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Magical Power Mako - Lo Pop Diamonds CD (album) cover


Magical Power Mako

Psychedelic/Space Rock

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2 stars I'm not surprised this 1995 Magical Power Mako album wasn't included on his page here at ProgArchives, until now. But maybe his own sleeve notes might explain the omission:

"HELLO WORLD, HOW ARE YOU? Now we present '80s Mako's very private collections. There are good POP tunes featuring two girl singers...two Japanese traditional tunes...Woh - it's coming very deep. Enjoy precious time. Magical Power Mako, March 1995"

This was my first exposure to the eclectic world of MPM, and my knee-jerk instinct was to dismiss the album as Lo Pop Cubic Zirconium: a worthless ersatz gemstone with more cosmetic flash than actual value. Mako's vision is certainly unique, perhaps more so than the music itself on this effort: shiny antiseptic techno-pop employing rinky-dink Casio rhythms and synthetic dance beats, distantly related but far removed from anything resembling Progressive Electronics.

But repeated plays and a little research have taught me two valuable facts. Firstly, Mako is both a single person and a singular artist, emerging from his home studio every so often with a new collection of songs, self-produced and performed almost entirely alone. Next, and more importantly, I've learned it's never fair to judge a musician from an initial spin of just one album.

Mako was always a musical chameleon, and in the 1980's he merely changed his colors accordingly. Two decades later the Lo Pop part of the equation is obvious. The Diamonds are harder to find, but fossils of his earlier Far East Krautrock sound can still be unearthed if you dig really deep: a hint of Holger Czukay's guitar in the song "I Love You So I Want You"; a touch of Dieter Moebius grunge in the quasi-Kraftwerk instrumental "Techno '80".

And the two "Japanese traditional tunes" are nothing more than raw field recordings, of a Buddhist temple ceremony and of crowds celebrating the summer festival in the city of Aomori. These two documentary sound samples together last a numbing 17-minutes, long enough to test the patience of any headphone anthropologist, and are totally mismatched against all the bright '80s synth-pop elsewhere on the album.

But that same, weird juxtaposition is what prompted my second thoughts. Was the songwriting really so na´ve, or is "Today's Fashion" (in the opening song of the same name) something more clever: an ethnological pop music forgery worthy of Can? And is counterfeit kitsch somehow less offensive than the real thing?

Woh - it's coming very deep, as Mako himself said, and I'm beginning to see his point. But I still can't imagine this album holding much interest for anyone except the most open-eared collector of Asian pop esoterica. It may not be the most representative MPM effort, but then again: neither is anything else in his wide discography.

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Posted Tuesday, March 3, 2015 | Review Permalink

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