World Standard

World Standard, essentially a solo project from Sohichiro Suzuki (鈴木惣一朗), at least at first, looked a lot like Pizzicato Five. Like Konishi Yasuharu's (小西 康陽) outfit, World Standard committed to a sound that was clear-eyed and crystalline, mature and adult, yet glossily poppy without being hamstrung, a sort of cerebral corollary to the perky and chirpy J-pop of the 80s. And, like P5 early on, World Standard was signed to Non-Standard, Haruomi Hosono's (細野晴臣) envelope-pushing imprint.

However, Suzuki was less pursuant of bubblegum hits and more interested in brewing quiet moments, even when he was chasing radio-friendly hooks. His first album, self-titled and released in 1985, is a folky affair buoyed by soft beds of exotica and plucky ambient. It's all rather baroque and delicate, reserved and measured.

The follow-up, Allo!, takes a more commercial attitude; pacier and friskier, its intention is to make you shuffle and shimmy rather than sway and float. After that LP, however, he left Non-Standard and started a duo, Everything Play, with a multiinstrumentalist and sound programmer Toyoaki Mishima (豊明 三島), notable largely for his work, then and now, with Cornelius and Kahimi Karie (カヒミ カリィ). The two put out three albums between '87 and '92, and they're riveting listens—big, dry drums; complicated, intertwined melodies; tight vocal harmonies; widescreen productions.