Sachiko Kanenobu (Japan)

Originally posted on Fat Planet.

DOWNLOAD: SACHIKO KANENOBU look up, the sky is beautiful

there’s a darker underbelly to having a radio show or a music blog – you have to kiss a fair few frogs to find your prince. that is, you have to plough through a great many unusable or irrelevant releases to find the music that will ultimately filter its way onto the main platform. a few weeks back, i had let my listening pile grow to ridiculous proportions and embarked on a foolhardy venture of trying to consume as many as i could on my sixty-minute drive to work. fifty-five minutes in and i was utterly despondent – nothing was hitting the mark for me and i was beginning to feel that either my critical faculties had abandoned me, or i was simply being too harsh on this glut of musical misadventures. then i loaded ‘misora’ by sachiko kanenobu and everything changed. i don’t know whether it was the aesthetic frustration, the lack of sleep or simply the rare, basic beauty of sachiko’s voice, but for the first time in such a long, long time, a piece of music had brought me to the brink of tears.

‘misora’ is a relic from a moment long gone, one of the first fruits of the burgeoning japanese folk music scene of the late sixties and early seventies. at the time, sachiko found herself working for takasihi inc, a local music promoter. the company’s love of local music, and the knowledge that no one else was likely to release such unorthodox music at that time, led to the birth of URC (underground record club). over the next few years, sachiko and her comrades at URC released a series of albums that remain pivotal touchstones for the era. standing tall amongst them is the self-titled release from happy end – regarded as of the most original japanese bands of their time, particularly as they were writing songs exclusively in japanese.

happy end’s songwriting duo, eiichi otaki and haruomi hosono, began working with sachiko on her own music. relations with boyfriend otaki soured to the point where they were unable to continue their collaboration, and it fell to hosono to arrange and produce much of the material that would become her debut, ‘misora’. hosono and otaki would later go on to found the seminal and hugely influential yellow magic orchestra with ryuichi sakamoto. recorded live in a matter of days, ‘misora’ is as pure as music can be – nothing but voice and acoustic guitar, with the barest hint of post-production sheen. it cuts through the gluttony of contemporary music production work with a gentle sway of the scythe.

a relationship with an american writer saw sachiko leave her native japan before ‘misora’ was released – without gigs or press to support, the album floundered and all but vanished. after a break of nine years, it was thanks to the support of a family friend, science fiction author philip k. dick, that sachiko returned to writing and recording (before his untimely death in 1982, dick had fully intended to produce ‘misora’s follow up). a series of one-off recordings and a collaboration with san francisco’s translator took sachiko through the 80s and early 90s. new solo albums surfaced in 1995 and 98, and as a new breed of japanese musicians began to cite ‘misora’ as an influence, her bare-boned debut finally received a long-overdue reissue in her home country.

this year, australia’s chapter music picked up the rights to reissue ‘misora’ for the first time outside of japan. this new release comes with extensive biographical liner notes, lyrics translated by sachiko and archive photography. sung entirely in japanese and spread across eleven tracks, ‘misora’ can single-handedly restore your faith in the beauty and simplicity of music. as a temporary escape from breaks and bleeps and basslines, a finer album you won’t find anywhere else this year.

buy ‘misora’ online at chaptermusic.com.au