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[Music Monday]: Japanese Disco Hot Tub

A bit of left-field disco from Crue-L Records ahead of Kenji Takimi's show this weekend...
2015-09-07 12:50:42
Music Monday is a weekly SmartShanghai column, serving up songs from bands living and making music in China (or coming to China, or thinking about coming to China, or whatever). Copyright holders: if you would like your song removed, please contact us here, and we'll honor your request promptly.

Greetings glorious Shanghai residents. Hopefully everyone enjoyed their V-Day holiday. While Shanghai didn’t get one of those fancy parades, we did get a parade of house music parties like Dicky Trisco at Lola. It's too bad the MOMA festival was canceled, as last weekend was pretty amazing outside. We are entering into what I like to call the perfect storm of holiday seasons in China, when many Chinese public holidays get a healthy helping of international holidays on the side. There will be mooncakes, pumpkin pies, fun size candy bars, egg nog, custard cakes, and a few fat birds will lose their lives. Let us do a roll call of holidays for the next few months!

Spetember 27th: Mid-Autumn Festival – Mooncakes for everyone!

October 1st-7th: National Golden Week – Expensive flights and no VPNs for everyone!

October 31st: Halloween – Slutty Donald Trump costumes for everyone!

Nov. 8th: Journalist Day – Umm...what? Yes, this is a thing!

November 26th: American Thanksgiving – 780rmb set dinners for all of Jing’an!

December 7th-14th: Chanukah – Been meaning to check out that Jewish Refugee Museum in Hongkou district!

December 25th: Christmas – Massage chairs for everyone!

December 31st: New Years Eve – 300RMB door cover charge for every one!

February 8th – 22nd: Chinese New Year / Spring Festival – Streets filled with no one!

Nothing but tons of socially-obligated fun and overpriced dinners in our near future kids! To be honest I’ve grown to love all of these holidays (ok maybe not so much journalist day), and I say we keep piling them on until our international city of Shanghai celebrates nearly all of the world's traditions in one stupendous year-long party.

Today we celebrate Japan’s left field disco roots with incoming record label boss Kenji Takimi of Crue-L Records who have been churning out solid disco tunes for 24 years. The label is set to release a new album that features Shanghai’s own Laura Ingalls coming up in October. This is yet another booking at Arkham by Yeti, who have been holding court at the underground club on a regular basis. Now let’s dive in head first to this Crue-L world and make sure to check out Kenji Takimi this Friday at Arkham.

Kenji Takimi

While I was back in California recently, I became aware of Kenji Takimi’s label Crue-Lthrough a road trip with a friend. Let’s just say the Crue-L mix changed my life. After reading more about Kenji Takimi’s quarter-century long project of developing an alternative disco scene in Japan, it became clear that this guy is the real deal. One of the elements so appealing about Japan is their ability to really dive into a small music sub-genre and not study it but also remix, edit, and develop the sound into their own. Hopefully in another quarter century Shanghai will have such hardened music lovers remixing classic trap from the early (20)10s or Hunan Footwork music from the (20)30s.

New York’s Beats In Space radio show fronted by the legendary Tim Sweeney picked Kenji’s set as "mix of the year", which is no small feat. Another of Kenji’s accomplishments comes in the form of being the first in Japan to start working with DJ Harvey, who for over 30 years has been changing the world of alternative dance culture. Since 1991, Kenji’s label has been putting out obscure tracks, most notably from artists like Japan’s downtempo poster boy Cornelius, who was one of his first collaborations. On top of that you just have a slew of artists like Theo Parish, Cut Copy, Dimitri From Paris, and a ton of amazing Japanese artists like Boris.

Crue L Grand Orchestra - "Spend The Day Without You You"

Dimitri From Paris – "Dirty Larry (Crue-L Grand Orchestra Remix)"

Now let's get into some of these artists that Kenji and Crue-L have worked with...


Cornelius is a very palatable experimental musician, who developed one of the most influential sounds of the late '90s early '00s down-tempo movement. I didn’t know he got his start with a popular Brit-Pop band called Flipper’s Guitar that played around Tokyo in the late '80s. His real name is Keigo Oyamada but we’ve all come to accept his Planet of the Apes themed moniker as the norm. He even named his child Milo, the name of Cornelius’s son from the original '60s movie series. The Cornelius breakout album, I would say for me, was 69/96 along with the remix version that followed. However, both Fantasma and Point will always remain in my collection as well.

Both Kenji and Cornelius were CD and record junkies in Shibuya, Tokyo and their love of strange music forged a bond that would lead them to eventually collaborate on multiple projects over their long history in the Japanese scene. Although not as active as he was in the '00s, you can still find Cornelius working on the random art project or soundtrack. Check out this Crue-L records release of the 2006 Cornelius song "Beep It".

Cornelius – "Beep It"

Magic Touch & Laura Ingalls

Now this is HUGE. Recently, the dance music website Resident Advisor announced a new compilation album from Crue-L Records slated to be released on October 10 that features, among the likes of Theo Parrish, a track from Shanghai based producer Laura Ingalls. The track is a co-production from Los Angeles based producer Magic Touch, and the whole thing will be pressed on high quality vinyl. For those of you not in the know, Laura Ingalls is a Shanghai based French producer, label head, sound technician, and general naysayer. As Laura Ingalls has been featured in this column multiple times, I had made a pledge to give our readers a break from his antics. However, this release is a pretty big deal, and hopefully we will see more Shanghai / Tokyo collaborations.

Magic Touch, who co-produced the song, has visited Shanghai twice, once headlining Shelter and once Arkham. The Los Angeles based producer -- who was once part of the Thrill Jockey band MiAmi -- will return again this month to play Echo Park festival on September 20. Make sure to check him out playing a live set on the electronic stage. You can check out Laura Ingalls opening up for Kenji this Friday at Arkham.

Magic Touch & Laura Ingalls - "New York City Woman"

DJ Harvey

The DJ Harvey connection with Crue-L records helped launch the small left-field operation onto the world stage. Harvey has been an eclectic figure in the disco world with his bootleg label Black Cock records, his remixes, and most of all, his DJ sets. A couple years ago the two headlined the Rainbow Disco festival in Japan, which features thousands of like-minded alternative disco fans. The Rainbow Disco crew also has connections in Shanghai, and they sometimes throw satellite events.

More recently DJ Harvey has joined up with the label Smalltown Supersound on a project called Wildest Dreams, which throws down some solid psych rock. Many thought he would never make it this long due to his hard partying ways, but Harvey now runs a project with his son Harley selling music and merch across the world on top of his production and DJ gigs. Check out this Crue-L collaboration along with a Wildest Dreams track that came out last year.

Crue-l Grand Orchestra Featuring DJ Harvey & Miyuki Hatakeyama

Wildest Dreams – "Last Ride"

It’s been a while since I’ve been excited about a DJ coming to Shanghai, and I’d like to thank the Yeti boys for making this happen. Check out Kenji Takimi and Laura Ingalls on Friday, September 11th at Arkham, then don’t forget to swing by the Echo Park electronic tent for a live set from Magic Touch. Space, that’s the place.


This column is written by DJ Sacco, who runs Uptown Records, Shanghai's dedicated vinyl shop. Ironically, they don't sell Mp3s or dabble in anything digital, instead they have 7" and 12", EPs and LPs from rock to electronic, rare pressings, DJ equipment and band merchandise. Find them in an old bomb shelter at 115 Pingwu Lu.