[sic] Magazine

Shintaro Sakamoto – Let’s Dance Raw

Largely unknown outside of his native Japan, Shintaro Sakamoto is nevertheless a veteran. Let’s Dance Raw is only his second solo LP, but before that he captained cult psyche-rock outfit Yura Yura Teikoku from 1989 until their dissolution in 2010. How To Live With A Phantom surfaced in 2012, Sakamoto’s trademark freakadelia dialled back in favour of folkish pop. He’s on the move again with Let’s Dance Raw, fetishising now over some unholy hula/lounge-jazz fusion. You’ll notice the album’s central steel guitar sitting in his lap on the deceptive cover art. Sure, if you go deep on the translation (Sakamoto sings in his mother tongue), Let’s Dance Raw is no laugh a minute, but his absurdly breezy melodies are pure sunshine at odds with that macabre image.

Whatever the games he’s playing, the multi-instrumentalist is overseeing some choice and disparate grooves. There’s the sleepy psyche-popper “Never Like You, But Still Nostalgic”. It’s vocoders à gogo however for the bossa nova closer “This World Should Be More Wonderful”. Playful woodwind chases the cutesy vocal around some traditional folk on the childlike “Future Lullaby”. Those hula vibes hit horizontal on “Birth Of The Super Cult”, gravelly croon and chipmunk duet included. The truly bizarre “You Can Be A Robot, Too” plays hillbilly finger-picking off against canned bleating and lasers. It’s like some kitsch sci-fi take on the “Old MacDonald Had A Farm” standard.

In fact, the title track is pretty much the only time Sakamoto doesn’t seem to be mucking around … and that’s quite surprising considering it contains bongos. It also pilfers liberally, and perhaps inevitably, from Bowie with some very shiny FM guitar breaks in the mix, ending up like some sort of sexy 70s Japanese make-out music the likes of which Dan Bejar’s Destroyer would probably really feel. “Like An Obligation” is almost awesome too, its super-smooth sax-funk just a percussive roll of two too lounge-like to be taken seriously. Herein though lies Let’s Dance Raw’s drawback. It is in fairness a pretty cool little curio, but it ultimately has limited listening appeal, a small amount of naffness undoing some otherwise solid work.

Best track: “Let’s Dance Raw”

~Let’s Dance Raw is released 15th September 2014 on Other Music Recording Company.~