A Tokyo Psych Legend Heads Out on a Solo Journey
Name: Shintaro Sakamoto
Where he’s from: Tokyo, Japan
Most Like: Ariel Pink, Pizzicato Five, Broadcast
Sounds like: The findings of a secret Brazilian space lab’s sonic research program circa 1975
Indie musician in Europe and North America love to claim that their music is some kind of genre-free genius fruit that sprouted spontaneously from the fertile soil of their brains. You only have to listen to a little bit of Japanese indie before you realize how ridiculous such pretensions are.
Japanese indie scorns your genre conventions and consistently makes everyone else on the planet look like they don’t really have their heads in this musical creativity game. Shintaro Sakamoto’s 2011 solo debut How to Live With a Phantom is one of the most stylish and elegant illustrations of this phenomenon that we can remember ever putting in our ears.
The musician and illustrator fronted the wildly successful psych rock band Yura Yura Teikoku for twenty years. When the band dissolved in 2010 he started making music under his own name and releasing it through his own Zelone Records. His album borrows a bit from every psyched-out corner of the ’70s in a cooly detached manner. There’s a bit of funk and Afrobeat, Caribbean vibes and breezy Brazilian rhythms, hints of tropicalia and Donovan laced with chic flourishes of organ and flute.The ultimate effect is of the classiest lounge ever. Mixing and matching to come up with something as coherent as this is not as easy as it seems.
It’s kind of like how you can take a random sampling of any population give them a budget and send them off to raid a sizeable vintage store some people will come back in an ensemble that is an original and elegant expression of their individual personalities and other people will look like they got into a fight with one of the racks and lost. It comes down to soul. Despite its smooth inventiveness, Sakamoto invested this project with a satisfying measure of feeling and that ends up being the deciding factor in an album that proves very haunting indeed.
How to Live with a Phantom will be available in the West July 17 on Other Music, where it will hopefully silence not a few indie braggarts. Try “In a Phantom Mood” on for size: