18.2.12

YUKARI FRESH : Yukari's Perfect! (Escalator CD, 1997).

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I treated myself to wee binge in Juno's sale t'other week &, amongst other elusive delights, picked up the 2-part Yukari Fresh career retrospective, Flammable Tapes (her "greatest hits" collection) & Instrumentally Flammable (a companion disc of demos, remixes & rarities). They're immaculately packaged, of course - most Japanese CDs are - each disc daintily housed inside an elegant origami-style cardboard wallet, with a 1' badge, a peculiar scrap of Zen-like embroidery, & an info-packed insert printed on gossamer-thin bible paper. They're a great way to catch up with Yukari's extensive back catalogue - each containing a minor avalanche of short & sweet, playfully melodic electronic chanson that could actually be obscene paeans to noodles for all I know, my understanding of Japanese being predictably non-existent. Unfortunately, they're not cheap. I coughed up £20 for the 2, an absolute bargain considering they'd normally retail at a whopping £25 apiece (I've already seen Flammable Tapes on Amazon for £50+). That said, the former is one of the most played CDs I've bought in ages, so it was worth the splurge...

Back when I was young(-ish), £25 was a ludicrous amount of money to pay for a compact disc. Never mind if it had been specially imported from Japan in minuscule quantities, was elaborately packaged, & came complete with that all-important - sigh - obi-strip (I've no idea why I still get excited about those rather nondescript, often incomprehensible rectangles of printed card but, inexplicably, I do). One of the great advantages of Internet blogging was that I was finally been able to hear dozens of the horrifically overpriced, long deleted Japanese imports that I'd drooled over back in the mid-90s - pre-Paypal, pre-mp3, pre-iTunes. Hai!

Yukari Fresh was one of the very first Shibuya-kei artists I heard - after the ubiquitous Pizzicato 5, of course - c/o Bungalow Records' genre-founding Sushi 4004 compilation. The solo project of Yukari Takasaki (ex-Snapshot), her debut, Yukari's Perfect!, was released on the P5's Escalator label in 1997. The epitome of cheeky Tokyo whimsy, it made Altered Images sound like King Crimson (don't panic, it's also very short). As a friend once pointed out to me, if the industrious inhabitants of Bagpuss's Marvelous Mechanical Mouse Organ had ever tried their hand(s) at producing hi-NRG Yé-¥é techno, Yukari's Perfect! could plausibly have been the result. Though aesthetically reciprocal, it pre-empted Go-Kart Mozart's deadpan, Bullring Centre-inspired 'novelty rock" by several years.

As with many of the original Shibuya-kei artists, Yukari went on to pursue a bewilderingly prolific career over the subsequent decade, including releases under her punkier Yukari Rotten nom de plume, & collaborations with Mansfield (on this wonky cover of Beck's "The New Pollution") & Fantastic Plastic Machine, while hosting her long running Radio Active Man radio show (named after one of the songs from Yukari's Perfect! as it 'appens). Her most recent - & possibly final - record, 2008's Grrrl Summer Cape Kid Etc EP (Escalator's swan song release) was far more rough & ready than her earlier work, with each song recorded live in a single unedited take while Yukari sang, whistled, played kazoo, & wrestled with the drums. An oddball crossbreed of lo-fi & high tech, the intentionally crude samples subvert her refined electronic wizardry, & vice versa. It's strange to think that, like most of her Shibuya-kei contemporaries, Yukari is pushing 40 now, as her music's unaffected child-like charm has remained largely unsullied. One question though: why are so many Japanese indie acts obsessed, at least lyrically, with English football?

3 comments:

  1. Hi, would you reupload? please. Thanks a lot, awesome blog...
    PD: About the football obsession, there's a comp from trattoria label, produced by Cornelius, called Bend it Japan `98, for 98 world cup. Altought yukari isn't in it it's really good, with Citrus, Salon Music, Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her.

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  2. Is that the one with "Ball In Kick Off" on it? I think I might've heard it somewhere sometime long ago... :)

    p.s. I've reloaded Yukari.

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  3. Thank you for the effort.. yes, that one is on it, it might be available somewhere, the second track by Citrus is amazing! Thanks again...

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