Nao Katafuchi - Émergence
Synthpop, New Wave
I first heard Nao Katafuchi's music a few years ago shortly after his 'Yumegoto' 12" was released on W.T. Records. I'm not sure exactly what led me to his music, but I was very happy to make the discovery. Living in northern New Jersey, it's common to venture to New York City to see new and exciting bands play live. The bad part is that, one month out from the show, it's a great idea until the day of the show and the thoughts of braving the traffic and getting home at 3AM only to get up in a few hours to go to work, torture us throughout the day leading up the evening's show. Nao Katafuchi played several shows over the last few years in the NYC area. I tried to get out to see him play a few times, but for whatever reason never made it. When the news broke that Nao signed on to the up and coming Nadanna Records to release a new LP, I knew it was time to man up and go to the City and do what must be done. After what seemed to be an eternal delay in the Holland Tunnel, the traffic finally broke and I found my way to 131 Chrystie Street. This was Nao's last show in NYC before relocating to Germany. I walked down the stairs into the inviting darkness. I cast my responsibilities aside for a few hours as I surrendered myself to the loving arms of the delightfully dark and misty world within the walls of Home Sweet Home as I have done numerous times over the years. Beyond the umbra of fog, beyond the 100 + attendees, I found my way closer to the stage and got lost in the music of Nao Katafuchi. I was so happy to finally see him play live. We shared a few words after the set and I wished him well.

Before we dive into the new album, I feel it's important to set the stage to understand the journey that led to the release of 'Émergence'. Nao grew up just outside of Tokyo in the 80's. He was seduced by electronic music and the emerging technologies that were ever present in Tokyo at the time. While the rest of the world was catching up to the hi-tech world, Nao embraced and cultivated his retro-electropop sound. In 1991 he moved to New York City and worked as an audio engineer. Eventually, he was able to release a few self-produced EPs and LPs under the moniker Superfortress. As time moved on, Nao became interested and more focused on adding synthesizers to his work. At this time in New York City the minimal synth scene was growing with new artists playing basement bars and small venues on a regular basis.  With all the attention to the minimal sound, Nao finally released his 'Yumegoto' 12 on W.T. Records based out of Brooklyn. The record showcased a nice blend of minimal synth, new wave and even a little post punk influence. All 5 tracks stood on their own as well designed offerings bringing Nao Katafuchi's name a little bit more out of the underground. The 12" features some brilliant catchy cyberpop tracks with plenty of hooks and catchy choruses. "Stormy Weather" and "Hidden In Your Eyes" are absolutely addicting. Armed only with his voice, a groove box and a guitar, Nao delivers a big punch in the face with his 'Yumegoto' 12". After a few compilation releases, most notably the 'Modern Movement' book/CD from the Aufnahme + Wiedergabe label, 2015 proved to be a good year for the former New York City artist with the release of 'Émergence' on Nadanna Records.

'Émergence' is a limited edition vinyl LP (360 copies) on 180 gram black vinyl. The record comes with a printed sleeve and lyric sheet. The cover artwork design is a close up shot of the crystal, which is the emergent structure in nature. The shot was done with a Kodak Cresta with an inverted lens. Hungarian Artist, Marton Bertok, constructed the design of the cover. A German artist known as Polar Noire did the photos of Nao. He uses vintage cameras primarily from the 50's, 60's and in some cases even older. His use of expired film gives an experimental yet natural feel to the photos. Alex Gaidouk, using 35mm film whom Nao worked with before on the 12” took the inner sleeve photos. As for the title of the album, Nao stated that the album is the natural progression of what he does.

The first offering on the LP is called "Silhouette". The guitar delivers a chilling post punk intro with the twang of the guitar, then moves in a direction that blends some darker synthpop influences into the music. Nao's voice gives off a slight romantic flavor to compliment the idea of trying to let go of a relationship that has ended. The faces are replaced with silhouettes. Perhaps when the silhouettes are no more, the person has let go completely and can move on? A second version of “Silhouette” was remixed by Tona Ohama affectionately know as Ohama. Ohama has been releasing music since the early 80’s. His tracks, “Julie Is A TV Set” and “TV” can be found together on a 7” released back in ‘83 as well as some retrospective releases and compilation appearances. Ohama continues to release new music to this day. ‘Earth, History and Multiambient’ double CD is a great place to start without breaking the bank to collect the original offerings. There are newer selections as well as many of the classics. There is even a virtual disc for the ambient portion of the release. As a big fan of Ohama I was naturally excited to hear his work in the remix. The remix is very similar to the original. I detect the tempo is slightly quicker than the album version. Also the bass appears to be enriched with different deeper sound.

'Émergence' unveils Nao's first collaboration on the LP. Liz Wendelbo of Xeno & Oaklander adds her vocals as part of a conversation in the song that walks the lines of an ancient myth of sorts. Liz acts as the anthropomorphic deity with Nao's voice playing the part of the human. As the human asks for guidance the deity responds. Another interesting aspect is the use of language. The human asks his questions in Japanese and the deity answers in French. I believe the conversation is on a higher level than the actual speech we are accustomed to using. It transcends nomenclature, translations, onomastics, semantics & everything else that goes along with typical human conversation. This is a powerful and well thought out exchange demonstrating the gods sharing their wisdom. The music follows the same patterns that blend post punk with new wave and synthpop. Nao's and Wendy's dueling vocals make this a haunting yet exhilarating journey into the heart of divine intervention. By the way, the other half of Xeno & Oakland is Sean McBride, also known as Martial Canterel.

There are two versions of "Dance To The End". The first is the album version. There are several great things at work here. What stands out are all the tempo variances and the transitions from part to part. The chorus is very catchy, and there are many sounds merging to form an amazing chemistry amongst all the elements of this construction. The second version summons the legendary skills of Rational Youth keyboardist Kevin Komoda. One of the best synthpop albums EVER!!!! released was Rational Youth's  'Cold War Night Life' back in 1982. Kevin brings his 808-drum machine and other vintage gear to the track giving it a nice makeover with an assault of synth weaponry and aural stimulation. Kevin's work on   "Dance To The End" adds a different feel without taking away from the organics of the original version. 

"Awakening,” reveals another tremendous collaboration with the mysterious and talented Tomo Akikawabaya. Tomo has been around since the 80's releasing many dark minimal synth pop gems. Recently Nao worked with Tomo to help him release his 'The Invitation Of The Dead' 2LP on Minimal Wave Records which includes tracks from 1984's 'The Castle' and 'Anju' from 1985. Nao was instrumental in tracking down the elusive artist. He was also happy to know there was a mutual appreciated for each other's talents.  Tomo provided the vocal monologue on "Awakening" and the track opens and closes with a clip from the track "Ray" off the super rare 12" 'Kojiki To Onna' from 1986. The music is dark and gradually turns up the beat with the vocal monologue echoing in the background sending cyberpunk vibes deep into the veins with a sonic syringe. 

“Living In My Own World” is another strong track with that faint post punk twang of the guitar and the ever-present well arranged synths. The lyrics dive into that personal realm that leaves the listener to interpret it their own way. The lyrics are broken up into short and memorable segments. Some even seem spoken as the diversity in the tempo just blends all the working components into a killer offering.

“The Lonely Kind” reminds me a lot of what made the ‘Yumegoto’ 12” so interesting to me when I first heard it a few years back. The melodic voice and intense sounds just pushing into my senses created a deep impression that I would not forget. As we approach the end of the track, the build up to the crescendo is very intense, like the grand finale in a fireworks show with all the sounds and arrangements blowing through the senses only to end in silence.

“Comes To My Life” was released back in January 2014 with Electric Voice Records on a compilation titled ‘Railroads In Juxtaposition’. The compilation also featured New York pals Sleep Museum and Martial Canterel. Other established acts like Umrijeti Za Strojem and Police Des Moeurs graced the group of artists assembled on the cassette limited to 100 copies. Electric Voice released some great music, but customer service was not their strong point. Needless to say after months of promises the label finally sent me, not only my tape and as gesture of patience on my part I guess, the label sent me a bunch of extras including their Martial Canterel LP. I was happy. “Comes To My Life” is another solid example of why it was worth the 3 plus years wait for this LP. The music tantalizes us while we quickly lose ourselves into the feeling of the song. Again the lyrics are very personal. I am interpreting the message in “Comes To My Life” as; things in our lives are things we all must deal with. They are the relationships, jobs, life decisions etc. They consume our time and become part of our daily rituals.

A common lyrical theme with many of the songs seems to revolve around relationships in one way or another. That seems to be the case here with “Ghost Town”. The record does come with a lyric sheet, but that doesn’t help much with the intended message. The opening of the song has a nice 80’s feel. “Ghost Town” has a memorable chorus and addicting hooks, making this a top track on the record. No! It’s not a cover of the Italo classic by Mono Band.

As for the lyrics as a whole, it is really up to the listener to incorporate their own experiences into the message and make it their own. Sometimes we want to know what the content pertains to, but overall it’s the artist’s message that we the listener may not be able to relate to. So why not leave open as Nao did, so we can wonder and interpret it to our own patterns of life.

As previously mentioned, Nao has relocated to Germany. He spent 20 + years in NYC, and made the decision to leave his home behind to pursue his music to next level in Europe. The electronic scene is much bigger in the Europe. More people equals more exposure. If you follow him on Facebook, you will see that he is very active promoting the record by playing shows regularly. Nao has a solid stage presence, and his music will appeal to fans of artists on Anna Logue Records such as Twins Natalia and Epic Dreams. If you enjoy modern acts like Skeleton Hands, Kindest Cuts, She Past Away and The Present Moment, Nao is a must have. He has his own sound for sure and every track on his releases fits nicely into any playlist. Now that I have fully immersed myself into all of Nao Katafuchi’s music, I am simply blown away by his style. Every listen reveals something I missed the previous go around.

'Émergence' is a testament of hard work and die-hard passion for your art. As my good friend Bob always said during his 25 year tenure as an independent record shop owner, “Support What Stand For!”

Post Script: There was some confusion on the crediting of the artwork on the LP. The photos on the front and back covers as well as the center vinyl stickers were all done by Polar Noire. Márton Bertók added the red lettering on Polar Noire's photo of the crystal on the cover and the "A" and "B" on the center vinyl stickers indicating the sides of the record. Alex Gaidouk took the photographs of Nao Katafuchi.
5
Brutal Resonance

Nao Katafuchi - Émergence

9.0
"Amazing"
N/A
Electroracle
Released 2015 by Nadanna
I first heard Nao Katafuchi's music a few years ago shortly after his 'Yumegoto' 12" was released on W.T. Records. I'm not sure exactly what led me to his music, but I was very happy to make the discovery. Living in northern New Jersey, it's common to venture to New York City to see new and exciting bands play live. The bad part is that, one month out from the show, it's a great idea until the day of the show and the thoughts of braving the traffic and getting home at 3AM only to get up in a few hours to go to work, torture us throughout the day leading up the evening's show. Nao Katafuchi played several shows over the last few years in the NYC area. I tried to get out to see him play a few times, but for whatever reason never made it. When the news broke that Nao signed on to the up and coming Nadanna Records to release a new LP, I knew it was time to man up and go to the City and do what must be done. After what seemed to be an eternal delay in the Holland Tunnel, the traffic finally broke and I found my way to 131 Chrystie Street. This was Nao's last show in NYC before relocating to Germany. I walked down the stairs into the inviting darkness. I cast my responsibilities aside for a few hours as I surrendered myself to the loving arms of the delightfully dark and misty world within the walls of Home Sweet Home as I have done numerous times over the years. Beyond the umbra of fog, beyond the 100 + attendees, I found my way closer to the stage and got lost in the music of Nao Katafuchi. I was so happy to finally see him play live. We shared a few words after the set and I wished him well.

Before we dive into the new album, I feel it's important to set the stage to understand the journey that led to the release of 'Émergence'. Nao grew up just outside of Tokyo in the 80's. He was seduced by electronic music and the emerging technologies that were ever present in Tokyo at the time. While the rest of the world was catching up to the hi-tech world, Nao embraced and cultivated his retro-electropop sound. In 1991 he moved to New York City and worked as an audio engineer. Eventually, he was able to release a few self-produced EPs and LPs under the moniker Superfortress. As time moved on, Nao became interested and more focused on adding synthesizers to his work. At this time in New York City the minimal synth scene was growing with new artists playing basement bars and small venues on a regular basis.  With all the attention to the minimal sound, Nao finally released his 'Yumegoto' 12 on W.T. Records based out of Brooklyn. The record showcased a nice blend of minimal synth, new wave and even a little post punk influence. All 5 tracks stood on their own as well designed offerings bringing Nao Katafuchi's name a little bit more out of the underground. The 12" features some brilliant catchy cyberpop tracks with plenty of hooks and catchy choruses. "Stormy Weather" and "Hidden In Your Eyes" are absolutely addicting. Armed only with his voice, a groove box and a guitar, Nao delivers a big punch in the face with his 'Yumegoto' 12". After a few compilation releases, most notably the 'Modern Movement' book/CD from the Aufnahme + Wiedergabe label, 2015 proved to be a good year for the former New York City artist with the release of 'Émergence' on Nadanna Records.

'Émergence' is a limited edition vinyl LP (360 copies) on 180 gram black vinyl. The record comes with a printed sleeve and lyric sheet. The cover artwork design is a close up shot of the crystal, which is the emergent structure in nature. The shot was done with a Kodak Cresta with an inverted lens. Hungarian Artist, Marton Bertok, constructed the design of the cover. A German artist known as Polar Noire did the photos of Nao. He uses vintage cameras primarily from the 50's, 60's and in some cases even older. His use of expired film gives an experimental yet natural feel to the photos. Alex Gaidouk, using 35mm film whom Nao worked with before on the 12” took the inner sleeve photos. As for the title of the album, Nao stated that the album is the natural progression of what he does.

The first offering on the LP is called "Silhouette". The guitar delivers a chilling post punk intro with the twang of the guitar, then moves in a direction that blends some darker synthpop influences into the music. Nao's voice gives off a slight romantic flavor to compliment the idea of trying to let go of a relationship that has ended. The faces are replaced with silhouettes. Perhaps when the silhouettes are no more, the person has let go completely and can move on? A second version of “Silhouette” was remixed by Tona Ohama affectionately know as Ohama. Ohama has been releasing music since the early 80’s. His tracks, “Julie Is A TV Set” and “TV” can be found together on a 7” released back in ‘83 as well as some retrospective releases and compilation appearances. Ohama continues to release new music to this day. ‘Earth, History and Multiambient’ double CD is a great place to start without breaking the bank to collect the original offerings. There are newer selections as well as many of the classics. There is even a virtual disc for the ambient portion of the release. As a big fan of Ohama I was naturally excited to hear his work in the remix. The remix is very similar to the original. I detect the tempo is slightly quicker than the album version. Also the bass appears to be enriched with different deeper sound.

'Émergence' unveils Nao's first collaboration on the LP. Liz Wendelbo of Xeno & Oaklander adds her vocals as part of a conversation in the song that walks the lines of an ancient myth of sorts. Liz acts as the anthropomorphic deity with Nao's voice playing the part of the human. As the human asks for guidance the deity responds. Another interesting aspect is the use of language. The human asks his questions in Japanese and the deity answers in French. I believe the conversation is on a higher level than the actual speech we are accustomed to using. It transcends nomenclature, translations, onomastics, semantics & everything else that goes along with typical human conversation. This is a powerful and well thought out exchange demonstrating the gods sharing their wisdom. The music follows the same patterns that blend post punk with new wave and synthpop. Nao's and Wendy's dueling vocals make this a haunting yet exhilarating journey into the heart of divine intervention. By the way, the other half of Xeno & Oakland is Sean McBride, also known as Martial Canterel.

There are two versions of "Dance To The End". The first is the album version. There are several great things at work here. What stands out are all the tempo variances and the transitions from part to part. The chorus is very catchy, and there are many sounds merging to form an amazing chemistry amongst all the elements of this construction. The second version summons the legendary skills of Rational Youth keyboardist Kevin Komoda. One of the best synthpop albums EVER!!!! released was Rational Youth's  'Cold War Night Life' back in 1982. Kevin brings his 808-drum machine and other vintage gear to the track giving it a nice makeover with an assault of synth weaponry and aural stimulation. Kevin's work on   "Dance To The End" adds a different feel without taking away from the organics of the original version. 

"Awakening,” reveals another tremendous collaboration with the mysterious and talented Tomo Akikawabaya. Tomo has been around since the 80's releasing many dark minimal synth pop gems. Recently Nao worked with Tomo to help him release his 'The Invitation Of The Dead' 2LP on Minimal Wave Records which includes tracks from 1984's 'The Castle' and 'Anju' from 1985. Nao was instrumental in tracking down the elusive artist. He was also happy to know there was a mutual appreciated for each other's talents.  Tomo provided the vocal monologue on "Awakening" and the track opens and closes with a clip from the track "Ray" off the super rare 12" 'Kojiki To Onna' from 1986. The music is dark and gradually turns up the beat with the vocal monologue echoing in the background sending cyberpunk vibes deep into the veins with a sonic syringe. 

“Living In My Own World” is another strong track with that faint post punk twang of the guitar and the ever-present well arranged synths. The lyrics dive into that personal realm that leaves the listener to interpret it their own way. The lyrics are broken up into short and memorable segments. Some even seem spoken as the diversity in the tempo just blends all the working components into a killer offering.

“The Lonely Kind” reminds me a lot of what made the ‘Yumegoto’ 12” so interesting to me when I first heard it a few years back. The melodic voice and intense sounds just pushing into my senses created a deep impression that I would not forget. As we approach the end of the track, the build up to the crescendo is very intense, like the grand finale in a fireworks show with all the sounds and arrangements blowing through the senses only to end in silence.

“Comes To My Life” was released back in January 2014 with Electric Voice Records on a compilation titled ‘Railroads In Juxtaposition’. The compilation also featured New York pals Sleep Museum and Martial Canterel. Other established acts like Umrijeti Za Strojem and Police Des Moeurs graced the group of artists assembled on the cassette limited to 100 copies. Electric Voice released some great music, but customer service was not their strong point. Needless to say after months of promises the label finally sent me, not only my tape and as gesture of patience on my part I guess, the label sent me a bunch of extras including their Martial Canterel LP. I was happy. “Comes To My Life” is another solid example of why it was worth the 3 plus years wait for this LP. The music tantalizes us while we quickly lose ourselves into the feeling of the song. Again the lyrics are very personal. I am interpreting the message in “Comes To My Life” as; things in our lives are things we all must deal with. They are the relationships, jobs, life decisions etc. They consume our time and become part of our daily rituals.

A common lyrical theme with many of the songs seems to revolve around relationships in one way or another. That seems to be the case here with “Ghost Town”. The record does come with a lyric sheet, but that doesn’t help much with the intended message. The opening of the song has a nice 80’s feel. “Ghost Town” has a memorable chorus and addicting hooks, making this a top track on the record. No! It’s not a cover of the Italo classic by Mono Band.

As for the lyrics as a whole, it is really up to the listener to incorporate their own experiences into the message and make it their own. Sometimes we want to know what the content pertains to, but overall it’s the artist’s message that we the listener may not be able to relate to. So why not leave open as Nao did, so we can wonder and interpret it to our own patterns of life.

As previously mentioned, Nao has relocated to Germany. He spent 20 + years in NYC, and made the decision to leave his home behind to pursue his music to next level in Europe. The electronic scene is much bigger in the Europe. More people equals more exposure. If you follow him on Facebook, you will see that he is very active promoting the record by playing shows regularly. Nao has a solid stage presence, and his music will appeal to fans of artists on Anna Logue Records such as Twins Natalia and Epic Dreams. If you enjoy modern acts like Skeleton Hands, Kindest Cuts, She Past Away and The Present Moment, Nao is a must have. He has his own sound for sure and every track on his releases fits nicely into any playlist. Now that I have fully immersed myself into all of Nao Katafuchi’s music, I am simply blown away by his style. Every listen reveals something I missed the previous go around.

'Émergence' is a testament of hard work and die-hard passion for your art. As my good friend Bob always said during his 25 year tenure as an independent record shop owner, “Support What Stand For!”

Post Script: There was some confusion on the crediting of the artwork on the LP. The photos on the front and back covers as well as the center vinyl stickers were all done by Polar Noire. Márton Bertók added the red lettering on Polar Noire's photo of the crystal on the cover and the "A" and "B" on the center vinyl stickers indicating the sides of the record. Alex Gaidouk took the photographs of Nao Katafuchi.
Dec 21 2015

Luke Jacobs

info@brutalresonance.com
Writer and contributor on Brutal Resonance

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