Tetsu Inoue

Of the many artists who have recorded on German new-school ambient label Fax Records, it's perhaps the music of Tetsu Inoue that most closely resembles classic Brian Eno. That's in the best possible sense, of course; Inoue's music rarely comes across as derivative.

artist: 
Tetsu Inoue

country of origin: 
Japan

style(s): 
Ambient, environmental, minimalism

decades active:
90's - 00's

essential releases: 

  • 2350 Broadway [with Pete Namlook] (1993, Fax)
  • Shades Of Orion [with Pete Namlook] (1994, Fax)
  • Ambient Otaku (1994, Fax)
  • Organic Cloud (1995, Fax)
  • 2350 Broadway 3 [with Pete Namlook] (1995, Fax)
  • World Receiver (1996, Instinct)
  • Inland (2007, Fax)

as Datacide:

  • Flowerhead (1995, Asphrodel)

Reviewed by Mike G

Of the many artists who have recorded on German new-school ambient label Fax Records, it's perhaps the music of Tetsu Inoue that most closely resembles classic Brian Eno. That's in the best possible sense, of course; Inoue's music rarely comes across as derivative. Eno's pure, fragile, minimal sound and looped motifs are simply a departure point from which Inoue has created some fine, distinctive ambient albums that stand proud on their own terms.

90's classics

Shades Of Orion (1994), Ambient Otaku (1994) and Organic Cloud (1995) are all peak period Fax Records releases. Passages of muted bleeps and beats ride on beds of subtle vocal textures, lovely airy chords and synth melodies that gently spin in and out of your consciousness. Alternately beatless and gently rhythmic, if there's such a thing as softcore techno then this is it. Environmental sounds are also woven into the tapestry in a most subtle way, some processed and treated to the point where their source is rendered almost unrecognisable.

2350 Broadway (1993) is the first in a series recorded with Fax founder Pete Namlook. The first half is rather too short on tones and melody but the second disc, consisting of the 70-minute epic "Hands Of Light" is a masterful exercise in deep spacemusic. It's glacial pace varies only marginally between beatless and gently pulsed and its mix of electronic drones, wind effects and melodies is deceptively simple. 2350 Broadway 3 (1995) is the other outstanding entry in the Broadway series and is consistently more melodic then the first. Its unforgettable opening track "Morning Spirit" is an awe-inspiring piece of sunrise ambience, beginning tentatively before slowly expanding and blooming into a warm, enveloping embrace.

World Receiver (1997) takes Inoue's sound design skills to an even higher level of sophistication. Here the lines between music and sound collage have been completely dissolved and the music reveals extraordinary detail with each listen. Musical notes become environment; environment (urban and natural) becomes music. The techniques used sound like a refinement of those on Eno's album On Land (1982), reinterpreted with field recordings sourced from all around the globe.

Rounding off Inoue's best 90's albums is his most atypical release of this period, Flowerhead (1995). This is the strongest of several albums he recorded under name Datacide with electronic mischief-maker Atom Heart. Bathed in a slowly shifting purple haze of electronic clouds and urban environmental samples is an enticing mix of vaguely pop-sounding melodies, late 60's-style psychedelic jams, backwards guitar effects and sprinkles of light machine beats.

Beyond 2000

The years following World Receiver find Inoue's albums moving ever deeper into abstraction and experimentalism, often at the expense of accessibility. Inland (2007) is an exception, however, and is highly recommended. It marks his return to the Fax Records and contains his warmest and most tonal music since the mid-90's.

After Inland, Testu Inoue completely and mysteriously disappeared from the music scene. Friends and former collaborators claim not to have any idea where he is. The most reliable story circulating online is that around 2009 or 2010 he returned to Japan for family reasons and has not been heard from since. His legacy remains, however, even if most of his albums are now out of print and unavailable to buy new.

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