For a decade, Nagoya-based producer Takahide Higuchi has made the electronic music genre of the juke his own. His albums, including Ez Minzoku in 2016 and Aru Otoko No Densetsu in 2018 is full of fanciful and scattered rhythms, bass and snare drums, flutes, horns, woodwinds and chiseled samples that fit into an immersive and caricatural sound collage. His wonderfully strange music has been adopted by the makers of cultural tastes Fork (name Ez Minzoku among his 20 best experimental albums of 2016) and username (who ordered a DJ mix in 2017).
“I started making music for good using an inexpensive sampler and cassette tape recorder that I bought after graduating from high school,” says Higuchi, whose love of Japanese snacks fries inspired its nickname, Foodman.
But it was the fast and sometimes brutal sounds of juke music that introduced him to the style of music for which he is now known. “I felt like I was listening to music from another dimension, unearthed from a super old civilization that existed thousands of years ago. Very primitive and futuristic music, ”he says.
The pandemic meant he spent more time at home making music and eating (“I’m addicted to fried horse mackerel!”), And the result is his new album Yasuragi Land. Translating roughly like Land of tranquility, the album is released on the London label Hyperdub, which proves that the Japanese Juke is finding an international audience.
While Japan’s pioneering work in electronics enabled the creation of tools and machines for the creation of electronic music – including the Roland TR-303, the TR-909 drum machine, keyboards Yamaha and Korg synths – techno is still seen as a kind of niche there.
“I think it’s because of our musical culture,” says Human Lessons label founder Emika Elena, who was born in Nagano but now lives in Berlin. “The Japanese listen to other musical genres such as pop and rock more than electronic music. “
In Elena’s experience, techno remains an underground scene and one of the more hardcore underground genres is juke. Like the popularity of blue denim, fast food chains, and hip-hop, the juke is an American import that has been given a distinctly Japanese refinement.
It all started in 2008, when Japanese dance clubs were still animated by the essentials of house, drum’n’bass and techno, with a constant rhythm of 120 to 130 beats per minute (BPM) offering a predictable groove to dance to. Next, producers inspired by the Chicago musical genre “juke” – a style of lo-fi house music – brought fast-paced 160 BPM tracks to clubs. Initially seen as too fast and weird, he made Japan the biggest juke scene outside of his American birthplace.