Reflecting upon Haruomi Hosono’s extensive catalogue, noting the forays into rock, muzak, exotica, psychedelia, funk, ambient, chiptune and various other electronic works, its easy to draw comparisons to Frank Zappa; while discontent in the medium he communicated his work, Zappa understood the need to contextualise himself within a rock n’ roll and R&B dialect. The Yellow Shark album recorded shortly before his death demonstrated the expansive orchestral realisations of his work. The prolific composer’s endless flux of material was derived from The Mothers Of Invention – a sleeping giant, masquerading as a rock band, much like Hosono’s formative years in Apryl Fool and Happy End.
Such drastic musical variation in a career could be greeted with skepticism; for example among Zappa’s legions of fans there cannot be a single listener who adores his entire catalogue. Similarly, such is the quantity of Hosono’s work, and disparity within a single artist’s fanbase, the inevitable ongoing process of discovery of his discography is continuously rewarding, if not a little baffling… The experimentation is built upon the strong foundations of Happy End and Yellow Magic Orchestra, thus providing Hosono necessary context, and the license to indulge his wildest ideas in the years that followed. Despite the relentless deviation of style between projects, it feels as if Haruomi was not sporadically delving into these sonic mediums on a whim in an attempt to win kudos from their respective (occasionally) niche audiences, but communicating with sincerity – just in a different musical language each time.
The delightful irony of Hosono’s work is demonstrated no better than in “Watering A Flower” – the piece commissioned for Japanese retail giants MUJI in 1983, the original cassette now fetching an eye (watering) £190 on Discogs; a piece initially designed to lull shoppers into a state of receptive consumerism, the perfect accompaniment to an organic Egyptian cotton duvet cover. Now so far removed from its origins, Watering A Flower now stands as a modern classic of ambient music – the antithesis of its inception and a far cry from the world of commercial mnemonics. Since the 1980’s, the innocence of these ironies has translated into a resurgence of interest in the so-called Japanese Innovators. Labels such as We Release Whatever The Fuck We Want (WRWTFFW) reissuing the much loved “Kakashi” by Yasuaki Shimizu, and Midori Takada’s “Through The Looking Glass”, and Light In The Attic who have reissued some of Hosono’s most celebrated solo work.
The recent rise in awareness and popularity of this era of composers has resulted in the call for live performance. On the 23rd June, Haruomi Hosono will perform selected solo works with a live band for the first time in the UK at the Barbican. Meanwhile, Hosono’s former band-mate and co-founder of Yellow Magic Orchestra, Ryuichi Sakomoto has been chosen to curate the new MODE series of events. MODE is to be an annual, multi-venue event, featuring a diverse mix of music, visual art, performance and film. The inaugural event takes place between 19th June – 8th July.