Fantasma – Cornelius

Cornelius is a Japanese music producer and musician who makes experimental music, incorporating elements of jazz, alternative rock and electropop in one sumptuous package. These elements put together give an almost otherworldly circus vibe and is associated with the Shibuya ward of Tokyo, where the Tower Records shop is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, record shop in the world, boasting nine floors of music. Although Tower Records closed in its home country and several others, in Japan it remains incredibly strong, and with nine floors of CDs, where you can listen to a large amount of the music, it’s not hard to see why. A genre of music that holds pop, jazz, electropop and others within its grasp, it creates a bouncing sound and is deeply associated with this one area of Tokyo. Fantasma is the 1997 release by Cornelius and holds true to all of the features of Shibuya Kei, so much so that it just screams Japan, keeping its head above some of the more generic trends that pervade the Japanese chart of pop music, revelling in the Shibuya spirit. The songs Free Fall and Count Five Or Six rock hard while sounding unique and have a sense of fun, while the rest of the album wavers from jazz to pop in true Shibuya Kei style.

Scream – Siouxsie and the Banshees

London in 1978 – the first wave of punk bands were fading from view, with the split of the Sex Pistols personifying the break-up of punk unity. It left the music scene wide open for many different directions, many of which were pounced upon. As early as ’78, bands begun to be labelled ‘Post-Punk’ and Scream by Siouxsie and the Banshees was received as a landmark of this new emerging sound. The band would later help define gothic rock in the early ’80s, and this album was the beginning of their journey. Siouxsie Sioux, after having played with the Sex Pistols and a number of other punk bands, proved able to make the transition to the gloomier sound that was starting to pervade the scene, armed with former Sex Pistol Steve Severin. This album, with the preceding single ‘Hong Kong Garden’ forced people to take notice and helped to kickstart a London underground sound, becoming an integral part of the gothic scene in the capital and country. Armed with the new sounds of phased guitars that were to be a gothic staple, Siouxsie’s vocal performance that felt ethereal yet powerful, and Siouxsie’s appearance defining the look of the gothic female, this is an album that is firmly rooted in its birthplace of London and the time of the immediate aftermath of the initial punk scene.

Closer – Joy Division

The band that took what was left of punk and turned it into something less anarchic and more introspective and gloomy. In a similar fashion to The Doors this was done to relatively upbeat music, the tune masking the more sinister and serious messages of the lyrics. Joy Division employed a sound that had the guitar, bass and drums playing a danceable style of rock, yet they are definitely one of the most depressing bands to ever listen to, personified by the manner of the suicide of Ian Curtis, which left the world with Love Will Tear Us Apart – again, an upbeat classic that told of pain, evident from the title of the song. The album Closer, and its predecessor Unknown Pleasures, is a product of the place of its birth, Manchester. The north of England in the late ’70s and ’80s was a place of economic depression and industrial decay at the time, and the landscape showed as much. Joy Divison’s sound seems to paint a soundscape of a post-apocalyptic world with little life left in it, the music clinging to what grim buildings were left. While the depression that overshadowed Ian Curtis’ short career and life pervades the album and maybe exaggerates the grimness of Manchester, it certainly was a product of it.