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Yellow Magic Orchestra - BGM CD (album) cover


Yellow Magic Orchestra

Progressive Electronic

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3 stars Bypassing the rubbish sleeve, what's on offer here is some excellent upbeat Kraftwerk clones from around the same period.

Fans of electronic music will love this. There are quite a few elements of 'Sylvian's Japan' present which is understandable considering it was released in the same year as 'Tin Dum' with the help of Sakamoto. 'BGM' is, however, far more electronic and seems to exist in a world of its own. The drums and percussion are as straight as a die, the vocals are androgynous and surprisingly Steve Strange-like. The keyboards are colourful but very early 80's sounding. All of which points in the direction of Kraftwerk.

A more than decent album like all of their recordings up until 1983.

Report this review (#613909)
Posted Friday, January 20, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars A number of people have wondered if YMO really belong on a "progressive" webiste. It's true that this as virtually nothing to do with "King Crimson" or "Genesis" or "Canterbury Scene". But let's face it. Progression doesn't have to be done with rock instrumentation only. Case in point this, one of the all time greatest synthesizer albums. Forget the Kraftwerk comparisons for a minute. I love the hell out of KW but they simply didn't have the talent or ingenuity of YMO. This is certainly technopop of the highest order but there is so much going on behind the scenes, some of which you can't hear unless you've got the right system. The overall sound is murky but this was a very conscious decision. Songs like "Camoflague" and "Music Plans" have a skittering, dark feel to them that take several listens to fully digest. And one of the tracks is basically a symphony ("Mass") with electronic beats. You want to talk progressive? Nobody was using an 808 in 1981 for Christ's sake. "1000 Knives" gives you a big dose of the 808 behind one of Sakamoto's earliest compositions, and the result is something incredible. Certainly you've seen people breakdance to beats like this but the frantic synth stabs behind it are something that is rarely heard. YMO was certainly at a highpoint creatively with this - they had enough left over for another album the same year, also a classic.
Report this review (#847348)
Posted Tuesday, October 30, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars Yellow Cold Wave Orchestra

Whereas their former opuses are rather playful and could be compared to KRAFTWERK, "BGM" sees the band definitely entering the 80's by offering dark/cold-wave compositions and weaving icy synthetic soundscapes. The title of the album means "BackGround Music", but the music is only partially ambient, as we will see. To be honest, this is also one of the most experimental opuses of the band. The seventies games are now over.

The beginning of the record is curiously not the most interesting. "Ballet" is cold synth-pop tune with a few French spoken words, followed by the robotic "Music Plans", a bit harsh and average with its dated drum sounds. Then come the strangest compositions of the disc. The messy and dissonant "Rap Phenomena" is a bizarre mixture of various atmospheres, including a cheesy Japanese rap. Concerning "Happy End", the music has absolutely no relation to the title. First, this is not the end of the album, and second, this is not happy at all but rather an even weirder ambient experimental piece, mimicking glass sounds. Fortunately arrives now the best track, "1000 Knives". A futuristic opening, a fun ambiance, pre-breakdance beats and playful oriental melodies, no doubt, only a member of YMO could have composed this. In fact, this version is an upbeat and concise reinterpretation of Ryuichi Sakamoto's "Thousand Knives", released 3 years earlier. Refreshing and ahead of its time!

The second half of the record is more homogeneous. "Cue" is robotic cold wave with a slight DAVID BOWIE's feel, whereas the energetic cold-wave "U.T" is darker. "Camouflage" could be described as a ramshackle crossing between KRAFTWERK and Detroit techno, and you can imagine listening the pulsating new-wave "Mass" while playing a vintage video-game. The disc ends with the light aerial "Loom", an ambient track in the style of BRIAN ENO. Enjoyable, but not remarkable. At least, "background music" is an appropriate term here.

What can be said about this curious album? For sure, it's uneven, contains weaker moments, but definitely proves that YMO remains an influential pioneering electronic band at the dawn of the eighties. They searched to evolve and did not want to reproduce the musical recipes of their first records. Even if the final result is not always perfectly balanced, the ideas are various and still present. Adapting their style to then nascent cold/dark-wave ambiances was not as easy, however this opus possesses some pretty cool futuristic and icy passages.

Not the disc to start with for newcomers, nonetheless recommended to fans of the band or early 80's electronic music adventurers.

Report this review (#1568343)
Posted Saturday, May 21, 2016 | Review Permalink


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