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Sleeve Notes
Optimo (Espacio)

Keith McIvor
Optimo (Espacio)

I am JD Twitch, one half of Optimo (Espacio), a DJ, producer, remixer, promoter and record label runner based in Glasgow. I am blessed that my work has taken me to Japan on many occasions.

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Japan is the best country in the world for record shopping and over the course of my visits it is an activity I have pursued there with great gusto.

On my record shopping excursions I am always particularly interested in releases by Japanese artists, and initially started buying them purely based on the sleeve designs. Over time I got to know a lot more about the artists and various releases.

A notable constant in Japanese releases is the uniqueness and strength of sleeve design. Here are a selection of my favourites – all from the 1980s.

1987

Yumiko Morioka
余韻 (Resonance)

Green & Water

I bought this on my first ever visit to Japan purely based on the sleeve design. Petals, raindrops and shadows of bunnies; it was bound to be great, and it is! It went on to open up a whole world of Japanese ambient music to me, often with a distinct Erik Satie influence. I used to do an ambient music evening in Glasgow in the early to mid 90s and wish I had known about all this music back then.

1982

Masumi Hara
Imagination Exchange

Yupiteru Records

I discovered Masumi Hara through their 夢の4倍 album which I bought purely due to its striking design. I then became a fan of their music and Imagination Exchange is my favourite thing I’ve heard by them. It is all over the place, in the best possible way. From hi-tech New Wave ballads to crazed tribal dub workouts.

1984

Mishio Ogawa
小川美潮

Vap

Bought on sight just for the sleeve design and then I went on to fall hopelessly in love with the music.

Discogs describes it as Free Jazz, New Wave, Synth-Pop which is just about right. I have no idea if this was a big success at the time but if so, Japanese pop was operating on a whole other level to 80s pop in Europe.

1983

Miharu Koshi
Tutu
Yen Records

Miharu Koshi is a goddess. Her trilogy of 80s albums – of which this is this is the first – are three of my favourite albums ever. Ecstatic, sophisticated, playful and futuristic sounding techno-pop of the highest order. I’ve noticed she is belatedly becoming slightly more feted in the west, but she really deserves to be better known.

1987

Haruomi Hosono
Murasaki Shikibu
The Tale Of Genji

Sony

Haruomi Hosono is perhaps the most influential musician ever to come out of Japan.

Certainly in recent times he has become an uber-cult figure in western music appreciation circles. This is one of his lesser known albums but one of my favourites. A soundtrack album and a sampling master-class.

1982

Akiko Yano
愛がなくちゃね

Japan Records

Former member of Yellow Magic Orchestra and former partner of Ryuichi Sakamoto, still very active to this day.

The sleeve of this gives a hint as to the playfulness of her masterful pop compositions. A joyful listen from start to finish and features members of the band Japan playing throughout. Her Tadaima album was recently reissued and is highly recommended too.

1983

Inoyama Land
Danzindan-Pojidon
Yen Records

This was one of the very first Japanese records I bought and I found it in the fantastic city of Fukuoka on the northern shore of Japan’s Kyushu Island. Last time I was headed there a typhoon stopped our train in its tracks and I had to go back to Tokyo. I had no idea what this was going to be like when I purchased it but actually it sounds very much like how the sleeve looks. Heavenly, glacial electronics! This is getting a European reissue in 2019. 10/10.

1982

Testpattern
Après-Midi

Yen Records

I kept seeing this in Japan but didn’t buy it as I initially thought it was an early 80s R&B record but eventually I noticed it was on Yen Records and produced by Haruomi Hosono so I bought a copy. I’m so glad I did as it is perhaps one of thee greatest Synth-Pop records ever made and it has gone on to become an all time favourite. It is now a very hard record to find and is perhaps top of the list of records I’d like to reissue on my label.

1984

Masumi Hara
夢の4倍

Yupiteru Records

I mention this one earlier. It is how I discovered Masumi Hara and was one of the records I bought on my first ever visit that went on to open up a whole world of music to me that I hadn’t really known existed. In some ways I had to re-adjust my western ears to get my head round it but once my ears opened there was no turning back.

1984

淡海悟郎
虹神殿

Columbia

I didn’t even know what this record was called until I came to write this – there are two words of English on the sleeve and luckily they gave a clue that led me to find out what it is. Strangely it hadn’t mattered to me too much up until now. I had just loved how it looked and sounded. Gamelan, pianos and synthesisers. Quite eerie in places, could be a soundtrack.