Salon Music

As promised a measly three years ago, a Salon Music post. 

I was reminded of the commitment I made when I noticed the satisfying—though narrowly-focused—Trattoria compilation, Girls at Our Tratt's Best!, had made its way to Spotify. This is indeed fantastic—all this music continues to be, even in the streaming era, bafflingly difficult to find, and largely invisible in the States—but it'd be nice if more came with it; the duo changed shape, color, technique so very many times since they showed up with a self-produced cassette in 1981.

Way back then, Hitomi Takenaka (竹中仁見) and Zin Yoshida (吉田仁), were an oddball new wave synth-pop outfit, electrocuted with a jolt of techno current. They made simple guitar music that was stuck in fast-forward mode, snapped into place with flat, slappy drums. Their debut single, "Hunting on Paris," found its way to one of the earliest Western surveys of the Nipponese weirdo art-rock scene, Tokyo Mobile Music 1, made especially memorable because of the interstitial field-recordings of traffic in Tokyo. Kitsch now, but the glimpse that provided into the Land of the Rising Sun must've been out of this world then.

They quickly developed a followed, got placements in TV commercials, popped off in the hip Roppongi club circuit, and so their 1983 debut LP, My Girl Friday, was received with great enthusiasm.  It's a real charmer, a pogo-stick sprint through garage, twee and baroque indie.

The second album, La Paloma Show, was produced by YMO's Yukihiro Takahashi (高橋 幸宏), and it's a lovely, strange continuation, all fidgety synth-pop, call-and-response choruses.
Things got more expansive and heavier with O Boy, an album that's heavy on the Shieldsian tremolo guitar and the bright-eyed, jangly lead melodies. From there, they toughened up, dirtied their sound, generally submerging deeper and deeper into seas of reverb, distortion, fuzz. 

Or they'd go on a journey through 90s buzzsaw alt-rock—the Breeders, Dinosaur Jr. Or they'd fiddle around with kraut tropes, or give into their bedroom instincts and let their naive hearts take the wheel. Or they'd pop out a swinging, jazzy piano shuffle. And perhaps it's for this reason they're often cited as a proto-Shibuya-kei band: Salon Music was omnivorously devouring all there was in those dusty milk crates and thrift-shop backrooms before the beatniks and dropouts of the underground, raised on YMO and bored by the perky, electro J-pop that followed, came into their own and picked up the habit en masse.