K. Yoshimatsu
Fossil Cocoon: The Music Of K. Yoshimatsu
Phantom Limb
Pre-Order: Available on / around Aug 16th 2024
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Cult Japanese outsider composer K. Yoshimatsu’s key 1980’s works are collected and reissued for the first time on new career retrospective Fossil Cocoon, binding ambient, abstract punk, music concréte and purist songwriting into a single unified artform.

Over a furiously prolific period from 1980 to 1985, K. [Koshiro] Yoshimatsu composed, recorded and released some forty albums in the span of a few years. These records primarily appeared under his own name, some required aliases, and others saw him compose, arrange, and produce for friends and peers in his creative circle. All of them, however, surfaced on Japan’s cult and inimitably fertile DD. Records, an astonishingly exhaustive catalogue once described as “the most amazing DIY effort ever undertaken to document an alternative music scene”. Led by close Yoshimatsu associate T. [Tadashi] Kamada, DD. Records released exactly 222 cassettes of brazenly, addictively weird Japanese outsider music over a period of five years, each with typewritten liner notes and enigmatically constructed Xerox artwork of found materials. The cassettes remain the stuff of collectors’ dreams, fetching astronomic prices on the rare occasions they surface in record stores or private sales. However, a keen archivist, Koshiro Yoshimatsu’s master recordings remained in his possession (a not unreasonable outcome given that his work was all self-recorded in his home) and meticulously filed, ready for rediscovery. Conversely, label boss Tadashi Kamada is no longer in the public eye, and not even known to have any personal online presence. He is, writes one observer, “unlikely even aware of his cult following”. Only extensive retroactive cataloguing (ardently fuelled by the cratedigging detective work of German collector Jörg Optiz) can offer any remaining memorial to his extraordinary achievements with DD. Records.

Koshiro Yoshimatsu was born in 1960 in Yamaguchi City in the Chugoku region of southern Japan. In 1978, then a student of Yamaguchi University and already deeply engaged in the local arts scene, Yoshimatsu was introduced to the Japanese communications magazine PUMP by his classmate and future bandmate F. [Fumie] Yasumura. In the classified ads he chanced upon the creative work and curatorial interests of the aforementioned Tadashi Kamada, at the time a medical student in a nearby town. From their correspondence bloomed an intensely symbiotic new friendship, initially trading homespun cassettes by mail and eventually co-forming a cassette-sharing postal society named The Recycle Circle. The Recycle Circle also included the idiosyncratic saxophonist T. [Takafumi] Isotani, a member of the university’s Light Music Club, with whom Yoshimatsu (now singing, and playing guitar, bass guitar, and synthesisers, as well as programming drum machines) went on to form the unique experimental band Juma. With fluctuating line-ups, Juma managed to compose, record, and release six albums (all via DD. Records) in a single year - 1981 - before disbanding. Yoshimatsu then graduated from Yamaguchi University and relocated to Hiroshima to pursue his passion for filmmaking, all the while continuing to release his own solo music on Kamada’s now-burgeoning label.

Yoshimatsu’s first solo record was the mysteriously titled pʌls, released in 1981 while still a member of Juma, and receiving the distinction of being the third entry to DD. Records’ cassette catalogue numbers. It was not until the seventeenth that we see Yoshimatsu credited again as a solo artist, this time with the strange and delicate collage album Mirror Inside. Over the breadth of Yoshimatsu’s work - solo, ensemble, and in composition for labelmates - we see a remarkable generosity of musical talent. Some records (such as those produced for Fumie Yasamura, represented here in “Violet” and “Escape”) are formed of hazy, gliding 4-track pop songs coursing with hallucinogenic electricity. Others, such as 1982’s Poplar (and its namesake track on this collection), combine bucolic nylon-string guitar rambles, vibrantly coloured with sequenced MIDI arpeggiation and the dulcet bloops of early computer programming. Deeper still, “Pastel Nostalgia”, from the 1983 album of the same name, marries childlike piano with a wailing siren tone and dripping tap percussion. It is significantly creepier, more acerbic and disembodying than the ambient or New Age music of the era, despite a similarity in raw materials. Elsewhere, Yoshimatsu floats between ambient, rock guitar, new wave, industrial, musique concréte, abstract punk, vocal music, instrumental music and pure songwriting, all bound into a single, unified experience by his distinctive compositional voice.

Compiling Fossil Cocoon was a task. Not only to pare down Yoshimatsu’s substantial catalogue into a neat collection, but also to compress these enormous abilities into single moments. Koshiro himself was an invaluable lighthouse throughout the curation process, guiding us through the depths and annals of his recording career, now forty years hence, shining light onto forgotten music rescued from home-recorded tapes. The result may be an expressly varied album, but it is held magically together by Yoshimatsu’s profoundly singular creative alchemy.

Koshiro continues to reside in Hiroshima, and continues to work in film.