Emerging from the tail end of the 1980s new-wave scene with the band TM Network, Tetsuya Komuro was a producer who defined the 1990s. In fact, anyone searching out a single point when the more modern agglomeration of styles that later became known as J-pop killed off the older kayoukyoku (an older term for mainstream Japanese pop) style, need look no further than the moment in 1989 when Komuro’s “Gravity of Love” beat Seiko Matsuda, the last great kayoukyoku idol, to the No. 1 spot.
“Digitalian is Eating Breakfast 2” consciously harks back to these glory days (part one was a huge hit in 1989) as the latest installment in Komuro’s rehabilitation after his 2008 fraud conviction, and opening track “Vienna” does everything short of crying out “TK is back, baby!” There’s the curiously insubstantial beats, the Eurobeat/trance sequencers, and the mixture of a catchy chorus with a little breakdown for rapper Kreva to do his thing. There’s also a moment when one of Komuro’s synths goes “Squee!” — which is pretty much the ’90s J-pop equivalent of Jimmy Page pulling out a violin bow during “Dazed and Confused.”
The album is overrun with guest vocalists (Japanese law now seems to require 20 percent of new albums to feature a collaboration with Verbal from m-flo), and rappers such as Kreva and Zeebra offer a more muscular sound than the ’90s ever provided, but this is defiantly Komuro’s album. He clearly still has a few tunes left in him, with “Hohoemi no Chikara” partly the kind of sentimental ballad with which Komuro artists such as Globe or Tomomi Kahala would regularly top the charts in 1996, while at the same time drawing on ’70s rock influences, subtly evoking Pink Floyd’s “Breathe.”
The prog influence rears its head again on the instrumental “Extreme,” which sees Komuro getting back in touch with his inner Rick Wakeman with triumphantly absurd results. It’s obvious that Komuro is enjoying himself immensely with his enormous bank of synthesizers, and in the end, despite the sometimes hilariously dated ’90s trance sound, it’s hard not to share in that fun. (Ian Martin)