Soichi Terada – Asakusa Light
Seven years ago, the name Soichi Terada was thrust back into the cultural zeitgeist. Up until that point the Japanese producer had mostly stayed quiet, but this downtime was not undeserved. After all, Terada was one of the artists responsible for pioneering the direction of Japanese house in the late 90’s and 2000’s. By way of his Far East Recordings imprint, he formulated a deep house that pulled from jungle as readily as it did from Eastern instrumentation, fusing his cultural identity and point of view into a form that at the time, was dominated by Europe. Terada’s sound would have a resounding influence on the direction of club music, and his penchant for retro-synths and boundary pushing aesthetics would see him go on to compose soundtracks for games by PlayStation. But as tastes evolved and shifted, Terada receded rather than giving in to following trends. He needed time to reformulate his next move following a peak that inevitably changed the direction of a genre and changed the way people thought about the possibilities of music in video games. His re-emergence in 2015 was not in full form; Sounds from the Far East was a retrospective compilation of Terada’s somewhat forgotten work from the 90’s, released to play the field of the contemporary scene. The trial proved successful, and Terada was once again in the house music limelight.
Following this renewed interest in his work, the producer began creating new material. The result is Asakusa Light, his first album of original work in 25 years. The timing couldn’t be more perfect. Nostalgia has become a powerful currency in dance music of late. Following the global lockdown and a wave of electronic musicians looking toward creating music inspired by the experience of isolation, the world is ready to dance again. This brings with it a craving for a safer time, a familiar space and a bygone era of club culture. The Y2K aesthetic movement is at its peak. And the sound of classic 90’s house is being revived on the club circuit by people like Honey Dijon or Weiss, even making its way into the mainstream by way of Gaga and Grimes. Terada fits incredibly well into this conversation. He seems to be aware of this, too. Asakusa Light is an album created on the same vintage synths he’s used to compose his Ape Escape soundtracks and the same drum machines that provided the heartbeat of his 90’s house. It’s an exercise in nostalgia, inspired by the past but Terada’s stake on the present. Speaking on the origin points of the album, Terada noted, “I tried to recall my feelings 30 years ago, but when I tried it, I found it super difficult.” The key for him to access this archive was by way of his instruments. “I tried different methods, including digging up my old MIDI data and composing by remembering old experiences.” And so Asakusa Light traces not only Terada’s reclamation of the dancefloor, but a reclamation of self.
The music on this album is classic, familiar, but the advantage of contemporary recording gear means that Terada’s house has never sounded brighter or more full of life. Bamboo Fighter takes a familiar house riff and adds a booming, loggy bassline while waves of reto synths wash over the background. Then, what would be a stylish Crystal Waters style vocal sample instead arrives as a shakuhachi refrain. The effect is just as, if not more, refined and seductive than any sample could be. Double Spire is classic glossy piano house, as is Marimbau though this track also touches on 8-bit blips, video game accents, and phrases of trip-hop percussion. Marimbau seems to take all the parts that make up Terada, from his hip-hop origins to his video game compositions, and fuse them into a lush four minute retrospect. The video game flourishes continue elsewhere too. On From Dusk, they add a neon soaked new wave energy to an otherwise mellow house cut, while Takusambient opens with buzzy 8-bit blips pinging disparately in space. While Terada undeniably revisits the past across Asakusa Light, he manages to avoid falling into something formulaic. While his choices and the aesthetic palette of the music here are rooted in the past, they sound classic rather than dated.
Terada’s music has always been impeccably fine tuned; uncluttered, simple and sharp. His skill to weave warm, earthy notes of organic instrumentation with alien-like synths and wobbling basslines is unmatched, never producing anything that risks sounding muddy or out of sync. This makes for an incredibly clean listen. Asakusa Light bounces, shimmers and at times dissolves into the world around you, bathing everything in it’s sunny, neon-lit glow. It’s a bit of a full circle moment, not so much a comeback than it is a homecoming. That Terada re-emerges at a time when the sound he helped shape may be more relevant than ever before, his presence is not simply needed. It’s essential.
Listen to Bamboo Fighter from Asakusa Light below.
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