Portals: Stories from Tokyo

 
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It's a miracle, I remembered my sound recorder on my trip to Tokyo earlier this month. I was traveling alone, so I had no excuse not to put it to good use. No-one to ask for my time, or interrupt an 10-minute silence. I managed to take down a whole bunch of record stores on my trip and write about them here, yet still squeeze in a couple of days worth of field recordings. 

This latest Portals episode (six) is focused on the sound of Tokyo, Japan. My recent experience - to be exact - told through the stories of these field recordings in-and-around Tokyo. The below mix, takes on the exact same story and journey I took to gather these field recordings. In-between, I've added some of my favorite Japanese ambient music that helps extend the story from that day. 

After watching Japan exit the World Cup at 5am, I found myself on a deserted Shinjuku road (a rarity) and not wanting to return back to bed. Instead, I headed back to the hotel to grab my Zoom recorder, returning to Shinjuku station as the very first trains started to fire up. I then headed south through Yoyogi, walking to the Meiji Shrine. This is a beautiful park, set in the middle of Tokyo, a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo and packed full of natural beauty. I walked around here for a few hours, and as the hoards of tourists began to appear, I made a quick exit, jumping on the train at the south of the park, at Harajuku. 

The next day, I headed out to Koenji, capturing more sounds on and around the trains, the small market area, and a very noisy Pachinko (slot machines), eventually ending up in Shibuya, roaming the streets and eating ramen. You should be able to hear all of this in the mix as the story progresses from Shinjuku to, Meiji, Harajuku, Koenji and Shibuya over the course of two days. 

Additionally, I thought why let these recordings go no further, so I've posted them up on the ASIP Bandcamp for everyone to enjoy. It's set at $1 so it adds to your collection when purchased, but feel free to email me if you'd like a Bandcamp download code. I'd happily allow you to use these recordings in mixes and productions too, just let me know - I'm interested to hear what you can create! Download Field Recordings (Bandcamp).

Enjoy this audio trip around Tokyo and the accompanying ambient music from Japanese musicians and Japan-inspired productions. 

Download Mix (MP3).

Episode 6 Tracklist:

01. ASIP - Shinjuku 6am
02. Ryuichi Sakamoto - 音盤 [Milan]
03. Ryuichi Sakamoto - 兄の亡霊 [Milan]
04. ASIP - Early Risers
05. Chihei Hatakeyama - The Distant Sound of a Bustle [Home Normal]
06. ASIP - Yoyogi commuter
07. Ametsub - Sun Of Madrid [Nothings66]
08. ASIP - The Gravel Path
09. Koss - Ancient Rain [Mule Electronic]
10. ASIP - Chōzuya
11. Hiroshi Yoshimura - Creek [Air Records]
12. ASIP - Meiji Before
13. Toshiro Masuda - Presence [Mushishi Soundtrack]
14. ASIP - Forest In A City
15. Susumu Yokota - Hagoromo [Leaf Label]
16. ASIP - Rise of the Cicadas
17. Toshiro Masuda - Mushi  [Mushishi Soundtrack]
18. Hiroshi Yoshimura - Green [Air Records]
19. ASIP - Rise of the Cicadas
20. ASIP - Interruption
21. Nobuto Suda - Nobody Levee [A Strangely Isolated Place]
22. ASIP - Selfies
23. Ian Hawgood - A Film  by Chihei Hatakeyama [Home Normal]
24. ASIP - Harajuku Station
25. ASIP - The Announcement
26. Biosphere - Fujiko [Touch]
27. ASIP - Trip to Koenji
28. Kaito - Travelled Between Souls [Kompakt]
29. ASIP - I Believe I Can Fly
30. Arc of Doves - Pluto [ANAY]
31. 仮想夢プラザ - あなたの目で [Virtual Dream Plaza]
32. ASIP - Presented Through The Curtain
33. ASIP - Goodbye Shibuya
34. Aus - Different Sky [Someone Good]
35. ASIP - The Walkthrough

 

Digging in Japan: ten of Tokyo's best record stores

I just returned from a dream trip to Tokyo, traveling alone, allowing me the complete freedom to do what I've always wanted to do; spend my entire time in some of the many great record shops Tokyo has to offer, listening to music and taking pictures of a pastime I admire. Tokyo is renowned for being an audiophile's dream in both store and equipment terms, and I'm sure by the end of this you'll see why. 

There were ~25 record shops/locations on my shortlist to visit. This Resident Advisor article was a good start for research along with some great venues too, along with this one on Discogs. Some general internet digging and a couple of hot tips from some of you also helped. I had been to Tokyo a couple of times before, but I never had the time to truly dig in, so a few stores had been on my 'must revisit' list for a few years. Now, it was time for a visit with nothing on the agenda other than "DITC". 

I managed to get around to about 15 shops in total. One of them was no longer around and one was a new addition after stumbling across it by accident. Ten of them, I felt were worth capturing here for future reference. At the very bottom of this article you'll find the full list I amassed. I only really scraped the surface...

This series was originally published as a series of photos on Instagram (@astrangelyisolatedplace) and I will continue to add stores to it via the #ASIPRecordStores hashtag, as life and digging goes on. 

Technique (Shibuya, Tokyo)

Technique is undoubtedly the best store in Tokyo for electronic DJ’s. There's not much you can’t find here if it has anything to do with the best of the deep and dark stuff. Technique stocks a bunch of the latest techno, local labels and an extensive used section - where I ultimately spent most of my time, as the staff on the day didn't speak much English, so I didn't want to waste my time asking him for some obscure Japanese bits. 

I came for the techno, but walked away with a copy of Arovane's ‘Tides’ (still missing from my collection) and Pete Namlook's ‘Definitive Ambient Collection’. They were also spinning Eternal Beams feat Laraaji whilst I was shopping, and as with most record store experiences, I had to pick up a copy to remind me of the time I spent browsing. 

Average cost: $$$ (3/5)
Specialty: Techno, used and new. 
http://www.technique.co.jp/

Big Love (Harajuku, Tokyo) 

If you can find it, two floors up and set back into the Harajuku neighborhood, you’ll think you just stumbled across someones living room. You wouldn’t be wrong - it’s the record collectors dream living room.

Records from the Big Love label, plenty of independent rock, pop and a decent electronic and ambient/experimental section (Northern Electronics on full albeit expensive show) plus a small bar serving up Japanese Craft Beers (IPA's, Ales etc) and a lovely selection of merch to rep the shop, if you can ever drag yourself away from this haven. 

Pretty sure they do food too, but that tips plate made me worried about trying to do anything else other than buying music. 

Average cost: $$$$
Specialty: Independent rock, pop and alternative with a good selection of ambient and electronic. 
http://www.bigloverecords.jp/

Disc Shop Zero (Shimokitazawa, Tokyo)

20+years in existence, E-Jima san tells me he went to Bristol many years back and continued to make friends, falling in love with all kinds of bass music, from Dubstep to drum & bass.

This shop is hard to walk around but you only need your arms to dig through the many hundreds of records - often left in their promo boxes, sent from his UK friends. Signed albums adorn the walls from many of Bristol’s biggest bass and dubstep musicians. And because people probably don’t come here looking for electronica, I found some great stuff hidden amongst a neglected electronica section, including: a Metamatics 7”, an Autechre ATP compilation, a Static Caravan picture disc and a classic ISAN album.

Average cost: $$$
Specialty: Bass, dubstep, jungle, electronic. 
http://www.discshopzero.com/

Next Records (Shibuya, Tokyo)

Without a doubt the most pristine, meticulous, well curated used house section I’ve ever come across. 8x2ft of perfectly alphabetized pristine House records, with many first presses in perfect condition. 

From the early days of Mr Fingers and Frankie Knuckles up until the prime-era of Strictly Rhythm and Masters at Work (the good years!) they have it all. Many are ordered per pressing or edition so you can walk out with 2/3 copies of the same record if you’re after the originals plus other versions. This is the kind of place that spins a record whilst you're on the floor, and your eyes prick up to recognize an early house sample you didn’t even know existed as its own record from back in the day. "What's playing right now?"...

Average cost: $$$$
Specialty: Used Jazz, Hip-hop and House
http://www.nextrecordsjapan.net/

Lighthouse Records (Shibuya, Tokyo)

Overlooking the busy streets of Shibuya, Lighthouse is another DJ oriented shop similar to Technique, but focused more on House, Nu-Disco and all things Balearic. A rare and unusual gem to find in the busy streets of Tokyo, as soon as you step into the store it emits warmth, space and calm. Big speakers and a legit turntable setup, the space also sells some audiophile merch and headphones like Phonon

I managed to find that classic drum’n bass remix of The Beloved's Sun Rising, by Tom Middleton, and Vol.3 of the Italian Dream House compilation (the first two volumes are bankers!) Lighthouse is also the perfect home for Japanese selector, Chee Simizu (video). 

Average cost: $$
Specialty: Balearic house, Disco, Nu-Disco.

Face Records (Shibuya, Tokyo)

Another little gem in Shibuya across the street from Next Records, this shop has a bit of everything and apparently (although I seemed to have missed it) some brilliant Japanese ambient. I did however manage to score some cheap dub-techno classics from Arovane, Basic Channel and Monolake. 

Average cost: $
Specialty: Techno, Hip-Hop, Jazz, Japanese Ambient. 
http://www.facerecords.com/

Jet Set Records (Shimokitazawa, Tokyo)

I turned up in the lovely neighborhood of Shimokitazawa way too early, quickly learning that record stores in Japan don’t open until about 1-2pm. But if it wasn’t for trying to find Jet Set that early (I walked past it twice) I wouldn’t have spent all morning exploring and walking around the lovely neighborhood.

Jet Set features mostly new music, curated from popular western labels and new Pop from Japan. Apparently the Jet Set store in Kyoto is much bigger and has a more extensive selection as a home base. 

Average cost: $$
Specialty: Pop, Hip-hop, Rock, Japanese artists and new releases. 
https://www.jetsetrecords.net/

Jazzy Sport (Shimokitazawa, Tokyo)

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Half store, half record label (and Yoga studio by the looks of things), this is a small outlet with more of a merch selection than records, with that island above, the center piece for the store. 

I didn’t find any vinyl of interest as it seemed more hip-hop and jazz focused, but I did have fun not fitting into some XL Japan size t-shirts. I have no doubt the selection here however is good given the collective behind the store apparently run some of Tokyo's best parties.

Average cost: $$$
Specialty: Hip-hop, Jazz.
http://www.jazzysport.com/

Be-In Records (Koenji, Tokyo)

I stumbled across this shop by accident whilst exploring the Koenji neighborhood, spotting the sandwich board as I stumbled down a mall of vintage clothing stores.

If you’re a fan of the Beatles or the Rolling Stones, welcome to heaven. They have entire sections devoted to individual band members, and many expensive first pressings adorn the walls priced $700+. I have no idea what I'm looking at when it comes to this music, but the sheer organization and scale of the obsessiveness was enough to keep me peering through the crates for a good hour. The guy behind the counter obsessively scrubber and cleaned records behind his mask the entire time I was there. This is serious business.

Average cost: $$$$$
Specialty: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and anything to do with either of them.

City Country City,  (Shimokitazawa, Tokyo)

The very first shop I visited on my visit this time around, known to the locals as 'CCC'. After sitting at a coffe shop waiting for it to open, I was first through the doors, as the blankets were slowly lifted off the shelves on this hot Tokyo morning. 

Most people seem to come for the amazing pasta that's cooked freshly in a small kitchen, and local coffee, whilst soft folk, ambient or jazz music plays in the background. An old piano sits in the corner and a member of staff cleans records ready for sale, as the smell of freshly cooked garlic mixes with the trusty dusty scent of used vinyl.

I picked up my biggest haul from CCC, including some classic detroit house and techno, but it was probably the inviting environment that kept me going, urging me to find more. not only that, but I was able to have a beer, eat good food, and meet up with friends after a couple of hours in the crates, without even leaving the building. 

Average cost: $$
Specialty: House, Jazz, Folk, Experimental. 
http://city-country-city.com/about-en/

Bonus! Disk Union (various locations)

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You can't mention record shops without mentioning Disc Union. Whilst it may seem like the commercial equivalent of a megastore, it's second-hand selection is second-to-none. If you're looking for essentials from any genre, or classic albums from your favorite artists, this is your spot. I found a first pressing of BOC's Hi-Scores 12" amongst many other things. I made the mistake of going here last, and spent way over budget as a result. You can't walk out of here empty handed...

Average cost: $$
Specialty: Everything (even ASIP releases!)
http://diskunion.net/

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 My full Tokyo record store hit-list (July 2018)

  • Technique (Shibuya) [listed above]
  • Disk Union (Shibuya, Shimo and Shinjuku) [listed above]
  • Face Records (Shibuya) [listed above]
  • Next Records (Shibuya) [listed above]
  • Lighthouse Records (Shibuya) [listed above]
  • Hi-Fi (Shibuya) [Visited, but only old classic jazz - pictured above)
  • Guhroovy (Shibuya) [PERMANENTLY CLOSED]
  • El Sur Records (Shibuya)
  • Tower Records (Shibuya) [Visited, but mainly CDs + pop/chart music]
  • Recofan (Shibuya)
  • Dessinee (Shibuya)
  • Manhattan Records (Shibuya) [Visited, but mainly rap, hip-hop, RnB]
  • Big Love (Harajuku) [listed above]
  • City Country City (Shimokitazawa) [listed above]
  • Disc Shop Zero (Shimokitazawa) [listed above]
  • Jazzy Sport (Shimokitazawa) [listed above]
  • Flash Disk Ranch (Shimokitazawa)
  • Jet Set ((Shimokitazawa & Kyoto) [listed above]
  • Coconuts Disk (Various locations)
  • Be-In Records (Koenji) [listed above]
  • Ella Records (Nishihara)
  • Neds (Shinjuku) [Comes highly recommended but missed out this time - see you soon Tokyo!)

Interested in what records I purchased? See the Discogs list here. Overall, I didn't get any special Japanese editions or extreme rarities, but that's not my style anyway. Interestingly, I did the math based on the lowest selling price on Discogs right now, and it worked out I probably overspent by around $150. However, that doesn't take in consideration the condition of the records for sale (all mine were 'A/B / excellent) nor does it take into account any postage prices if you bought through Discogs. And most of all, it doesn't take into consideration the very action of spending time in a record store, searching through the crates and finding a record you've wanted for ages - that's priceless!

What did I miss? What were your favorites? Let me know in the comments below so I know for next time. Just off to start my life savings again... 

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DJ Healer - Nothing 2 Loose

 
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I needn't spend the time explaining the many guises, both old and new of DJ Healer aka Traumprinz. A quick Discogs check will do that for you. I do however, want to share one of his latest albums released with little fanfare in our world, but with certain hype amongst his cult following, and to the utmost surprise of many at the time.

DJ Healer's, 'Nothing 2 Loose' was a vinyl only release,  so I now find myself sat on Youtube time and time again this past few weeks, kicking myself for missing the vinyl run direct through the label and obsessing over a low-res recording of what is now one of my favorite albums this year. 

Organic, nostalgic, dreamy and effortless ambient and deep house rooted in vivid characterized samples, crackling vinyl sounds and what might be any combination of the aforementioned run through some grainy, tape overdubs. 

You can hear the urban grain of Burial, the malleable hypnotism of The Field, Eno's quaint respect for distant atmospheres, the sampling manipulation of Tongues of Light, and any number of classic Detroit house chords and influences stripped down to their purest, in what is a truly unique and special sound. 

I haven't had feeling since hearing DJ Sotofett's Current 82, or that Leon sample in Fatima Yamaha's What's A Girl To Do - there's this awesome new sense to deep house music recently- much of it attached to sampling vocals from films etc - that really hits the spot. It's by no means a new technique, but this new breed are going deeper than ever. 

Nothing 2 Loose, and the last track in particular, places you in the same room with the cast and crew behind the many samples, as a single tape player whirrs beautiful synthesizers in the background, for your own meditative prayer session.

Someone please sell me the vinyl. 

If this is your thing, then check out the two mixes below: - one as DJ Healer, and another as one of his other aliases (DJ Metatron), albeit pushing the same deep, emotional sound. Just wait until the end of that DJ Metatron set where the Air sample comes in.... 

 

isolatedmix 80 - Roel Funcken

 
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Roel Funcken is well known around these parts; playing an engaging role in our small online ambient community and amassing a respectful following for his output. Whether through his unique IDM releases (read about one we covered a few years back, or a recent favorite of mine here) or even some of his epic ambient and electronica mixes, he's always been one to spend his time pushing the electronic sound forward.

Just this past month, Roel decided to combine a few of these aspects and bring together some of his close community for a worthwhile charitable release. With the help of the esteemed charity collective, Touched Music, "Dear of the Yog" was released to help raise funds for as the name might suggest; a charity that aims to improve the welfare of dogs and cats in Asia. Roel has brought together some of our favorite artists to take on some of his own productions, including Lusine, Martin Nonstatic, Illuvia (Purl), Kettel, and Ochre, whilst also providing a fine bunch of remixes himself. 

If you're familiar with some of Roel's previous ambient-oriented mixes, you'll know he tends to err of the side of 'epic' when it comes to duration. Take a few of his contributions over on Headphone Commute for example. Whilst his isolatedmix isn't quite a six-part series in a similar manner to his Isotope Cobalt project, we still have a trademark journey on our hands reaching nearly 2-hours in length and featuring a wide range of influences, from the deep worlds of ASC, Abul Mogard and Deru, to the light touches of Nest, Purl and Marcus Fischer and the metallic electronics of Ital Tek and Lorn. 

Roel demonstrates a unique ability to effortlessly match tone and texture whilst keeping every twist and turn interesting through many evolving through styles. 

Download

Artist/Track/Release

01. Marcus Fischer & Simon Scott - Thorns (Shape Memory)
02. Toàn - Unsolved (Histós Lusis)
03. Pepo Galan & Max Würden - All Of A Sudden (All Of A Sudden)
04. Deru - 1979 (On a Snowy February Day) (1979: Remixed)
05. Solo Andata - Loom (Solo Andata)
06. Roel Funcken - Android Robson (Ochre rmx) (Dear of the Yog)
07. Rival Consoles - Be Kind (Persona)
08. ASC - Quaoar (Trans-Neptunian Objects)
09. Huerco S - A Sea Of Love  (For Those Of You Who Have Never...)
10. Julien Neto - III (Le Fumeur de Ciel)
11. Clark - Oaklands  (Clarence Park)
12. Autechre - Altibzz (Quaristice)
13. Nest - Charlotte (Retold)
14. Lorn  - SPINNING IN A DREAM (A/D)
15. Rival Consoles - Memory Arc (Persona)
16. Abul Mogard - The Purpose Of Peace (Abul Mogard)
17. Woulg - Ocean (Thin Veil)
18. Kane Ikin - The Violent Silence (Sublunar)
19. r beny - cities sleep like seeds  (cascade symmetry)
20. Legiac - Bycam Fosfane2  (The Voynich Manuscript)
21. Roel Funcken -Pead Bandorum (Kettel rmx) (Dear of the Yog)
22. Purl - Montauk (Evighet)
23. Ital Tek  - Reflection Through Destruction (Hollowed)
24. Roel Funcken - Spawkings (Martin Nonstatic rmx) (Dear of the Yog)
25. Sofus Forsberg - App lol (Udefra)
26. Boards of Canada - Nothing Is Real  (Tomorrow's Harvest)
27. Lorn - Mercy (Ask The Dust)
28. Arovane - ambelio (Atol Scrap)

Roel Funcken Web | Bandcamp | Soundcloud | Facebook

Imagery by Antonie Rault, Hao Wang & Rene Bohmer - edited by ASIP. 

 

Keaton Henson - Elevator Song (Ulrich Schnauss Remix) [Forerunners Bootleg]

 
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We'll soon celebrate ten years since ASIP began (2008-2018) and looking back these last few months, I'm reminded of a time when "blogging" was at its purest. The hunt for music didn't reside on social media alone, nor was it served up to you in feeds or through magic algorithms. Instead, you had to hunt high and low on the internet, often ending up on an artist's own cobbled-together website directory, or a select few music blogs (many of which are no longer around).

In fact one of those (you could say) 'blogs', XLR8R, is still around and offering up the same kind of service it did all those years back, hosting free downloads of individual tracks or under-the-radar indie remixes. Albeit more recently than the times we reference above, in 2014, they offered the brilliant Ulrich Schnauss remix of London based composer Keaton Henson's 'Elevator Song' as a free download. A beautiful remix that epitomized the sound and remixing capabilities of Mr Schnauss and brought that synonymous ethereal shine to the original. 

As we get back to our blogging routes (check out this and this as an example if you weren't following us all those years ago), we thought it'd be nice to continue the age of free downloads, by offering a remix, of that remix, by Forerunners (Brenden LaBonte) via Soundcloud. 

Arizona based Brenden and his Forerunners project heralds from a house and trance background (just check out his Soundcloud for many great examples), but we were originally connected due to his passion for ambient music. Stumbling across ASIP some years ago, and a supporter of the label, Brenden decided to send me this track to see if it was something I wanted to offer up to a wider audience.  At first, I hesitated but then I remembered why ASIP even exists and began all those years back - the joy of sharing great music. 

I am a passionate ambient fan and have been known to selectively rework, remix, and add production to some of my favorites so that I can fit them into live gigs or podcasts and share them with the world. This was exactly the intention I had for Elevator Song, and I think it came together well, at least for my purposes. Properly mastered and road-tested on dance floors worldwide, I felt like it was time to get this into the proper hands, electronic music fans who like myself would hopefully appreciate my humble take on an Ulrich masterpiece.
— Brended LaBonte / Forerunners

Now you all should know me by now too, as I have a soft spot for the more dance-floor oriented stuff of old, and this remix is nothing short of brilliant in the way it gradually builds upon the beautiful melodies both Keaton and Ulrich originally put into play.  

Both Brenden and I take great pleasure in presenting this to you all as a free WAV download below. Enjoy!

Forerunners Soundcloud | Mixcloud | Facebook

Original art by SIX37, @six37 on Instagram