haruka nakamura – ‘あくる日’

haruka nakamura



Okay, kind of, I’m probably going to irregularly update jo’s musings as the mood strikes. Between writing for LYFSTYL and now Cassette Rewind I’m now writing non-stop and gotta keep up with other deadlines. Putting that aside, I still love you cute readers so I’ll regale you with a post (if any of you are even reading this anymore).

I celebrated my 24th birthday this week making me nervous to approach my mid-20s as evidenced by how much fried chicken I’ve consumed (three days in a row of gluttony). In celebration, I watched the re-boot of Sailor Moon, played lots of Assassin’s Creed Unity, and listened to Moderat and Jon Hopkins on repeat. Glorious times. Now, before I go and indulge in numerous libations with pals, I wanted to drop this little beaut from Haruka Nakamura which I’ve bumped for the last month.

His beautiful ambient track, ‘あくる日’ (pronounced a-ku-ru-hi) translates to ‘the next day’ and he nails the essence of early dawn. It’s a subtle track, opening with a distant ocean and birds sprinkled with gentle piano chords. The song is befit with sweet nostalgia that tugs your soul. There are no drums nor a straightforward beat to follow though some chanting vocals pop in towards the second half of the track. Absolute stunner from Haruka Nakamura who’s been on a roll with music so keep your eyes and ears out for more greatness.

As always, thank you for reading jo’s musings and I’ll make sure to grace your screens again soon.

– jo.

miyuki – ghostly vibes EP

Autumn is my favorite season for many reasons, one of them being that it makes people look so much more attractive. The blinding neons of this past summer have finally been put away, introducing neutrals and more flattering tones on people’s bodies to the picture. The biggest downside of this wonderful, slightly chillier weather is that girls are already bringing out their North Faces and Uggs.

It’s too early for this crap. I have to choke back the urge to gag on impulse whenever I see a standard sorority girl mosey on by in this get up when it’s not even October. Seriously people, there are so many more interesting pieces to introduce to your wardrobe to look stylish AND stay warm. I’ve been drooling over the All Saints look book for this coming fall and want militaristic everything in my closet.

Why is fashion so expensive and why must I care so much?

This weather has re-instilled my love for night walks and the female producer Miyuki has been on my playlists for the last couple of weeks. She’s Japanese and hails from Russia with an affinity for dark moods and dream walking showcased in her EP, Ghostly Vibes.

1. Ghostly Vibes

The lo-fi feel of the song makes for a somber song in general. Echoing synths and break beats adds to the quieter ambiance of the song. It reminds me of Baths “Departure” with the sadder, lower quality feel to it. However, Baths and Miyuki prove themselves as solid producers since “Ghostly Vibes” evokes so many emotions that it gets hard to speak when the track comes on. The underlying vocals are dreamy and makes you want to drift off for awhile.

It’s an attention grabber.

2. Things We Left Behind

It opens with mellowed out drums and someone speaking in a foreign language (Russian, maybe? Not entirely sure). There’s some serious bass going on in this song making for a really interesting zone-out song. I listened to this laying on an outdoor pavilion and it was an intense experience.

3. Syberia

I have yet to travel to Russia but when I do I feel like this song would be the embodiment of what I’d feel when traversing the streets at night. It’s a bit heavier in the melody, adding an aggressive song to the EP. It’s subtle in the way this plays out, but the bass and drums make it  have a much fuller sound. It’s a little creepy but so artfully done that it doesn’t bother me in the slightest.


4. Dreamy Mind (feat. Jan Amit)

This was my second favorite song off the EP because it continues with the melancholic mood introduced by “Ghostly Vibes.” It’s also one of the most melodically diverse songs Miyuki gives us with the more dynamic synth line she produces. It closes the EP off nicely making it full circle and does a good job of keeping the listener intrigued. The vocals stand out the most here even though there aren’t lyrics to speak of. It’s a well-produced track, overall.

This is one of my favorite Fall musical works that I’ve found thus far, and it’s only the beginning. I liked the direction Miyuki took with this EP even if the middle two tracks lost me a bit. She began and ended the EP out strongly and, letting each song stand independently of one another, each track is well-executed. Double points for her being a female producer – I want to see more women delivering compelling albums and tracks in the future.

Portals had an interview with Miyuki recently which can be found here. Check it out, support the site! It’s one of my favorite music sites to follow.



It’s not uncommon for me to have crushes on inanimate objects, cartoon characters, cities, or anything which cannot be turned into an actual relationship (like a flesh and blood human). Back when I was a kid, I went to Georgia and fell so in love with the state (not that weird – I used to also run around saying I was a reincarnation of a T-Rex to my first grade class) that I told my parents I was going to marry Georgia.

Georgia is not a person. Georgia cannot give me any physical love in return. Georgia can, however, give me peaches and Forrest Gump quotations.

Fast forward to 2012 and you have a somewhat older and better traveled 20-something who now has a massive, all-consuming crush on Tokyo. This doomed love affair encompasses people who have a similar affinity for the city and Japan, especially musicians.

Cue in submerse. Around half a year ago, Rob Orme, the mastermind behind fusing Japanese pop, garage, and an onslaught of various sub-genres moved from his home country of the UK to Tokyo. Some, like myself, would say it’s one of the smartest moves he could have made.

Since the move he’s released vinyl EPs through Apollo and Project: Mooncircle. His songs are full of life, from sampling day-to-day sounds of the high-pace Tokyo lifestyle and the breath of the city, you can feel what Orme is experiencing as his music plays in your headphones.

Having been to Japan a couple of times now, I’m right there with Orme. I walking through Yoyogi Park, meandering through Shibuya, ogling the shufflers in Akihabara, and spending hours riding on the subways.

I’m not that well versed on garage music as a whole but from what I’ve heard out of this guy (young man, rather) is impressive. The female vocals are fairly common in garage from what I’ve read and heard in the past, but they’re familiar to me in all the haunting music I have in my library. One of the best examples I can think of is Myrkur’s “Why,” with its brooding, terrifying video game quality to it. Not necessarily bleepy, just the vibe of it – kind of like going into the End of the World level of Kingdom Hearts, y’know?

“Never Again” has a very different feel from a typical submerse track because it’s more of a sub-genre than a garage-centric track. This song has been a long time favorite of mine by submerse because of its depressing quality (noticing a trend here?) and of how lush it is. He really is a Midi wizard and you can hear how much time he puts into each song, even if they come off as something fairly simple. Brilliant.

Submerse started popping up on my radar after Nakata Yasutaka released “Pon Pon Pon” by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. Submerse remixed it on his soundcloud page and I found myself bobbing along to it and began hunting through various tumblrs trying to pick up more of his heavy-handed Japanese inspired music. I quickly discovered, however, that his darker music was equally entrancing. His “Mix About You” made me cry immediately after he opened with one of my favorite Stars of the Lid song, “A Meaningful Moment Through a Meaning(less) Process.” It’s not too often a mix tape is so well done that I listen to it over and over again, especially at night.

I realize this post is not as heavily focused on the breakdown of individual submerse songs as I typically do with other artists. This is mainly due to Orme’s extremely well-executed production style. One soundcloud comment remarked that his drums were so clean that you can eat them. Yes, it’s absolutely true. You can literally taste how beautiful each part of a submerse track is on its own, and as a full product. Delicious.

I recommend hitting up his soundcloud page (linked in the image above) and listening to more of the songs he’s put out this past year while he’s in been in Tokyo. Even if you’ve never been there, any appreciator of night walks and introspective cities will find a comrade in his music. I’m looking forward to hearing more city oriented tracks from him  – he’s going to be in Tokyo for another year before heading back to the UK, and by that time, you’ll be able to hear his growth and thoughts on living abroad spread out in all of his releases.

An interview Orme did with Factmag, which is a personal favorite he’s done so far, can be found here. It’s one of the best written interviews I’ve read in a long time, and does better justice in explaining Orme’s thoughts on J-pop, garage, and what his music actually is than I ever could.

Also, for added reference, here’s a link to Myrkur’s “Why” so that you may add an older, glorious song to your night drive playlist.



Three years ago, after a long night of music sleuthing, I stumbled across who is now my all-time favorite producer, Nujabes. Jun Seba, creator of the underground label, Hydeout Productions, has a hand of God when he touches music. Everything he’s worked on is pure gold, and the acts he supported grace most of the playlists I make. Unfortunately, in February of 2010, he was killed by a drunk driver in Tokyo but his legacy still lives on.

He was a master of blending hip hop, jazz, and electronic music into some of the most lush compositions I’ve ever listened to. Every day I play his music and every single time I find a new part to fall in love with. He even did the soundtrack for Samurai Champloo, an anime I hold dear to my heart with all of the bad ass fighting that goes down. It’s created by the same people who did Cowboy Bebop, so you need to check it out. Killer writing, music, and epic samurai fights – what more could you possibly ask for?

This brings me to my new found love of underground Japanese hip hop. After sifting through SoundCloud pages, a complete beauty of a Kobe based producer came my way: Yakkle. His production style is similar to Nomak (also on Hydeout) and is right up the Nujabes alley in his use of piano and hip hop.

While he doesn’t have an EP release, or at least one I’m aware of, his stand alone tracks and remixes are impeccably produced. He seems partial to Shing02 in his remixes, and although I’m not sure if they’ve collaborated before, the work he puts into these songs are pretty bomb.

還元 (Yakkle remix)

This was the first track I listened to by Yakkle and was a near instant hit. It’s got a laid back, jazzy feel to it, with the remixed vocals creating a perfect setting to stare out at a skyline from a high rise. It’s a pretty great winter beat – sorry for being out of season with this one.


This is a perfect homage to a Nujabes track. Like one comment mentions, it is in fact “wicked smooth” and a track I’d play in the bedroom. How could you not? Such a sexy beat with the chilled out piano and an underwhelming drum beat going. I find that with some of these hip hop/jazz tracks that the drums can overtake the entire track. Yakkle bypasses this with a lo-fi scratchy sound from a would-be record player and keeps it relaxed.


Keep him on your list of Japanese hip hop producers to watch out for – he’s still got a lot of room to grow but I think the underground community will keep a keen eye on him.





shugo tokumaru – port entropy

I’m one of those music listeners, that, whenever I’m put in a situation where music is playing in the background I am always listening to it. Literally, cannot fully pay attention to anyone I’m with, even if it is a significant other or someone of interest, because I’m too involved in listening to whatever song is on. I’m also one of those people that knows if someone plays a song twice, or if a mix starts over, or even when a different person takes over for the music.

It’s kind of intense. Whatever.

Cue in me at Sephora about a month ago. As I was checking out, a song by a musician from Japan, Shugo Tokumaru, came on and I flipped out. I immediately started grilling the girl on who was in charge of music selection, where did they get this song, etc. She (sadly) told me it was internet radio but I was still very impressed. Which key words did you use, Sephora, to come up with such a cool playlist?

This guy is relatively unknown, especially in the states, but he’s still a pretty Westernized musician, in terms of folk-pop. Despite that, Shugo Tokumaru is known for being a multi-instrumentalist and possesses an adept understanding of the instruments he uses. His songs could easily be used in movie soundtracks <cough>. The fourth album released by him, Port Entropy (2010), takes on an even more playful sound than his 2008 release, Exit.

I have a huge soft spot for Japanese music as you’ll come to notice. Even though I can’t understand everything he’s saying, without the help of translations, it still makes me long for childhood. As a point, I make a habit of avoiding reading Pitchfork reviews of albums before I listen to them, just because I don’t want to taint my own interpretations of releases. The Jayson Greene review from October 2010, however, I did agree with – he makes the observation that, true to Japanese standards, the main catch of Port Entropy is its nostalgic value. You are constantly reminded of the past, without it being overly depressing (which Japanese music tends to morph into).

Off the album, the songs which gained the most recognition were “Tracking Elevator” and “Straw” but, for me, I fell in love with “Rum Hee” first and foremost. It definitely has more Japanese vibes than the previous two mentioned, but it was also very catchy. “Straw” and “Laminate” felt the most different from the rest of the songs which feel repetitive after awhile. “Laminate” was one of the coolest since right at the end you feel like you’re in Eastern Europe. “River Low” was also a favorite with its almost Ben Kweller vocal range, guitars, and folk-rockish drums.

A glaring problem with the overall aesthetic of the album is the predictability with each track. While solo musicians and producers are more than capable of creating a distinctive album with varied tracks, it’s not so much the case with Port Entropy. You can anticipate what Tokumaru will do next which doesn’t make me enjoy the album as a whole. From the vocals, to the guitar riffs, and even the drums, it’s all very straightforward. Not that every single song should stand out from one another (no flow no go) but there were so many throw aways from the album that it was near obnoxious.

If I had to give the album an overall rating, I’d sit it at a 6. My standards are high, so it’s not often that I’ll give high numbers to artists. The best way to listen to this album is on a playlist set at shuffle. You’ll enjoy the songs on its own, but not in context.


Check out Jayson Greene’s article here.

donnis – nippon sounds

Summers always make me nostalgic for Japanther. The last two times I’ve been there during summer months to rival Chicago’s heat index, have been life changing. Seeing the boy band who changed my life for the better, finding myself (or some BS like that), and meeting new friends has resulted in a large scrapbook (if I did scrapbook, that is) of fond memories.

Did I really just say fond?

In summer 2011, Donnis released a mixtape with a bunch of Japanese producers, Nippon Sounds. Onitsuka Tiger took the initiative by creating a cross-cultural sound for his mixtape featuring three different DJs/producers from Japan: De De Mouse, Joe Iron, and Taku Takahashi. De De Mouse, one of my favorite Japanese producers who also makes some of the happiest electronic music around, put Donnis on my radar. His rapping style is clean (not in a Will Smith, Miami, sorta way) and very biting. Not too hard but still witty enough to make me smile throughout any of his songs.

This was on repeat constantly last summer. It’s catchy as all hell, with dancey jams, summer afternoon drives, and even playable for poolside sexy time.

1. All I Need Freestyle (Baby Star’s Jam remix) – Produced by DE DE MOUSE & Luke Walker

This song makes me feel like a badass. It’s riddled with references to living that “high-class” life but there’s almost a mocking tone to it. Donnis doesn’t rap as harshly as Danny Brown, like in “Radio Song” where he’s openly looking down on rappers who make songs solely for the money and fame. Following Donnis on his Academy Black Hearts blog, you know he appreciates fashion, every type of music, and legitimate artists. The production of “All I Need” is stunning. De De Mouse’s original song, “Baby Star’s Jam” is upbeat and meant for smiles. I like how Luke Walker slowed down the vocals, and took a darker tone with the remix. Solid song.


2. Roll Up Poe Up (Freestyle) – Produced by Joe Iron & Luke Walker

Honestly, I didn’t really focus on Donnis’ rap on this track because I was so focused on the overall musicality of the song. That’s not to say I think any rapper could be put on top of the instrumental and make it well, because Donnis compliments the song well.

3. Gone (Before Gone Japan Mix) – Produced by DE DE MOUSE

Here we have a perfect example of classic De De Mouse production. Only he can take a song about drugs, partying, and egoism and turn it into something you bounce along to and giggle constantly. He uses as a DAW a combination of Cubase and HALion, which, as a software, makes very little sense to me. It suits his tweaking personality and production style – he’s always screwing around with his sounds and layers to create a really diverse sound. The distortions on Donnis’ vocals can get overwhelming at times if you are a fan of listening to his rap in a purist sense. However, what De De Mouse does is tough – gorgeous composition.


4. Ring My Bell (Invader Moon Assault Japan Remix) – Produced by TakuTakahashi

 This is the third song off the tape featuring a Japanese producer as a remixer. The song itself wasn’t a favorite of mine, but after a few listens, all I wanted to do was blast this and roll around on the floor doing primal dances. So great to drop on a hard dancefloor night, where people are willing to get sweaty and turn into disgusting individuals in the name of a good time. I’m distracted writing about this track due to the dance breaks. Sorry, be back in a bit.

Biggest bonus to this mixtape – Nippon Sounds released it for free. That’s right. Link to download is in the cover image above. Enjoy.