Japanese Disco Music Feature

With a record like “FFA” by The Leather Nun containing lyrics like “I shoved my greased fist right up to your prostate” and “shit on my knuckles, pain up the ass for you” we are talking about punk, right? Twanging guitars, synthesizers recorded way too upfront and subject matters such as bestiality and shooting heroin? No, “FFA” is not rock or punk. It’s a disco record, only the kind that has zero to do with the Bee Gees or Kool and the Gang, let alone Madonna. What we got comes stomping out from the furthest reaches of the land of cosmic disco, an underground phenomenon almost completely unknown in many parts of the world.

 

Cosmic dance music was born in Italy during the late 70s at a club called Baia degli Angeli, where electronic rhythm tracks were fused with African beats and miscellaneous sonic flotsam washed ashore from god knows where. This style became very popular for a short while and then gradually disappeared as these things do, until it got reanimated with a vengeance about 10 years ago. Forest festivals dedicated to the sound like Camp Cosmic began attracting nu-hippie types and clubbers bored with relentless house and tekkno. In Palma de Mallorca, the courtyard of an old prison was transformed into a party space for two days and nights during the Landing Festival organized by the Glove crew from Barcelona, while across the street in the new one, the most dangerous inmates of Spain either danced in their cells or banged their heads against the walls in desperation. And the scene is growing. When this Covid thing is over deejays will again arrive with obscure European seven inch records of ever more bizarre content: low-fi bleeps from forgotten space disco epics, heavily accented moans by porno starlets (ahh ja, fick mich, fick mich), synths from the former republic of DDR, tinny violins from Munich and interestingly, enka-style chanting from Japanese non-hits the existence of which few diggers know even in Tokyo, even now.

The sleeves of Japanese 45s are often unique, taking the full force of the excess of the 70s. Of course as Pablo Picasso said, good taste is the arch enemy of creativity, and these carefree designs burst forth triumphantly from an imaginary parallel cosmos in which political correctness does not exist and low rent disco is an celebrated form of art. The drawings seem to have absorbed the sounds on the three minute long tracks and vice versa, jamming as much into the small spaces as possible. A few examples. “Momoe Chan” is a homage to an actress who was apparently in her eighties when the record came out. The sleeve has her crawling on her knees completely nude, with a lascivious smile on her face. A wailing voice enthuses over a midtempo thump, making the tune sort of a sonic alternative to the granny-fanny videos featuring old ladies doing rude things, quite popular in Japan (as well as in Germany). Another eye catching one is the Japanese release of “Give Your Dick To Me” by Barbara Markay, an American performance artist known for ethereal new age poetry readings and a song called “It’s All Rite to F*ck All Nite”. On the sleeve, drops of what appears to be sperm made of stainless steel shoot from a huge pole-like appendix looming over the delighted woman. She already has one drop between her teeth, ready for swallowing. The percolating protorap track has Barbara shouting exclamations like “You can give your nose to your coke, and baby that ain’t no joke, don’t be too blind to see, you got to give your dick to me!”.

 

Japanese disco usually aped the Americans with a polished smooth vibe and big production value, which is boring. What we have here is something else. Some American influences work, though. Surf music was huge in Japan during the 60s so when disco hit, the steel guitar sound was adapted to the new beat. “Notteke 79 (Lets’ go 79)” by A. Butler and the Astromachine promoted reckless Sukeban girl gang-style behavior in English, even, with encouraging lines like ” …the bottle…drink up, drink up…and throw away!”. I bet Miki Sugimoto grooved to this.

There are records unapologetic in praising WW2 fighter pilots from Germany, Russia and Japan, as well as romantic-sounding instrumentals that suddenly turn into porno outrages with screams, insane laughter, drooling and sticky sounds, whiplash effects and growling animals. Anything at all went during the 70s, and much of it wasn’t pretty. But it was fun. Some of these records have become very expensive in Discoqs but many still come dirt cheap if you know what to look for. In Japan, most fans of the more outré don’t really want to know about them, embarrassed their country produced something that tasteless. That is, until they hear the records in a club, then they go wild, or as wild as it is socially acceptable.

So, where can one get into this stuff, and more? I have a Soundcloud page, go there. Then there’s a blog called Overfitting Disco which has been offering sound clips, mixes and arcane dancefloor-related information for 13 years now, and where nothing is too bizarre or too lame. Check that out too. And keep in mind what Pablo Picasso said.

 

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