Otaku USA Magazine
Omodaka and a Merry 8-Bit Christmas

Cantata No. 147 and Favorite Games
Far East Recording

Being his first full length release, Omodaka’s Cantata No. 147 is primarily made up of previously released material. The singles are all represented on the album, though many of them appear as different versions and remixes. This makes for a great package for long-time fans, as well as the perfect primer for the sound that is Omodaka.

Things kick off with the breaks oriented tracks, “Otemoyan•bCrLf and “Asadoya Yunta.•bCrLf The former is a funky and sassy number, full of horns and pianos, with a hint of salsa. Perfect ballroom fodder for those with a more eclectic slant. The latter couldn’t be more different, something much more suited to the Warp Records catalog. It’s almost Autechre-esque with its incomprehensibly twisted and stretched synth line and sub-bass. Over that runs both a thundering drum line that could have been lifted from a Led Zepplin groove, and singer Kanazawa Akiko singing in her signature traditional folk song style. It’s genre mashing at its finest, producing some sort of hyper-cyber folk for a future age. “Fortunate 1 Mark (A-4 Mix)•bCrLf slams into a pure pop-house gear after that, with all cylinders firing straight into the dancefloor with no frills and a laser sharp beat. “Hanagasa Ondo•bCrLf lets the album take a breath for a bit, opening with haunting theremin-like strains before busting into another funky drummer groove and letting Akiko do her otherworldly singing.

The album’s title track kicks off the second half. It’s a brilliant re-working of Bach’s masterful song, giving it a full-on 8-bit treatment, along with almost comical vocoded vocals and a spritely bass line. It’s a true ear-worm if ever there was one, and you’ll never be able to bear sitting through the original’s lethargic and sappy delivery after hearing Omodaka’s improvements. The album’s most epic track, “Kokirikobushi (Video Mix),•bCrLf is just about the only thing that could top that, and it does so in style. It’s Daft Punk’s “Around the World•bCrLf run through a high-fashion whirlwind, with Akiko’s vocals ring-modded almost into oblivion, giving it a strange, robotic chipmunk sound. This is the video mix, and rightfully so since it’s the video that first catapulted Omodaka into the minds of the world outside Japan. Both song and video work together to bring something absolutely amazing into the world of electro dance.

The album-proper ends with a trip-hop version of “Monkey Turn (Mahoroba Mix).•bCrLf Along the lines of classic early ambient tracks, its slower looped beat, simple bassline and cut up vocals give it a feel of the jungle just after a heavy rain, humid and wet and slippery. The dubbed-out drums add a dreamlike quality that’s a nice end to the otherwise high-energy album. After that there are a few instrumental tracks that are no different from the rest, except being stripped of the vocals. Are you brave enough to try some karaoke to Omodaka?

The follow-up EP Favorite Games follows very much the same formula, both in style and quality. From the R’n’B breaks of “Kyotei Daiski,•bCrLf the twisted beats of “Kyoteizinc,•bCrLf the 8-bit dancefloor bliss of “Honjou Oiwake,•bCrLf complete with a stunning performance from Akiko, Favorite Games is like a mini Cantata No. 147. It’s a must-have for fans, and another good place to start for those not wanting to commit to a full album.

Any way you slice it, everything Omodaka produces is gold. While your own enjoyment may vary, all but the most hardened villains will go away with a grin.

All of Omodaka’s music, including his equally great singles, are available on both iTunes and HearJapan.com

Holy 8-Bit Night +
VORC Records

When one thinks of Christmas music, images of fuzzy fireside scenes and gently falling snow set along-side rosy cheeked children and a slightly boozed-up uncle are probably the first things to surface. Maybe angels singing from on-high or maybe even beleaguered shoppers trapped on escalators. Whatever the case, yuletide cheer isn’t often equated with microchips and portable gaming devices.

VORC Records has been working to change that with their series of chiptune compilations with a decided holiday flair. Holy 8-Bit Night + is the second of those compilations, bringing together lo-bit musicians from all around for 16 tracks of chestnut roasting good times.

As one might expect from such a playful genre, both the production and the song selection is a bit on the impish and eclectic side. It begins with a couple Japanese classics “Christmas Eve,•bCrLf covered by Saitone and “Santa Claus Lovers•bCrLf covered by COVOX. While both of these may be new to foreign listeners, their sense of nostalgia is palpable. Both tracks set the tone right off. This is a hardcore 8-bit album, the kind generated with a couple Gameboys and little else. Yet it’s not the sort of inaccessible noise that is sometimes favored by the hardcore chip geeks. This stuff is more along the lines of YMCK and their pure pop sensibilities.

The tongue-in-cheek good times really take off when Goto80 brings in a blorpy version of Mariah Carie’s “All I Want for Christmas is You.•bCrLf Goto80 strips the song of the dolphin-diva’s vocals, instead seeming to emulate her spirit with some nice squeltchy bits. Far East Recording (aka Omodaka) brings things slightly closer to reality with his version of Wham’s “Last Christmas.•bCrLf While pretty faithful (get it?) to the original, he also adds in some sweet ’80s vibes with his flappy synth bass and drums. Bit Shifter’s “Winter Wonderland•bCrLf is sure to make most chip-fans spray their nog in delight. It’s a very raw and slamming take on what is almost a sombre tune. Saitone returns for a truly rock-rolling ride on “Sleigh Ride.•bCrLf Tanikugu makes those bits swing on “This Christmas,•bCrLf and SHE takes things into a slightly more rich and dreamy state with her version of “Frosty the Snowman.•bCrLf

The album continues along these lines of both serious sonic bliss and childlike blip joy. Through it all, the collection manages to inject loads of life and humanity to the otherwise cold and stark sonic pallet. This is a Christmas album after all. For all of those out there who are tired of the old standards and the agony of their schmaltzy smarm and saccharine goodie-two-shoes lryics, then Holy 8-Bit Night + just might be the modern-day update you’ve been looking for. It’s certainly a must-have for retro-wave aficionados who can purchase it without hesitation.

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