Artist Spotlight: Hirohisa Horie, music

Artist Spotlight: Hirohisa Horie (weeks one and two)

While much of the music that makes up the ambiguously-defined Shibuya-kei genre is sampled from preexisting recordings, the scene’s collection of backing musicians were nevertheless every bit as essential to the creation of the Shibuya sound as anything played from a sampler – and among these talented studio players, gifted multi-instrumentalist Hirohisa Horie stands head and shoulders above the rest. With only a small scattering of solo works across a decades-long career, Horie is never one to hog the spotlight, but that isn’t at all to suggest that he wouldn’t deserve to.

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Artist Spotlight: advantage Lucy, music

Artist Spotlight: advantage Lucy (weeks three and four)

(Photo credit goes to Japan Live, used with permission)

Just as Pizzicato Five and Flipper’s Guitar started out as full bands before being stripped down to duos, Cibo Matto’s short-lived five-member lineup was likewise reduced back to two when the group returned from hiatus, and Original Love went from four members to just one, advantage Lucy started with five players in its band and ended with two. Not that you’d be able to tell from listening to their music – in both live and studio settings, the duo are surrounded by session players that make sure the group’s sound is as rich as it ever was, even as the songwriting team has been more than halved.

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Artist Spotlight: advantage Lucy, music

Artist Spotlight: advantage Lucy (week two)

Lucy Van Pelt, having been whittled down from its original five-member lineup to four in the wake of their original bassist’s departure, went through even more changes as the band entered its third year. Signing to EMI and rechristening themselves “advantage Lucy” (a name previously used as the title of their second mini-album), the band were among the last of the golden-age Shibuya-kei acts to successfully make the transition from the indies to a major label – and possibly the most graceful.

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Artist Spotlight: advantage Lucy, music

Artist Spotlight: advantage Lucy (week one)

(It is incredibly hard to find good pictures of this group, photo from Smashing Mag)

While some of the groups that made up the Shibuya-kei scene of the ’90s had gotten their start in the previous decade (such as previous Spotlight groups Pizzicato FiveFlipper’s Guitar and Original Love), the late ’90s found the genre’s explosion in popularity leading to a whole slew of new artists coming on to the scene. Unlike many of the derivative acts that would come up as the 21st century dawned, these late ’90s performers further diversified an already varied Shibuya-kei musical palette, taking elements from what musicians such as Konishi, Oyamada and Tajima had started and running with them every which way. Yukari Fresh, Cymbals, ROUND TABLE, Fantastic Plastic Machine – some of the most beloved names in Shibuya-kei made their debut in the latter half of the 1990s, including this month’s spotlight group advantage Lucy (although they weren’t always called that!)

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Artist Spotlight: Original Love, music

Artist Spotlight: Original Love (week two)

Every month, Memories of Shibuya will be taking a look at a different artist or group, with featured songs – one per week – highlighting the peaks (and, occasionally, troughs) of their musical career.

Original Love underwent some dramatic changes along with the transition from an indie label to the major leagues, and one of the most dramatic changes was in the adoption of a completely new sound – one far more in line with the Shibuya-kei movement that was quickly picking up steam than the rock music that Tajima first made his name with.

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Artist Spotlight: Original Love, music

Artist Spotlight: Original Love (week one)

Ema9lPXhEvery month, Memories of Shibuya will be taking a look at a different artist or group, with featured songs – one per week – highlighting the peaks (and, occasionally, troughs) of their musical career.

Even as the internet obliterates most barriers to attaining information, and just shy of all the world’s music is conveniently accessible from anywhere across the globe, there still remains a fairly strong divide in terms of which Japanese groups fans outside of Japan do and don’t know about. Former Matador signees Cornelius and Pizzicato Five sit comfortably on one side of this divide, having gained significant cult followings outside of their home country, while on the other side sit acts like Love Tambourines and this month’s spotlight group, Original Love. These groups never released albums or performed overseas like their more well-known scene counterparts, and as such they remain far more obscure on the global scene. So, naturally, Memories of Shibuya is here to step in and shine some light on a more obscure corner of Japanese history, with our spotlight falling on former Pizzicato Five vocalist and sometime Negicco collaborator Takao Tajima’s long-running band, Original Love.

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