Published Jun 17, 2016After a string of remixes, EPs and one full album (2009's Black Ships), Tokyo Black Star have released their sophomore long-player, the wide-ranging Fantasy Live 1999. Out on Brighton-based World Famous Records, it's their first full-length as a trio, with Kenichi Takagi having joined original duo Isao Kumano and renowned international DJ Alex from Tokyo in 2015.
The dizzying effect of travel can be felt behind this album. Alex from Tokyo, although currently based in New York, was born in Paris and raised in Japan for instance, and the group have toured extensively throughout Europe and Japan. Fantasy Live 1999, a single 40-minute voyage that will take the listener many places before it's over, reflects this. The destinations are generally midtempo and positioned towards the spacier end of the electro-funk spectrum, with many a vintage synth tastefully deployed along the way.
Much of the album's appeal is due to its analog, animated production style. Although its tones are almost exclusively electronic, it lives and breathes in ways that fully programmed music doesn't, populated with idiosyncratic blips and moments of cohesion that only live instrumentation can attain. Things are always just loose enough, with beats clearly matched by ear and on the fly.
One could break the album down into broad sections, but doing so would go against the spirit of the project; elements accrue gradually, with some motifs returning long after you thought they'd faded into the galaxy. The best approach is to sit back and accept the route Tokyo Black Star have planned so carefully. You will return satisfied. (World Famous Records)