One of the unspoken rules in the progress-fixated world of electronic music is that you don't get bonus points for dwelling on past glories. So when Yukihiro Takahashi — drummer, vocalist and dapper elder statesman of electro-pop — convened a star cast of musicians at Tokyo's Ex Theater Roppongi in January to perform faithful renditions of songs that he'd first recorded 30 years ago, it was, he admits, "partly tongue-in-cheek."
In his work with Ryuichi Sakamoto and Haruomi Hosono in Yellow Magic Orchestra, and solo albums such as 1981's "Neuromantic," Takahashi laid the groundwork for Japanese techno and electronica. Now he was sharing a stage with some of the artists who'd picked up the baton during the 1990s: among them, DJ and producer Towa Tei; multi-instrumentalist Keigo Oyamada, better known by his stage name Cornelius; and Yoshinori Sunahara, formerly of major-league dance-pop act Denki Groove. With the exception of singer-songwriter Leo Imai, all of the members (Tomohiko Gondo rounds out the group) are in their mid-40s; as Takahashi puts it, "They're all YMO generation."
"At first, I didn't think it would be possible to get all these people together for a concert," he continues. "When I realized it was doable, I thought we should have a go at playing songs from the 1980s that were true to the sounds of the originals. ... What I asked them to do was half parody."