This 1983 record by Mariah (with a band led by Yasuaki Shimizu) is a remarkable listen, spiralling freely through a range of Japanese traditional and pop styles as well as synth-based contemporary genres. Remastered double LP reissue with additional artwork by the original designer, courtesy of the Palto Flats label.
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- Utakata No Hibi by Mariah
9/10 Chris Customer review, 14th November 2016
I decided to check this album out when it was referenced in a review I had seen for the Woo album 'Awaawaa', also released on Palto Flats. I've picked up some reissues that I'm very fond of this year, but this is by far the one that I've listened to most. It was released in 1983 by Japanese band Mariah and apparently the title Utakata No Hibi translates to "transient, ephermal days". It's an album that manages to perfectly execute that rare trick of having a really unique flavour whilst being a pop album through and through. A lot of fairly disparate ideas and sounds come together to produce something that is incredibly listenable and enjoyable.
If you're looking for somewhere to start, check out 'Shinzo No Tobira'. It's got a nice drum machine groove, some very pleasing synth sounds there and a melody that is both uplifting and nostalgic. I have no idea what the words mean, but it's fun to imagine. Though that track is a blast, my favourite moments lie elsewhere. Second track 'Shisen' has this fantastic arrangement of layered xylophone chords running across from ear to ear, while this gorgeous tune is delivered by a nonchalant vocal and piano. Eventually some sparse bass synth comes in backed up with a bit of delayed drum which forms a rhythm with some bleeping. It's a great song, but the way it's arranged elevates it to a different class altogether.
The following track 'Hana Ga Saitara' is 8 minutes long, mostly instrumental and much less languid. It has these really urgent saxophone stabs and weird distorted spoken word going on. It could be the music from a sci fi cop show where the cops are the mutant cyborg animal cops of the future. Final track 'Shonen' is a patient and beautiful/ominous slow burner with an unhurried vocal delivery giving everything that meditative quality. Again the arrangement is so perfect and spacious.
I like Yellow Magic Orchestra a great deal and this album could draw some comparisons in the way that traditional Japanese style melodies (or what I assume to be traditional Japanese style melodies - I am no authority on the folk music of Japan) are given the synth treatment. For me this album is superior to anything YMO produced and reminds me more of Bowie's Low. Even though there are changes in pace/character between tracks, there is a really coherent vision here and it's a thing to behold. It's fun, moving, catchy, intelligent and weird all at the same time. After growing a bit obsessed with the album I did a bit of research online and discovered a recent interview with the band's mastermind Yasuaki Shimizu. He's asked why he thinks the album gained cult status and his answer describes the record better than I could ever hope to: "maybe it’s because the record was the sound of a line drawn by a petal in the wind alighting on a river, and going with the flow"
These LPs are cut at 45rpm and sound absolutely great.
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