4 Jul. 2010


一風堂( ippu-do) - LUNATIC MENU
Year: 1982

The 11-track compilation Lunatic Menu was released (in Japan and the U.K.) in 1982. Encapsulating Ippu-Do's first three Japanese albums — only one of which, 1981's Radio Fantasy, had been released outside of their native country — the set is a fine introduction to the Tokyo-based trio's rich and complex brand of synth pop. (Tracks from the first two albums, Normal and Real, both from 1980, are remixed and, in some cases, re-recorded.) Opening with the piano instrumental "Morning Menu," the disc quickly takes on an electronic sheen with the hit single "Sumire, September Love," which blends synths, electric violin, rubbery bass, and both acoustic and electronic percussion in a way that recalls a bouncier version of the U.K. group Japan. (Ippu-Do leader Masami Tsuchiya became a temporary member of Japan around this time, playing guitar on their live album Oil on Canvas.) Songs flirt with reggae rhythms, toss the occasional English phrase in with the predominately Japanese lyrics, and at times sound like everyone from Thomas Dolby to XTC to Laurie Anderson to Ippu-Do's compatriots the Yellow Magic Orchestra.

Critics at the time mostly only heard the Yellow Magic Orchestra comparisons, unfairly lumping the two groups together mostly by virtue of their shared homeland. Ippu-Do are far poppier and more Western-oriented than YMO, however, as evidenced by the almost bubblegummy "I Love You" (the soaring chorus of which, perhaps intentionally, sounds uncannily like Little Peggy March's "I Will Follow Him" crossed with the Ronettes' "Be My Baby") and a weirdly Bowie-like (circa Lodger) cover of the Zombies' "Time of the Season." The only one of Ippu-Do's original albums to be reissued on CD, Lunatic Menu is a gem of early-'80s Japanese pop


A Japanese techno-pop trio of the early '80s led by singer/songwriter Masami Tsuchiya, Ippu-Do was the missing link between Japan's Yellow Magic Orchestra and England's Japan -- neither as purely electronic as the former nor as prettily atmospheric as the latter. (YMO's Ryuichi Sakamoto collaborated with Tsuchiya on his 1982 solo album Rice Music, and Tsuchiya played guitar with Japan on the Asian tour documented on the live album Oil on Canvas.)
Ippu-Do debuted in 1980 with the new wave-influenced Normal, on which the trio (Tsuchiya on vocals and guitar, Akira Mitake on keyboards, and Shoji Fujii on drums) sound a little like a Nipponese version of New Musik or Split Enz. The trio quickly followed this with Real, which was more of the same, but 1981's Radio Fantasy (the trio's first release outside of Japan) was almost completely electronic. The group went on hiatus after that release, with Tsuchiya beginning his solo career and his temporary membership in Japan. A best-of disc, Lunatic Menu, was released in 1982 in Japan and the U.K.
When Ippu-Do reappeared in late 1983, they were reduced to a duo of Tsuchiya and Mitake. Supported by drummer Steve Jansen and keyboardist Richard Barbieri of Japan and American bassist Percy Jones, the duo recorded the danceable Night Mirage, a supple blend of Japan's crystalline sound with some surprising R&B and funk rhythms. A two-disc live set with this lineup, Live and Zen, came out in 1984, but Tuschiya returned to his solo career at that point, bidding farewell to Ippu-Do with a well-chosen compilation in 1985. An expanded compilation, The Very Best of Ippu-Do, came out in 1998.

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