years), and saw him alongside Steve Vai, Tony Williams, Ginger Baker, and Johnny Rotten.
posted by not_on_display at 10:06 PM on August 9, 2012

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