May 10, 2011

Techno-pop (or not)

Just recently the (wikipedia) published an article about the upcoming NYC gig of Hikashu, and surprisingly, this humble blog got mentioned in it.

First of all, I just want to say thanks for the author. It gives the band more exposure in media, and regarding this blog, there are some people coming here via the article.

Here I would like to point out two things.

One correction: Hikashu made their US debut in 2005. In the year they performed at the Stone in New York City. Not this year.

And the other: I have some disagreement that Hikashu being labeled as "techno-pop." (Sorry for being so sensitive, but this is a fan blog after all.) Let me explain this.

Which bands do you associate with Japanese techno-pop? I'd say, P-Model, Polysics, and Yellow Magic Orchestra. Nope, I have nothing against them. Nor I don't want to alienate the fans of those bands, neither (In fact, many of them is also the hikashu's audience). I just think that putting the band with them in the seemingly rigid genre is no longer valid. Very broad term like J-Pop is okay, but techno-pop is not.

Why I'm taking the trouble to make such a remark? Here's the reason:

I've long held that they're out here, the latent audience for Hikashu, the undiscovered audience for them. I'm convinced there is a broader audience for their music, especially outside Japan. That's why I started this blog. I just wanted to fill the gap. And in my opinion, the possible audience is no longer in the so-called Techno-pop vicinity, and labelling them as "techno-pop" might alienate such people. I fear that.

Certainly, there was a period that Hikashu was commonly considered techno-pop and the band themselves accepted it. After all, they made a debut as a techno-pop act and became widely known as such. Having said that, I believe describing their current music is techno-pop is, again, somewhat misleading.

I don't intend to make a definition of "techno-pop" here. That's beyond my capability. Instead, I restrict myself to indicate some element of the style.

My understanding that techno music mainly uses pre-configured, steady rhythm.

Contrary to that, the rhythm of Hikashu's live performance changes all the time, extend and contract as the collective thinks fit, like a jazz ensemble. Interplay, improvisation and spontaneity are the main elements of their performance. And I doubt most of so-called techno-pop fan generally enjoy such kind of thing.

I hasten to add that it's not the problem right or wrong. It's just a matter of taste.

In my opinion, it is only the first few years that Hikashu could be described as techno-pop. After that, they mutated themselves something else. Or maybe, in the first place, they have never been as such.

Regarding Theremin, I don't think using that instrument means techno. It's the question how it is used. For example, listen to Makigami's solo album called "Moon Ether." It is an album only using his voice and theremin. And it's not techno, but very intimate, so humane music.

* * *

Sorry being so picky. Dismiss it as just another mumbo-jumbo if offended. I have to admit myself being such a fan.

So Hikashu is techno-pop, or not? I already expressed my answer here. How about you? Now it's your turn. Make a judgement for yourself, at the Japan Society. Go see them, and have fun!


  1. Technopop was a late 70s, early 80s genre in Japanese music that described a technology driven New Wave style with Kraftwerk being the archetype. To me it's fair to say there was a synchronicity with the genre and their 1978 demo as well as their self-titled major label album and "Natsu" with that synchronicity wearing off with subsequent albums.

    So it's definitely fair to say for the majority of their career they weren't / aren't techno pop. But then again, it is an easy to understand term already in English and their best known and "popular" songs were from that era and continue to be performed with differing interpretations. They are also always on just about anyone's short list of key technopop bands.

    It's also significant in the case of the specific concert that collaborator/guest Tomoe Shinohara was literally a child of that original technopop era and then came to pop cultural attention as a teen in the 90s singing pop vocals with atypical faster harder electronic music than her contemporaries.

  2. Thank you, nick. In my opinion, the first album, "Natsu" and "Hikashu Super" are only albums which I could recommend to the general techno-pop fan. "1978" has some experimental side so not "pop."

    In "Uwasa No Jinrui," they stopped being a pop act and turned themselves something different. In fact, at that time the seriousness of the album was taken as "gloomy" by some, and it's been said that the album alienated many bewildered fans.

    Also, it needs to be mentioned that the early commercial recordings of the band were thoroughly supervised by their producer, Chikada Haruo. In a sense, he made the band so pop. It was his intent and he openly said so then. And he didn't participate in recording the "Uwasa No Jinrui" album, though credited as co-producer.

  3. Appreciate your indefatigable support of Hikashu. We share your enthusiasm for this incredible, legendary band and are very lucky to have them performing at Japan Society Friday. According to Makigami, the 2005 performance was not with regular band members, so he considers this this week's NYC performance to be the official North American debut. J-pop, electronic, world fusion, improvisational, avant noise--whatever they choose to play from their 20+ year oeuvre, it will be an incredible night!