Artists From Japan #10: Introduction to Love, Peace & Trance

Who Are Love, Peace & Trance?

Formed in 1994, disbanded by 1995, Love, Peace, & Trance was a moment for Japanese music that was as fleeting as it was odd. Centered around three female lead vocalists, Mimori Yusa, Miyako Koda, Mishio Ogawa, and headed by famed Happy End, and YMO member Haruomi Hosono (who was by 1994, already a monumental figure in Japanese music for almost three decades), Love, Peace & Trance was the sort of genre leaping musical experimental that really only made sense in the 1990s. A formless sort of band, they touched on the emerging sounds of Downtempo and Tribal House while making an odd blend of ambient-electro and “New Age art pop”. Though let me assure you, none of those labels really seem to capture it. Their sound seemed to drift in the eye of the storm of the 90’s sonic revolutions.

Their first release, the single entitled “Hasu Kriya, which would eventually appear on their debut album, was released quickly after their formation in 1994, featuring an almost comically “J-pop” styled cover art which displayed the three singers like some sort of pop super group. You can just image the faces of unsuspecting mothers as they listened to the songs’ synth drones and tablas. The song was quickly followed up with a full self titled album the next year, featuring a much more fitting, though no less comical, album cover. Running a brisk 52 minutes, the album would be the group’s final and only output, disbanding soon after.

1. Love, Peace & Trance

Love, Peace & Trance is the sort of album that exists solely in its own universe. The murky layers of production which blend ambient techno drones and house rhythms with reverbed-out Indian-inspired instrumentation. The dense vocal harmonies which float at the bottom of the mix and then slowly rise to the top as they envelop these songs. Together it all creates such a singular ambiance it’s almost impossible to mistake it for anything other than itself.

The opening track, “Ho’la”, on the opening record side, “Quiet Love Mode”, opens with the sound of ghostly analog synthesizers over a sort of lo-fi recording of wind chime sounds (miraculously living up to the absurd “Quiet Love Mode” name). It’s a relatively short and drifting tune, but one which predicts the album’s’ very light and airy fusion of synthetic and natural incredibly well. “Quiet Love Mode” is capped off by the album’s lead single “Hasu Kriya”, a warm and almost dream-pop-esque song that weaves the three’s vocals into layers upon layers of synths and muted drum machine as the song pushes towards complete bliss.

Followed by “Silent Peace Mode” and “Calm Trance Mode”, Love Peace & Trance certainly never loses its sort of stoned-out-of-its-mind attitude, like on the track “Yeelen” where an English spoken word piece is given over top tribal drums and fluttering flute melodies. A speech which of course sounds like it was written through strong substances, featuring such cutting lines as ‘Death is the next step in life’, and ‘The body is the vehicle of the spirit’. It may remind you of experiences you’ve had talking to drugged out strangers on the street, or for those who indulge, perhaps your own comically vague thoughts you find scribbled on paper the next morning. Even more so on tracks like “Mammal Mia”, where Love, Peace & Trance almost sounds like Shpongle-esque psybient or psytrance, hard panning sleepy female vocals over bubbly drum machines while synthscapes drift overhead. Crafting a sound that was in many ways a decade ahead of its time, predicting the sounds of artists like Carbon Based Lifeforms and Shpongle.

It’s an album that certainly deals in dead-serious absurdity, selling its brand of future hippie aesthetic without an ounce of self-awareness or a modicum of irony. What I must stress is the music though, that drugged out delivery service is so fascinating and overwhelming you can almost feel yourself succumbing to it’s dead eyed world view, as the word “vibes” almost slips off your tongue. The warm and suffocating synths push out your cynicism as the gentle bells and vocal harmonies wash over you, clearing your mind of objective thought and individuality.

Love, Peace & Trance is the feeling of entering the collective, a higher intelligence, a “vibey-ier” intelligence. 

(Sidebar: The song “Kokoro Da” actually features Haruomi Hosono singing, and sounds very much like a straight up synth-pop track. I am convinced Haruomi accidentally sent this song along with the others to the label and was simply too embarrassed to correct it after the mistake. Nothing will convince me otherwise.)

2. After Love, Peace, & Trance (A Brief Summary)

Haruomi Hosono

To Haruomi Hosono, this album was nothing more than a short detour on the pursuit of musical immortality. He would continue to make solo albums, many of which continued in a vaguely similar ambient electronic direction (albums like Naga, N.D.E, and Good Sport), while also continuing to work as a part of his many side projects including HAT, Sketch Show, and HASYMO. He’s since acted, composed for soundtracks, had tribute albums made for him, and composed for orchestra. The work of Haruomi Hosono is expansive and almost without peer in Japan, I’d recommend the Omni Sight Seeing album for more of his downtempo/ambient work.

Miyako Koda

Miyako Kado continued to work with her art pop duo Dip in the Pool, and under her own name for the 1998 album Jupiter which continued along with LPT’s ambient pop and new age sound. She would even appear on Visible Cloaks new album Reassemblage which came out this year to rave reviews

Mimori Yusa

Mimori would continue her solo career, releasing a continual stream of art pop albums which continues to this day, as well as notable work in composing and sound tracking for television. Most of it is incredibly difficult to find here in the west, and personally, I don’t think that’s much of a loss, but that’s just me.

Mishio Ogawa

A member of cult-favorite new wave group Chakra, as well as notable art-pop singer/songwriter in her own solo space, Mishio is a Japanese musical legend in her own respect, though perhaps a much lesser one when compared to Haruomi.  In addition to LPT she is a contributor to ever-growing list of oddities and side projects that make good bedfellows for the LPT project, though I haven’t found much of equal substance.

Check out the other entries in our ‘Artists From’ series.

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