These two versions of "On Retinae" come from the excellent 1989 album of the same name. This release is actually based on a promo 12-inch issued in Hong Kong in an edition of 50. Even the band didn't know it existed until recently, leading us to assume the madmen behind Music From Memory dug up a copy in some dank basement. This music, however, reaches far beyond the obscurantists.
On Retinae arrives a half-decade after landmark LPs like Haruomi Hosono's Philharmony, Yasuaki Shimizu's Kakashi and Utakata No Hibi. Shimizu, the producer behind Mariah, plays clarinet on these tracks, but at this point, the disruptive pop that defines the Japanese sound of the early '80s has been smoothed out, favoring the complacent cool of English contemporaries like Pale Saints. This is pop in its most romantic, stately form. The arrangement is paradoxically sparse and ornate, sounding like an updated version of Brian Wilson's glockenspiel-heavy Pet Sounds. Vocalist (and actor) Miyako Koda coos sweet nothings about leaving a party. The label suggests it's the perfect night ender, set to take over for Fatima Yamaha's "What's A Girl To Do." To me, this one is for home listening, though it evokes a similar yearning quality as Yamaha, a sound that can make old music feel remarkably new.