Culture s Of Soul COSO 21 (LP)
Japan's boogie nights
As Japan's economic boom reached its peak in the 80s, its music scene began to reflect the new-found wealth and optimism of the metropolitan elite. A new genre, City Pop, emerged, presenting a grab-bag of US styles (disco, boogie, soul and AOR) and lyrically reflecting contemporary concerns; chiefly the single life, city living and weekend escapes to the beach.
Culled from a variety of the scene's female artists, Cultures Of Soul's overview does an excellent job of cherry picking its highlights. Sung in a mixture of Japanese and English and chock-full of brash, liquid-synth basslines and exultant vocals, Hitomi Tohyama's Wanna Kiss is an excellent example of the type of joyful, Immaculately crafted boogie on offer. Junko Ohashi's iridescent Dancin' adds a thick slab of electro to the mix, while the riot of 80s synths and sax solos that constitutes Kaoru Akimoto's Dress Down is taken to another level by a chorus catchy enough to induce severe karaoke envy.
It's hard not get swept up in the sheer positivity of It all, or to avoid experiencing an odd sense of nostalgia-by-proxy for a scene whose brash production values and memorable choruses present a neat Japanese refraction of their 80s western pop counterparts. Paul Bowler