Mates’ Crates: Kei Ishiguro – Rain

Mates’ Crates, a series headed up by our friend Andrei Sandu, dives into the tales behind records and digs deeper into our connections to music. This time, to Japan, with Kei Ishiguro’s “Rain”. 

Label: Invitation  | Year: 1982 | Discogs: Kei Ishiguro – Yokohama Ragtime

I can’t remember where or when I first heard Kei Ishiguro’s “Rain” (雨, pronounced “Ame”). I could spend the rest of this piece expressing my appreciation of the logographic Kanji alphabet – logographic because the characters are visual representations of words and concepts. But having finally come to terms with the fact that 雨 looks like rainfall, I’ll move on.

I have lots of thoughts for this piece, but in a bid to appease WordPress’ readability algorithm (which frequently tells me that mine needs improvement), I’ll attempt a concise summary. I love this album and I’ve wanted it for ages. Receiving it for Christmas was magical.

“Rain” sounds like the glass-half-full optimism I wish I had. Other highlights on the album include the painfully-short “Driving Crazy” and the potassium-infused “BANANA“, which features on recent a Nippon Funk compilation alongside Masayoshi Takanaka, whose “Brazilian Skies” I wrote about last year.

I was disappointed by how little I could find about Ishiguro online. Whilst a thrillingly nostalgic reminder of how far the internet has come, her distinctly Windows XP website shed very little light.

On the other hand, I could write at length about Japanese city pop. In short, the economic boom of the late 1970s saw the emergence of new, Western-influenced music aimed at an emerging class of wealthy, city-dwelling listeners with Walkmans and cassette decks in their cars. Felix Thompson does a much better job of explaining this here.

Tracks like “Yokohama Honky Tonk Blues” are a Japanese vision of what the US is “supposed to” sound like. (Incidentally, Yellow Magic Orchestra’s “Tighten Up” is essentially  Japanese musicians performing an American vision of what Japan is “supposed to” sound like).

Regular readers / listeners will know I’m fascinated by cultural crossovers, so was immediately drawn to hearing distinctly African-American genres like Jazz and Funk performed in Japanese. Coupled with beautiful art which I can only describe – in a probably culturally unaware way – as feeling distinctly Japanese, albums like Yokohama Ragtime are simply wonderful.