Following a short rainy season, which was spent at home listening to new Japanese music, we now have the Japanese summer with its abundance of happy-go-lucky mosquitoes and treacle-like humidity. This also means staying inside under the cool air-conditioner to listen to more music.

So, let’s look at the best new Japanese album releases from the past month, including  a swathe of electronic goodness. We begin, though, with the incredibly summery new record from Shintaro Sakamoto.


Shintaro Sakamoto — Like a Fable

Veteran Japanese musician, Shintaro Sakamoto, is still going strong since disbanding his cult band Yura Yura Teikoku. His latest album, Like a Fable, coincides nicely with the rising temperatures in Japan. It’s perfect for hot summer nights.

The opener, “That was Illegal” is a slow chugging number, complete with a trumpet, plodding along over Sakamoto’s half-spoken vocals. The album gets into more upbeat territory with the next song that could easily be a brass-band number. “You Still OK?” features slack guitar and foreground percussion with snappy hi-hats. Sakamoto’s vocals groove along upbeat, joyously asking “Are you OK?”

The title track transports the listener to a Hawaiian beach. Repeated backing vocals croon over the hula rhythm and funky bass as Sakamoto paints the picture of an idyllic story-like romance.

Elsewhere we see harmonicas in “Sad Errand,” a subdued Sakamoto on “Star” and a wiggle-inducing maraca jazz rhythm and sax on “Thickness of Love.”

It’s hard not to draw comparisons to Sakamoto’s contemporary, Haruomi Hosono. Putting them onto the same playlist is an obvious thing to do. And recommended. This is perfect for holidays and relaxing in the evenings.


Zombie-Chang — Stress de Stress

Stress de Stress is the fifth album in Meirin’s kooky Zombie-Chang project. Following on from previous lockdown album Take Me Away, it’s her hardest album yet and references various personal lockdown projects from Nintendo to knitting.

Starting with “Switch,” the album begins as it means to go on. With hard, club-focused drums taking precedence over vocals which act simply as a sample with an ultimatum to dance, the opening track takes no prisoners.

Next up is “No Toierugenki,” a donkfest, reminiscent of old-school raves in the fields while Thatcher was in power. On first listen, the music is easily a dancefloor-made banger, but the lyrics — touching on mental health and the ability to speak about what is wrong, betray a wish to speak to her younger audience.

The lyrics in “Stress” and “T’inquiete Pas” also touch upon mental health and emotional struggles which makes us wonder how Zombie-Chang’s lockdown experience played out.

The songs themselves are hard and the album is a far cry from her original incarnation nearly seven years ago, when we saw cutesy, acoustic kookiness. Now we have a Zombie-Chang with increased clubbing experience and a desire to create songs for the new clubbing generation.

In Japan, in particular, clubbers have shown a particular fondness for hard style raves and no-holds-barred clubbing since restrictions have eased. This is an album that speaks directly to those people. It even distributes advice for the inexperienced, recasting Zombie-Chang as an unlikely clubbing senpai.


MIRA新伝統 — Noumenal Eggs

Tokyo underground experimental audio-visual duo, MIRA新伝統(MIRA) released their first EP since Torque in 2019. That was a harrowing 20-minute piece dealing with psychological trauma and abuse. Noumenal Eggs, which takes inspiration from various Tokyoscapes, doesn’t get any easier to hear and we’re thankful for that. The whole album features incredibly sleek production from Leray and wrenching vocals from Honami.

“Hosting of an Inorganic Demon” features crackles and demonic crunches, whilst “Disembodiment” encases Honami’s tortured gasps alongside auto-tuned vocals, creaking of an unidentified object and eerie synth. A disturbed world for each enraptured listener.

“Noumenal Eggs” draws from SBKVLT-esque melodies and shattering chimes scratch across the track, haunted by femme ASMR vocals in the background.

“Chronosis” enters a dripping cave, beating out percussion on metal pipes and growling overhead. The album closes with Ziúr remixing “Disembodiment” who somehow creates an even more dissonantly haunting version of the original.

A fantastic album. Very worthwhile listening for those bold enough.

Yuzo Iwata — Kaizu

Yuzo Iwata hails from Hokkaido and splits his time between Sapporo and Berlin. Influences from both his homeland and current base in Germany are evident in the album, Kaizu. Meticulous sound design betrays his musical upbringing at legendary Sapporo club, Precious Hall, honed via Berlin.

“Neverland” is a big-beat chugger, with prominent bass keeping the Paradise Garage-esque synth leashed alongside squelchy acid licks. “Fun Club” harks back to Fabio’s roots with an unabashedly fun, busy house track. One could imagine seeing DJ Harvey popping this on at a summer festival. Forward to “Heroes Show up Late” and we catch a considered, retrospective Iwata, his Brazilian roots on show with a homage to bossa nova. Joao Gilberto would have grooved to this at the club.

The b-side reaches peak time as Iwata gets down to business with a slew of no-holds-barred percussion. “Gamelion” is a percussive dance floor trip, effervescent synths with wild Indonesian style tribal techno rhythms make for a face-screwing call to the floor. “Sundance” is another dancefloor tip. The closing track, “Time 2 L” is a romantic retrospective of electric guitar and bird calls waving goodbye.