Though '80s synth music can mean different things to different people—The Cure to a former teenage goth, Twilight Ritual to someone steeped in esoteric minimal synth—you'd be hard pressed to pick out '80s influences in Newwave Project. To figure out where Takahashi's coming from, you need go way back to DRP, the band he founded with Tomoyuki Murastige. Formed at the end of the '80s, DRP was indebted to EBM—the name was short for Deutsches Reichspatent, and they released a full-length on Dirk Ivens' Body Records.
This conceit results in some of Takahashi's trackiest material to date. As opposed to the free-flowing piano and flute solos that have defined his past work, he mostly limits himself to chord-driven atmospheres. Some direct nods to the era emerge. "Mind Madness" sounds like industrial music as played by John Carpenter. "Body Signal" samples a new wave vocal, pitching it up and down until it becomes its own alien lead. But Takahashi's dubby live percussion helps distinguish Newwave Project from its forebears.
The remaining highlights have little to do with Takahashi's beloved DAF or Front 242, amounting to stripped-down takes on his signature sound. "Blue Neon" works a winding bassline and shuffling percussion into excellent off-kilter funk. "Machine Jungle" is a rainforest beat track that concludes with paranoid synths. Takahashi seems uninterested in slavish recreation, instead taking subtle production cues from the era. Nods to his past verge on the imperceptible—a gated snare here, a Roland arpeggio there.
In a 2013 feature on Resident Advisor, Takahashi said: "Ideas do not run out." Newwave Project's 12 tracks, running to around 80 minutes, demonstrate his sincerity. Though the album is framed as an oblique homage to '80s darkness, Kuniyuki uses Newwave Project as a jumping-off point for a sprawling range of styles. The unwieldy and sometimes thrilling results sound like no one other than him.