AZUMA by Yoshitaka Azuma
Treasure Chest (Tamatebako)
Enter a beautiful and ethereal jungle this week with AZUMA. Pressed on black vinyl by Private Music & RCA Records, this classic instrumental album is here to whisk you away in its punchy and isolated grooves. Released in 1987, this self-titled album by famed video game composer Yoshitaka Azuma paved the way for what would become the dreamy and synth-driven soundtracks of 90's role-playing games. As an album way ahead of its time and so far above what anyone was putting out, what Mr. Azuma accomplished here was nothing short of genre-defining. Join me this week as I take you through this labyrinth of sounds totally and completely displaced from time itself.
Happiness And Prosperity (Kisshoten)
Yoshitaka Azuma (AZUMA) was a composer and synthesizer master based out of Japan. Best known for his work on the Panzer Dragoon soundtrack, AZUMA was one of the greatest composers to have ever graced the video game music scene with his incredibly unique and contagious sounds. By completely melding that early Japanese synth-pop noise into every aspect of his compositions, Yoshitaka solidified himself as one of the most revolutionary and iconic pioneers in the early days of video game music. AZUMA is much more than an instrumental showcase of Yoshitaka's muse, it's what I believe to be the defining album of his career.
Stained Glass (Sutendogurasu)
Cylindrical drips of synth cascade as you drop your needle through the leaves of this lush and vibrant canopy of grooves. A drone in the background of this corridor of sounds gives way to punchy and echoey drums that pull you ever deeper within this dense bamboo-like grove with every rotation. Giving way for more mysteries that lay in wait — an eclectic shamisen pierces through the veil of leaves like a ray of sunshine casting light in all the shadowy places of this verdant score. Watery droplets of condensation chute through the tonearm and splash along the walls in an electrifying and colorful dance that just echoes forever… This album is perfection.
Tea Ceremony (Youhentenmoku Chawan)
Every aspect of this album is ripe and overflowing with this grand mystery and imaginative tension that will totally and completely suck you in. Each song pressed into these ebony-like grooves is filled to the brim with delectable and vital melodies that I can't help but get lost in every time I listen to it. At times it feels as though this album is almost spiritual… reaching into the beyond and plucking from the fruits of life to return these little gifts of sound that will totally enamor you. The quote from Yoshitaka Azuma regarding his own music included on this back of this release expresses the sentiment I have perfectly, "I feel the source of my energy comes from the Orient. Creating music is a way of sharing this energy with people." Like a vortex of spiraling tones what AZUMA has accomplished here is nothing short of excellence. Not only is this album a precursor to what classic 90's RPG soundtracks would become, but it was also the perfect primer for the synth-pop infusion that we have seen permeate the vaporwave genre today.
Silver Pavilion (Ginkakuji)
Private Music was an independent label based out of the United States. Founded by Tangerine Dream's keyboardist Peter Baumann, this label helped produce some of the greatest instrumental albums of all time. As one of Private Music's earlier releases, their 20th in fact, AZUMA truly showcases what this label was about to its core. The eclectic library of albums that this now-defunct label helped produce continues to stand the test of time to this day and this one is among the best! Artwork for this album was carried out by Ronald Birke and encapsulates the sound that this album exudes perfectly! You can easily get lost amongst the muted tones of greens and blues with giant blobs of grey that pull you in with their grandiose and abstract shapes. It's just aesthetically pleasing in all the right ways, all the way down to the wonderfully designed font of the album's name and the accented red bar that totally dominates your focal point at times. I really like how the album art harkens toward the current generation of high-art vaporwave covers that we have all grown to love. Mastering was carried out by Bill Kipper of Masterdisk in New York City and is just impeccable. Listening to this album some 30 years after its pressing is something magical to witness and like everything else, stands the test of time.
AZUMA has become an absolute staple in my collection and is one of the best albums I think I've ever heard. Becoming somewhat lost to time I felt it was important to shed some light on this fantastical and truly moving album. I want nothing more than this album to get the love and attention it deserves and I feel like this review was the best way in which I could achieve that. This is absolutely a must-have album for anyone that’s a fan of video game music and vaporwave alike! Do not sleep on finding a copy of this!
Church of the Angels (Ohuratenshudo)
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Remastered for vinyl by:
Vinyl produced & distributed by:
Where to buy?
Unfortunately, since this album was released over 30 years ago, it is not available to purchase directly from anywhere. You can still find copies floating around over at Discogs, or try checking out your local record shop for a copy. If you can find this album for a reasonable price go for it, it's totally worth it!