Hosono, Haruomi: Philharmony LP
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The unbelievably prolific Haruomi Hosono is one of the major architects of modern Japanese pop music. With his encyclopedic knowledge of music and boundless curiosity for new sounds, Hosono is the auteur of his own idiosyncratic musical world, putting his unmistakable stamp on hundreds of recordings as an artist, session player, songwriter and producer. Born and raised in central Tokyo, his adolescent obsession with American pop culture informed his early forays into country music, which he would revisit later in his career. Hosono made his professional debut in 1969 as a member of Apryl Fool, whose heavy psychedelia was somewhat at odds with his influences, which leaned towards the rootsy sounds of Moby Grape and Buffalo Springfield. The latter was one of the main inspirations for his next group, Happy End, whose unique blend of West Coast sounds with Japanese lyrics proved to be highly influential over the course of three albums. After the band’s amicable break up in 1973, Hosono began his solo career with Hosono House, an intimate slice of Japanese Americana recorded inside a rented house with recording gear squeezed into its tiny bedroom. Hosono’s solo career would take many twists and turns from this point forward, with forays into exotica, electronic, ambient, and techno, culminating in the massive success of techno pop group Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO), who made their debut in 1978.
Following YMO’s first wave of success, Hosono took a break from the group and, with help from Alfa Records head Kunihiko Murai, established Yen Records in 1982. The label’s inaugural release was Philharmony, a masterwork recorded almost entirely by Hosono himself at his brand new LDK Studio. With unlimited studio time and freedom to explore, Hosono let himself loose with an array of synthesizers and the latest gadgets, from the Prophet 5 to the E-mu Emulator – all listed as “guest performers” in the album credits. Inspired by the possibilities opened up by these music-making tools, Hosono found new ways to approach his songwriting, resulting in a set of songs that showcase his ability to constantly and consistently innovate and create new standards. With ambient synthscapes like “Luminescent/Hotaru” and the abstract sample-based expressionism of “Birthday Party” sitting perfectly in tune alongside pop favorites like “Sports Men” and “L.D.K.”, Philharmony is one of the most well-loved of Hosono’s albums, and a favorite of the artist himself.
Admired by artists ranging from Van Dyke Parks to Mac DeMarco, Hosono continues to forge ahead as he heads into his fifth decade as a musician. With the re-release of his key albums for the first time outside of Japan, his genius will be discovered by a whole new generation of fans around the world.