Music

Yasuaki Shimizu: Music for Commercials

Publicity photo via Bandcamp

Japanese composer and saxophonist Yasuaki Shimizu’s 1987 collection of striking original compositions for commercials – appropriately entitled Music for Commercials – gets the reissue treatment.


Yasuaki Shimizu

Music for Commercials

Label: Crammed Discs
US Release Date: 2017-09-15
UK Release Date: 2017-09-15
Amazon
iTunes

There was a time before the advent of the ubiquitous pop song placement that television commercials relied on original music to underscore their products. Matching sound and vision to create a sense of need or want within the consumer is no easy feat – hence the overwhelming use of pop songs following Apple's hit after hit advertising its iPod and subsequent technological advancements. But when they do match up, they create a seamless blend of the visual, aural and compulsive need to own that which we are being marketed.


Composer and saxophonist Yasuaki Shimizu set out to find the perfect balance between sound and vision with his 1987 release Music for Commercials, recently reissued by Crammed Discs. The collection of 24 short pieces for various Japanese products ranging from Seiko to Sharp to Honda seeks to encapsulate the essence of the product within a finite amount of time. “Being restricted to a time span of a minute or less made it ideal work for refining my intuitive powers," Shimizu explained. By putting hard and fast parameters on his compositions in miniature forced Shimizu to shrink his creative vision down to its most heavily concentrated form.

Given Shimizu's background as a saxophonist best known for his reworking of Bach for the instrument, experimental rock via his group Mariah and collaborations with jazz vocalist Helen Merrill and Ryuichi Sakamoto, one would think his strengths would lie in the ability to spread out musically and compositionally. Yet, with each piece here generally clocking in at just over 60 seconds, the purest essence of Shimizu's compositional strengths are on full display. His futuristic mix of the organic with the electronic via saxophones and synthesizers on “Sharp" perfectly conveys the image the brand was looking to put forth as it marketed its television sets and other household electronics.

To be sure, many of the products being advertised were not the most visually compelling or even all that interesting from a consumer standpoint. When was the last time you gave any thought to car tires? Shimizu's avant garde leanings on “Bridgestone 1," here presented in a sort of cracked chamber group built around a repetitious descending line from a bass clarinet, would certainly have stuck with viewers long after airing. Indeed, the deceptive beauty in the piece is the contrapuntal juxtaposition between the bass clarinet, saxophone and sustained tones that wash over the moving figures. “Bridgestone 2" takes things a step further and adds primitive, glitchy electronic sound wave manipulations to the mix, lending the track a somewhat unsettling feel. Conversely, “Bridgestone 3" strips away any superfluous instrumentation in favor of a series of drones that crescendo and decrescendo within what sounds to be a subterranean world given the sounds of incessant electronic water dripping across the track.

His series of five “Bridgestone" pieces, making up the latter half of the collection, offer some of Shimizu's best, most subtly gorgeous moments on Music for Commercials. “Bridgestone 4" sounds less like an advertisement than a snippet from some longer minimalist composition built around a series of hypnotic sustained notes and soothing chordal shifts. Having re-sequenced the album so that each track flows into the next, these types of drastic stylistic (and volume) shifts can be somewhat jarring, but nevertheless make for consistently engaging listening.

“Seiko 4" employs a Glassian repetitive figure simulating the inner workings of a clock, the time passing and moving metronomically ahead, while the nearly 10-minute “Ka-Cho-Fu-Getsu" allows Shimizu to truly stretch out and explore the creative possibilities within a given idea. Mixing traditional Japanese modes with western classical melodicism (not to mention commercialism, as evidenced by the cover image) and then-futuristic electronics and synthesizers proves just as affecting some 30 years on as it must have when originally released. It's as though the preceding 22 tracks were Shimizu's approach to music within a claustrophobic shell, “Ka-Cho-Fu-Getsu" allowing the ideas to run free and spread out across the track. Given its lack of adherence to any sort of stylistic uniformity and cinematic scope of ideas being cast together, it feels very much of a piece with the rest of the albums shorter pieces, itself sounding like one idea seamlessly flowing into the next.

Soothingly hypnotic and compositionally complex, Music for Commercials shows how beautiful the pairing of art and commerce could potentially be when done properly. With or without accompanying visuals, Music for Commercials is a memorable, rewarding listen and a fine exhibition of a truly unique talent.

7

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Music

GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".

Music

Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".

Music

Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.