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Yukari Fresh lays Shibuya-kei to rest September 29, 2008

Posted by ashiah in Uncategorized.
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As if this wasn’t a clear enough message the Shibuya-kei genre is officially dead…Yukari Fresh just released her last album “Grrrl, Summer Cape Kid, etc.” on Escalator Records, the last album the label will release before shutting down forever. The news was a bit of a shock at first. Escalator Records has been an important staple for Shibuya-kei artists, from Losfeld to Cubismo Grafico. In the past few years, the label opened up and started letting in more Western acts who dabbled in more conventional electro genres. But seeing the label fold, especially with the last release being from an artist who was around from the beginning, really does put the final nail in the coffin.

For those unfamiliar with Shibuya-kei, the genre thrived in the ’90s and got its name from the Shibuya district in Japan where most of the artists emerged. The music was an eclectic mix of French pop, Bossa Nova, and electronics. Probably some of the most well-known Shibuya-kei artists are Pizzicato Five, Takako Minekawa and Yukari Fresh, just to name a few.

Pizzicato Five

And that brings us back to Yukari Fresh and her new album. I have yet to hear it, but her past albums released after, say, 2001 have gone in an interesting direction. Luckily, Yukari Fresh isn’t the type of artist to hang on to a dying genre, but she didn’t latch on to the neo Shibuya-kei genre either. Neo Shibuya-kei flourished immediately after Shibuya-kei by artists like Eel and Plus-Tech Squeezebox. Unlike Shibuya-kei, neo Shibua-kei relied more on goofy, hyper adrenaline electro-pop. Depending on the artist, sometimes the genre is called “pico pop,” but to be honest, it’s not a scene I closely follow.

Where was I? Yukari Fresh just released an album and Escalator Records is folding. As you can see from my rambling post, there’s almost too much to discuss here. Yukari Fresh’s “New Years’ Fresh” is still one of my favorite albums, not so much from its content, but from its influence on my teenaged self who was just getting serious about music. In a way, the death of Escalator signifies almost a complete death of my adolescence. Sans Bjork and maybe Aphex Twin, the music I was into from ages 14-17 are completely gone. Not only did Shibuya-kei die, but also most of the IDM genre, and also bands like Hooverphonic and Tangerine Dream (actually, both still make music, just crap music). It’s bittersweet, but I suppose every stage in life must come to a close. So anyway, here’s my salute to Shibuya-kei. R.I.P.



1. My first new music for 2009: Shibuya Kei « Ack Phhht! - January 11, 2009

[…] Fresh tracks, so I can’t comment on that one, but Escalator Records — recently dead, I’m told — was apparently a key label in the scene.) Sushi 3003 Sushi 4004 Escalator Records, […]

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