Infusions: Shibaura Sound System (芝浦) explores Japan’s leftfield jazz and groove

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A new series connected to our globe-trotting Infusions party where we invite guests to explore the music of a particular country, artist, era or movement.

Shibaura Sound System is a London-Paris collective made up for four friends – Roosterwing, Theo Top, Seiji Ono and Guy – united by a love of Japanese in all its manifestations. While Soichi Terada has shined a light on 90’s era house, Shibaura’s reverence run across the board, from minimal and ambient, jazz rare groove and disco. For their Infusions contribution, Theo Top from the crew has offered up a mix of leftfield jazz and groove to accompany a short interview about their chosen theme.

Sibaura’s next London party is 8th April at Bar A Bar.

Could you tell us a bit about your chosen Infusions theme? What does it mean to you, why is it significant to you as a DJ/collective?

The mix involves various strands of mid 70s to early 80s groove oriented Japanese music that was influenced by the West. From our understanding of the subject, many artists grew up after the war listening to American military radio and were subject to imported western cultural goods. As a result, lots of the music that came out there at the time are takes on originally western styles (soul, disco, funk, jazz etc.) with a Japanese twist. It relates to our collective in the sense that it presents some aspects of what we like and play at the party.

What was the draw about Japanese music that made you want to set up Shibaura Sound System?

The crew came together as a result of a series of coincidences. I got into Japanese music through our friend Hugo Lascoux who’s spent lots of time in Japan. Arthur and Elliot who had started working on a research project about Japanese music were doing a radio show a couple years back at Le Mellotron in Paris and asked if I wanted to play with them at their first Japanese music party in London with Guy, another friend who had booked La Mamie’s (a crew I co-run in Paris) a few months prior. The party was good fun and we really all got along, so we decided to keep doing it. We also came to the conclusion that presenting this music in a festive context was a nice way of turning some people onto it.

What is so unique about Japanese jazz and rare groove, compared to similar sounds from other parts of the world?

Most of it is notably well produced and well pressed, these records sound nice and loud in clubs (we play most tracks off LPs). I think the way Japanese musicians play is also very square, everything is perfectly in place. Then there are Japanese song writing habits (choice of chords, scales etc.) and the use of particular instruments (synthesizers, traditional Japanese instruments like the shakuhashi or the shamisen). In my opinion, listening to Japanese music really gives you an illusion of a sense of what life must have been like there at the time.

One last thing is the packaging, a lot of the sleeves are beautiful or at least interesting and one nice thing about collecting Japanese music is that these records that are like 40 years old are often still in (almost) perfect condition.

Was there a particular route you went down with the mix? No need to tell us the tracklist, but are there any standouts for you?

It’s pretty straightforward – dance oriented with an intro and an outro. Here are three of my favourites:

Neo Museum. Can’t remember the name of the track, it’s the first one in the mix.

Masanori Sasaji – ‘Hot Taste Jam’. Remarkable Jazz-funk number by Mariah band member Masanori Sasaji. Getting reissued on a 12” by our friend Alix kun in Tokyo.

Shohjo Tai – ‘Escape’. Hard to describe proto techno/disco track out on the 12’ of an idol (female pop star) group with a questionable guitar solo. Not sure how this happened, but it’s great!

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