Akiko Yano – “Tadaima” (1981 / 2018)

I’m currently reading Haruki Murakami’s most recent novel, Killing Commendatore.  It’s probably the fifth or sixth of his books I’ve read, and like most of the perennial Nobel Prize short-lister’s works it’s starting to get weird, the protagonist being occasionally visited by a two foot tall, sword carrying personification of the concept of “Idea” that only he can see and converse with (at least so far).  Music always plays some kind of role in Murakami’s fiction, which makes sense given that the author himself is a well-known jazz aficionado and vinyl collector (allegedly 10,000 records strong).  In fact, prior to becoming a full-time writer he owned a small jazz bar in Tokyo.  While the music references in Killing Commendatore have been almost exclusively classical (at least through the first 250 or so pages that I’ve read so far), there are passages about specific compositions, as well as details about various character’s stereo setups.

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In taking a break from reading this morning, I decided to drop the needle on this newly arrived re-release of Akiko Yano’s 1981 synth-pop milestone Tadaima.  This caught my attention because of the involvement of the legendary Ryuichi Sakamoto (♠), and since I love synth-pop I wanted to give it a try.  It’s an intriguing piece of work, one that ambles about seemingly at random, but that when you listen carefully exudes intentionality.  At times it almost reaches the point of sterility, but then something like unexpected “Taiyo No Onara” comes on and Yano’s voice is allowed to express warmth and wonder.  I can’t help but at times to hear traces of dj. flugvél og geimskip in Tadaima, both in the music and the vocals, which is slightly disorienting for me.  Regardless, though, this is an enjoyable if somewhat quirky album that still sounds fresh nearly 40 years later.

(♠) To this day I can’t hear or see Sakamoto’s name and not immediately think of the scene in High Fidelity when John Cusack catches the skateboarding shoplifters.

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