Yasuaki Shimizu

Palto Flats, 1982 (reissued 2017)

For the first few seconds you think it’s going to be weirder than it is. Then all of a sudden it’s bouncy fun. Before the Japanese hits, get ready for some sax and brass. Also mallets and, well, a lot else.

Altogether there’s not a lot of singing on this album though, which is ok, it’s about the instrumentation. I’m trying to think of exactly where I would hear this music in real life, because it sounds both contrived and natural somehow. If this is what Japan was like in the ’80s I’m definitely down for it, for sure.

Track 3 is abstracter, with horn-sounding somethings on loops and atmospheric effects. Track 4 brings back the reeds and brass in a slower, thumping jam. Track 8 is a long, smooth, mallety ride that leaves you feeling nice inside (results may vary). And with track 9, the closer, we have a delightful minor-key something that sounds like the archetype of “ethnic music”.

This album is categorized (by others) as fusion/jazz/ambient but I don’t know if I would have pictured (uh, sound-pictured) this as what that would sound like. It’s simultaneously background and foreground music, another little contradiction. Honestly I can’t remember when I picked up this album or why but it’s ok, it’s charming.