09
Mar
11

Album Review: Clive Tanaka y su orquesta, “Jet Set Siempre No. 1”




That’s actually a cassette cover you’re seeing up there: Hokkaido, Japan artist Clive Tanaka chose to issue his debut album in the antiquated format first, months before even a digital release. The idea behind this (and I’m assuming here… the elusive Tanaka has yet to show his face to the blog world, let alone announce a SXSW showcase) is to resurrect the spirit of the mixtape – that old piece of lovingly prepared plastic exchanged between friends and would-be lovers.

Listening as I write to an actual mixtape of vintage world music created by Tanaka (it’s posted to the cassette-friendly site International Tapes), I’m definitely feeling the revival. In contrast to mp3 playlists, you don’t always know what you’re going to get with a mixtape. Song names, artists, and (most crucially) running times are all privileged information, dispensed by the curator at his or her pleasure.

So it goes with Jet Set Siempre No.1, an album of eight original disco and slow jam tracks by Tanaka. To reduce fast-forwarding, the songs are neatly divided into uptempo Side A (“For Dance”) and chillaxed Side B (“For Romance”). And like the meticulous mixtaper, Tanaka’s production is seamless, blending samples and live instruments into a warm wash of sound.

Layers of synth pulse beside LCD Soundsystem-caliber drum work on opener “All Night, All Right”. On that track and most others, Vocodor-filtered vocals provide through lines of verse and chorus, helping to distinguish from the obvious Daft Punk influence. (Although the circular structure on “I Want You (So Bad)” definitely sounds like a Discovery outtake.) The best of the dance tracks is probably “Neu Chicago”, a bouncy pastiche of danceable fragments held together by a sunny steel drum sample.

After the flip, the dozed instrumentals on Side B might be the best showcase of Tanaka’s eclectic taste. “Skinjob”, a seductive lounge number propelled  by an upright bassline, leads into the jauntier, Beta Band-flavored “International Heartbreaker”. “The Fourth Magi” is straight sex on a Moog, while the closer “Lonely for the High Scrapers” resumes the vocoder chirps of Side A in hopeful benediction: “On those nights when you get lonely / And you think that you’re the only / You’re not the only one.”

Will we see a Clive Tanaka tour this year? Many would be interested to know just who (if anyone) comprises the “orquesta” Jet Set is co-credited to. Either way, Tanaka has crafted 2011’s perfect party album, not to mention a mixtape for the permanent collection.

Available now on Tall Corn Music.

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