Okada Takuro - The Beach EP

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In 1983, legendary fashion photographer Steve Hiett had a bit of a big in Japan moment when he had the opportunity to record an album here with members of Moonriders and Sadistic Mika Band as well as Elliott Randall, session guitarist for Steely Dan. “Down On The Road By The Beach” and its accompanying photobook is the ultimate artifact of people’s obsession with 80’s AOR and city pop, the eternal summertime of oversaturated blue skies and white sands accompanied by dreamy vocals, reverbed guitars and moody synthesizers.

Thirty-five years later, singer-songwriter Okada Takuro has released his tribute to Steve Hiett with “The Beach EP,” complete with an image from “Down On The Road By The Beach” as the cover. The EP’s main feature is a cover of “By the Pool” with regular collaborator James Blackshaw on vocals. Replicating the original arrangement with a few extra keyboard highlights, it’s just like a recurring dream of summer in the 80’s, only this is the morning that you managed to remember it in greater detail. This is par for the course for Okada, for whom the mellow AOR sound is his stock and trade – his previous release was even titled “Nostalgia.” On this EP, he provides his own take on those beach vibes on the track “Shore,” and it sounds like an alternate Japanese version of “By the Pool” with his falsetto vocals, tremolo guitar, soft bongos, synth horn stabs and a meandering bass solo.

As nice as these tracks are, it’s a little ‘by the numbers,’ this is a tribute after all. However, the two instrumental tracks on the EP make this a much more compelling offering. “After The Rain” ditches the guitars for organs, creating a totally different soundscape to accompany the beach imagery, playing on the artificiality of the sky and sand instead of focusing on organic memories or impressions. “Mizu No Yukue” is an artistic take on the concept of “where the water goes,” starting with random string plucks, scraping metal strings and a shuddering drum loop, eventually building up into a cascade of guitars and layered sounds (where the sound of water finally makes its entrance) before dissipating. It’s more like the Books or Cornelius and shows a more conceptual/experimental side of Okada that wasn’t immediately apparent on “Nostalgia.”

With the inclusion of these tracks, “The Beach EP” is not just a look at where Okada’s sound and aesthetic comes from, but also reveals his ability to go outside the frame of Japanese AOR or Americana folk-rock. It’s always nice to have beautiful dreams, but usually it’s the weird ones that make for more interesting stories.

Tracklist

1. Shore

2. By The Pool (feat. James Blackshaw)

3. After The Rain

4. Mizu No Yukue

Royce Leong