A long time in the making, Brawther and Alixkun finally present the fruits of their labour – years of crate-digging, cherry-picking the finest examples of Japanese house from the late 80s and early 90s. The release, due on a triple-vinyl pack, comprises of 15 sublime tracks which document the growth of the Japanese scene at a time when house music began to sweep the globe. House’s East Coast epicentre in the USA may still define its origin for many, but like New York or Detroit House, Japanese house has its own glorious, unique identity.
Early this year, Hunee shone light on Japan’s revered Far East Recordings and Soichi Terada, a successful project which introduced Eastern talent to many new Western ears. However, Brawther & Alixkun go even further to give the genre comprehensive exposure. Recognisable names such as Terada and The Ecstasy Boys feature, but it’s the lesser-known producers such as Hiroshi Matsui and Takeharu Kunimoto that shine here, the compilation giving them an invaluable platform for their music to be heard. Some of the tracks are rarer than an uncooked Wagyu steak and it’s a pleasure to hear them celebrated here.
Remastered for the release, tracks such as Katsuya’s ‘I Need Luv’ and Kunimoto’s ‘Home (6 A.M. Mix)‘ hit hard with the large, punchy percussion. Sharp snares and deep, flat kicks characterise the Japanese sound, mirroring the abrasive percussion of early New York house but with its own twist. Warm layers beneath the beats create lush soundscapes. Murky basslines add sincerity to the music while wacky synth and guitar riffs decorate the percussive skeleton.
Contrasting much of the music on the release, the acid twinges of Hiroshi Matsui’s ‘Crazy‘ reveal a darker side to the genre. One of the few tracks on the album to feature vocals, it resembles a western peak-time acid favourite yet retains its true identity with intricate sharp, shimmering chords.
One of the highlights, The Ecstasy Boys’ ‘Chi Chi Chi Gan Kanon’ is the release’s most euphoric moment. A track comprising of so many old-skool rave pianos and snares that it nearly induces time-travel back to a 90s warehouse party. The track beams above the rest, radiating good times in every direction.
Never before has the Japanese underground deep house scene been chronicled in this way and Brawther & Alixkun have delivered a valuable resource for any music lover looking to search wider for fresh sounds. It’s an impeccable selection. Historically, the compilation serves not just as a adventure, but an education.
Once Upon A Time In Japan is out now on Les Disques Mystique / Jazzy Couscous. Buy from Juno and most other good online stores..