Tokyo Black Star, Bit Commander EP

[Innervisions]


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This is one of those releases where the packaging tells you everything. These guys aren’t called Tokyo Black Star for nothing; leader Alex From Tokyo — get this — is from Tokyo. Collaborator Isao Kumano is a Japanese producer and studio engineer relatively unknown in the English-speaking world, and whose internet presence is somewhat overshadowed by a character of the same name in anime series Red Baron. Apparently, the duo was christened Tokyo Black Star by Kerri Chandler, and their earlier work (including “Psyche Dance,” the first Innervisions release) fittingly bore the influence of American house. With “Bit Commander,” however, the clear reference point is Yellow Magic Orchestra — the only Japanese group ever to appear on Soul Train. The shimmering minor-key melody of “Sepiaphone” aims for the charming simplicity of YMO’s greatest tracks, given grit by nearly bluesy chunks of guitar-like vamping buried in an old-school electro groove.

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The other clue to this record’s sound is the title’s outer-space video game allusion. A quirky chromatic interlude on “Sepiaphone” is redolent of shooting lasers at Space Invaders, but “Game Over” hits the joystick even harder. Perhaps a reference to YMO’s classic “Computer Game,” the track is more Atari than Roland; its rolling kick drum, dubby, echoing snares, and staccato Detroit-style chords set the stage for a pixelated descending riff that sounds like one of those little space ships looks. It’s more danceable than “Sepiaphone,” but still a bit too focused on melody and atmospherics to make dance floors flip their shit. The Loco Dice remix attempts to increase its jack-ability by slapping on a more defined house beat, but does that ever work? DJs would be better off using either track as a low-key interlude, a slow hover through a strange galaxy that makes the subsequent blast into warp drive even more thrilling.

james kartsaklis  on January 28, 2009 at 10:34 PM

it’s rare that i comment on an RA record review, but i did when this ep came up on their site, to disagree with the really poor review. it’s only fitting that i chime in here and say how awesome this stuff really is. nice write-up, shuja!

Sam  on January 29, 2009 at 10:34 AM

I like this a lot, and would much rather hear this kind of thing played out than most of the monotonous and “tracky” stuff that many DJs seem to think everybody likes.

This has a kind of lefty field 2-step feeling to it – nice!

harpomarx42  on January 29, 2009 at 8:52 PM

Personally, I prefer the Loco Dice remix.

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Tokyo Black Star, Bit Commander EP | Atari Alumni  on January 29, 2009 at 8:25 AM

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