Walk into the nearest record store and check out the prices — CDs for ¥2,000 on the low end, some creeping into the ¥3,000 range — it’s a lot for 10 or 12 songs. Thankfully, a legal online alternative exists. SoundCloud and Bandcamp allow musicians to reach listeners directly and the prices are often much lower than what’s sold in stores. Thank these platforms for “Fogpak #4,” a 21-track compilation gathering electronic music from across Japan in one spot, all of it for free or for a ¥500 donation — your choice. Besides the good value, “Fogpak #4″ houses some of the most forward-thinking production in Japan today.
As the name states, this is the fourth “Fogpak” compilation released to date and, like previous installments, it serves as an atlas to the contemporary (or even tomorrow’s) Japanese electronic-music scene. “Fogpak #4″ swings in all sorts of sonic directions — it fluctuates between high-definition compositions such as Tokyo project OKLobby’s “Peg” to shadowy minimalism from Kyoto’s Eadonmm on “Sklava,” whose beat and synths unfold so slowly, it sounds like the track is emerging from a fog. The only unifying theme in this lineup is that all the songs are electronic — further in, they jump from the near ambient (Akinori Nemoto’s “Warped Sun”) to 8-bit-assisted jungle (Kyou’s “Yuzu Mikan”).
That variety makes “Fogpak #4″ an engaging listen, even at 90-minutes long. If you don’t like what you’re hearing, just skip ahead and a totally different style of dance tune will come on. Not everything works — the maximalist crunch of Kayes’ “Gold Adsorption” is too busy, and Kokushibyo Girochin’s “Jipangu” jumps from thrash metal to a sample of Missy Elliot’s “Get Your Freak On” with aggravating results. However, songs such as Charred Comp80′s synth-and-sample high-stepper “Bridegroom” and the barely-there two-step of Ninja Drinks Wine on “014″ are among the best electronic songs of the year. I highly recommend the ¥500 donation.
“Fogpak #4″ is available at www.fogpak.bandcamp.com .