Soichi Terada - Asakusa Light
Released - January 2022
Label - Rush Hour
Soichi Terada is a Japanese composer/arranger who began his musical journey as an electronic organist. In the late 80’s he was introduced to house music at a friend’s party and instantly started to emulate it. He sent many demos to independent New York labels (notably the Arthur Russel founded Sleeping Bag Records) yet was consistently rejected. In 1989, he produced six remixes for a young singer named Nami Shimada, one of which was called ‘Sunshower’ which reached the hands of Paradise Garage DJ in residence, Larry Levan. A year later founded the Far East Recording label, alongside fellow producer Shinichiro Yakota, and in 1992 they released their now legendary debut - Far East Recording.
In 1999, having begun composing music for video games, Terada was approached to compose the music for the wildly popular PS1 game Ape Escape which has largely dictated his legend. In 2015 however, there was a resurgence of interest in Terada and Dutch label Rush Hour released a compilation of his early 90’s house works.
By helping to define the music of the past, Soichi Terada now reckons with it in the present. Despite the soundtrack for the Ape Escape series being his most well-known work to most, it is truly his innovative fusing of early New York house and Tokyo electronica in the 90’s that would make for some of the decade's most forward-thinking dance tracks. Some 30 years later, Terada has returned to that pioneering sound in a world not only reshaped by the pandemic, but immense physical changes to the city his music emerged from.
Rather than reminiscing on the past, Terada’s latest release 'Asakusa Light' embraces nostalgia as a means toward future joy. It celebrates his sound without trying to simply return to it and its unaffected positivity presents bright colors that are initially a touch alarming after such a long period of silence, however, once familiar with it, the project proves itself to be one of the most energetic releases to begin the year. The speedy kicks, offbeat hi-hats and sparkling piano of early highlight 'Double Spire' begin a trend that Terada has always maintained, imbuing into his songs a deep sense of melody amidst richness, something many other dance albums tend to overlook within the cocoon of heat that a hypnotic rhythm evokes.
The ambient yet subtly locomotive 'Takusambient' levis synth chords that have been totally relieved of attack, the bassline sits unobtrusively through its gracious minimalism, making for one of the most illuminating tracks on the project. 'Blinker' with its consistent smattering of detuned synth bells above a true to form squelching low end and swirling MIDI string part is possibly the most challenging point of the project, yet retains vintage charisma giving it poetic license to be so. With all this in mind, however, it can’t be denied that the moments that give most cause for celebration on ‘Asakusa Light’ are arguably still in the sleek, moody grooves of deep house, notably on 'Bamboo Fighter' an unusual track due to how disparate its elements feel. Amidst the typical house breaks are off-beat arcade synths and woodwinds that remind us of Terada’s trademark blending of typically Asian elements. Nothing is ever off the table for Terada, and his optimism when throwing in unexpected additions gives him an incredibly unique voice even now. 'Soaking Dry' is a peppy, string-kissed track with a sleazy synth line and empowering ‘four to the floor’ drum part awash with shakers. The track leads into the unexpectedly tense 'From Dusk' that acts as a similarly energetic, yet moodier respite in the album's second leg.
'Asakusa Light' could easily sum up the basic history of Terada's musical journey. Outside of some of his wilder cuts, everything from his fascinating ambient work to his most club-ready house tunes are on display here, built on an unwavering positivity that progresses his work forward without removing what originally made it so special. The places his music was cultivated in are gone now, but the feelings he's held onto from them exist eternally, peeking through his drum kits and retro synth setups that have acclimatized to an entirely new world. 'Asakusa Light' gently brings Terada's work into the new decade - it's compassionate art that brings more than sympathy to the table, and that balance makes way for an outrageously fun experience.