Slowly, although probably a good deal more slowly than I’d like, a good deal of genuinely excellent Japanese popular music is making headway outside of Japan. This doesn’t just include “J-prefix” (i.e., J-rock, J-pop) talents like T.M. Revolution and Puffy AmiYumi, but folks just outside the mainstream who nevertheless have terrific cult appeal that could conceivably spread to other countries. This also includes people spread on the fringes — everyone Keiji Haino to Kazuki Tomokawa, definitely not what you’d call “commercial” artists but people unquestionably possessed of vision and talent and who deserve to spread it far and wide.
Closer to the center, though, is a whole galaxy of artists riding just below the waterline: people whose talents and inclinations would seem to make them shoo-ins for broader acceptance, but for whatever reason haven’t yet had a spotlight shone on them. DJ Krush is one among those many, and that’s a shame: he makes music that is so polished, assured and compelling that he doesn’t deserve to just be called a DJ, or a hip-hop artist, or even a-musician-from-Japan. One of his few brief moments in the public eye here in the West was actually how I found out about him in the first place: his track “Dig This Vibe”, from the Blade soundtrack, was one of the very best things on that whole record. I followed up on him and found he had a whole slew of recordings that were just as good, if not better, and which deserve to be heard outside of the circles of people who’d normally seek them out. Read more