How old, ambient Japanese music became a smash hit on YouTube
November 30, 2020 8:18 AM   Subscribe

Seven out of 50 video clusters the researchers identified are deemed "situational" music. This designation doesn't operate under the standard concept of genres but rather the context in which the music takes place. This includes relaxation music like "Ambient/Chillout," "Sounds of Nature," and the ASMR-affiliated "Hair Dryer Sound." The paper concludes that situational music, sometimes deemed trivial by musicologists, is growing in popularity. They also found a cluster of "Ethiopia/South Sudan Music," suggesting the context of a local scene comparable to '80s Japanese ambient music. 2800 words from Catherine Sinow on YouTubecore for Ars Technica.
posted by cgc373 (23 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite
 
The experience of empiricists verifying something with data that has appeared to be self-evidently the case, has caused multiple obscure albums to be reissued, and has been discussed in various radio features.

I’m excited to drive into this story, but it does make me weirdly salty to see people quantifying something that’s been evidently part of my personal experience for some time, even if such quantification is necessary to show it. There’s a broader lesson in that, of course.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:38 AM on November 30, 2020 [6 favorites]


I listen to that red one with the cat on it all of the time. You can tell from the fact that I don't even know the name of it that I am definitely one of the people indulging in this phenomenon. I skip from youtube rec to youtube rec without looking at the names.

Here are some of the albums I have bookmarked:
Gabor Szabo
Piero Piccioni
Wild Havana
posted by tofu_crouton at 8:42 AM on November 30, 2020 [8 favorites]


More commentary on algorithmic hit-makers: Why is an obscure Pavement B-side their top song on Spotify?
posted by wordless reply at 9:13 AM on November 30, 2020 [4 favorites]


Oh, this is fantastic.

Most of my day is spent writing and editing and I can't do it to silence and I can't concentrate well when listen to certain types of music that I usually listen to -- Instrumental Synthwave (and other *wave variants) have been really good for that lately, but I'm checking out tofu_crouton's Gabor Szabo and it's also hitting that spot of "engaging enough to occupy the lizard brain, not so engaging that it engages the wordy bits of my brain."

Thanks so much for this!
posted by jzb at 9:32 AM on November 30, 2020 [3 favorites]


I listen to that red one with the cat on it all of the time.

Yasuaki Shimizu's Kakashi. He is really great, his album Aduna has been my quarantine album of the year.
posted by Think_Long at 9:37 AM on November 30, 2020 [3 favorites]


I shouted aloud when I saw the album covers at the top of that article. That's the stuff I've been listening to on YouTube! Even weirder, the red cat album was in the vinyl collection of the guy I housesat for this summer. It's all good stuff! Particularly good as non-boring background music. I always figured I found it specifically because I was hunting for a bunch of Yellow Magic Orchestra songs. So much for personalized algorithms?
posted by gusandrews at 9:46 AM on November 30, 2020 [1 favorite]


I listen to that red one with the cat on it all of the time.

Yasuaki Shimizu's Kakashi

Reissued in 2017
posted by Going To Maine at 10:14 AM on November 30, 2020


Looking forward to reading the article, but would also appreciate any more links from folks who've found channels or albums that I can use to feed my algorithm! Thanks.

Earlier article on YT and lo-fi hip-hop here.
posted by the sobsister at 10:21 AM on November 30, 2020 [1 favorite]


I’m excited to drive into this story, but it does make me weirdly salty to see people quantifying something that’s been evidently part of my personal experience for some time, even if such quantification is necessary to show it. There’s a broader lesson in that, of course.


There's a huge value in quantification even when something is part of personal experience - breaking it away from the various logical fallacies that often lead us to think of our lived experiences as being far more universal than they really are. Or, on the other side, it can help those whose lived experience doesn't include that thing, to understand and recognize it's legitimate and real, rather than just dismissing what they don't personally know.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:25 AM on November 30, 2020 [2 favorites]


Ooh, don't forget commoditization. There's no pleasure, no matter how small or fleeting that can't be made unbearable by marketing if there's a dollar to be had. Quantify value, then sell it back to people.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:02 AM on November 30, 2020 [3 favorites]


There, I found a book made up entirely of comments from a video with 1.2 million views: Watering a Flower by Haruomi Hosono.

Seriously, do read. The only good comments on YouTube.
this is music to play at a party when the only guest is a pot of dirt.

i came here for a humidifier but now im crying in a store

This music makes me want to believe that there is May 32nd on the calendar

I am floating aimlessly in the precambrian sea

You sit in your childhood house but everything is painted white and it smells slightly of vanilla

this plays when im walking my dog down the street but all the houses are identical and the street goes on forever

I feel like I've entered Bjork's random access memories.

This is what plays at ant graduation
posted by Pallas Athena at 12:00 PM on November 30, 2020 [6 favorites]


(Watering A Flower, previously)
posted by Pallas Athena at 12:06 PM on November 30, 2020


It's interesting to see the data, but I'm still inclined to give a lot of credit to the crate diggers and bloggers and reissue labels and whatnot for popularizing the stuff as well. That might be antiquated thinking on my part. Here's a bunch of articles on the topic, many of which have lots of links:

2018, Fact Magazine (essay, many YT links)
2018, Crack Magazine (listicle w/more YT links)
2019, Pitchfork (review of the Kankyō Ongaku compilation) (here's one from The Japan Times)
2019, Vulture (gives a lot of credit to Spencer Doran's 2010 Fairlights Mallets and Bamboo mix for Root Strata)
2019, Low End Theorists (includes a pretty good Spotify playlist)
posted by box at 12:32 PM on November 30, 2020 [7 favorites]


I've been listening to this stuff as well.

I had no idea it was a phemomenon. I use YouTube to find stuff like "The Chill Out" by the KLF that you can't get on Spotify, and other longer pieces of music or mixes, so I assumed that's why it kept recommending this stuff.
posted by chaz at 12:58 PM on November 30, 2020 [1 favorite]


There was a pretty good internet radio station called Groovera - Low Mercury which specialized in interesting variations on this kind of music.
posted by sneebler at 7:34 PM on November 30, 2020


Annnnd they're defunct.
posted by sneebler at 7:40 PM on November 30, 2020


I’ve mentioned this before, but I have a gigantic YouTube playlist of Japanese ambient and city pop. A lot of the vids have been deleted, probably due to reissues becoming more popular and therefor copyright claims, but there are still a ton of great albums. You can find it here!

There are probably some albums that don’t fit due to me accidentally adding them, and duplicates as well. I don’t keep up at a certain point.
posted by gucci mane at 10:36 PM on November 30, 2020 [5 favorites]


I've enjoyed the recent pieces on algorithimic discovery of music. I also like Japanese ambient. I do think though there's a combination of algorithims and curation that leads to these accidents. I keep up with a lot of the music press (online of course) as well as using Spotify's Release Radar.

I do find that without the input of the press as well as the algorithim, it tends to just suggest more and more of the same with diminishing returns. But the two together are pretty good. My gut feel is that all those listens driven by the press (and word of mouth beyond that) programme the algorithims lead together to good receommendations.

In short the algorithims still 'need' us to feed them with external references and content to do their job from what I've observe. I don't see this changing yet.
posted by treblekicker at 6:38 AM on December 1, 2020


I was introduced to a lot of ambient stuff through Warren Ellis' blog (now mostly defunct due to him apparently being a dbag), and I've found that to be kind of the only kind of music I can listen to anymore. I've lost to ability to directly LISTEN to music, kind of a what-do-I-do-with-my-eyes-and-hands issue I suppose, but ambient fills the stifling silence and doesn't mess with my thinking.
posted by Dmenet at 10:33 AM on December 1, 2020 [2 favorites]


Oh, also I'd like to do a shout out to Field Works and their album Ultrasonic to being the best I've listened to in a long time.
posted by Dmenet at 10:34 AM on December 1, 2020 [1 favorite]


Listening to some of these "Japanese jazz" ones, I now understand better why Swing Out Sister has been quite popular in Japan for some time. Because their post-80s, more mature music, fits right in. Particularly in their instrumentals:

Almost Persuaded - the instrumentals (full album playlist)
Alpine Crossing (from "Somewhere Deep in the Night")
La Source (from "Where Our Love Grows")
posted by dnash at 3:16 PM on December 1, 2020 [1 favorite]


A new find: François de Roubaix's soundtrack to the French tv show (?) Les Secrets de la Mer Rouge.
posted by tofu_crouton at 11:58 AM on December 2, 2020




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