By Dan Grunebaum
The whiz kid behind 90s house icons Deee-lite is
back with his first solo disc in six years
|Photos Courtesy of V2
Many, especially those who came of age in the 00s,
may never have heard of Towa Tei. But theyve probably
heard his music: No less than five of the ten songs on Teis
new album Flash (V2) have tie-ins with TV commercials.
The frothy single Sometime Samurai,
featuring Australian pop minx Kylie Minogue, is being used
in an ad celebrating the 80th anniversary of mayonnaise maker
Kewpie. Other songs on the album provide the soundtracks for
spots by air-conditioning giant Daikin, camera maker Olympus,
cell-phone provider AU, and car maker Mitsubishi.
While these sorts of commercial tie-ins are typical of the
music industry, the preference for Teis unapologetically
bubbly pop among Japanese advertisers underscores the success
hes had in transforming himself from New York house
producer to Japanese music industry icon.
Tei first shot to fame as the prototypically geeky Asian sampling
wunderkind behind Deee-lite, a trio that put a pop face on
the house music currents bubbling up out of the New York clubbing
underground. If nothing else, the group will be forever remembered
for the unbridled, booty-shaking pleasures of the track Groove
Is in the Heart.
is out on V2 records
But when Deee-lite inevitably split, Tei relocated back to
his native Tokyo (he is, in fact, of Korean ancestry) to pursue
his own muse. The result was a string of eclectic releases,
including Future Listening! (95), Sound Museum (98)
and Last Century Modern (99), that contained occasional
reminders of Deee-lites dance-pop, but also experimented
with breakbeats and ambient textures.
In comparison to his previous albums, Flash is perhaps the
most kindred in spirit to Deee-lite. Sometime Samurai
is about as kitschy as they come, with the lithesome Minogue
burbling over a four-to-the-floor house beat and elastic,
sampled sitars, while Melody featuring Byron Stingily
is an emotive hard-house workout. As is customary, Tei also
collaborates with a whos who of Japanese pop talent,
from Ryuichi Sakamoto to Buffalo Daughter on, oddly, a cover
of 80s hit My Sharona.
In contrast to the deliciously disposable pop fluff of Flash,
Tei has also cultivated a career in Japan as a club DJ, where
his style recalls the more muscular approach of the New York
DJs that influenced him early on. When I used to go
to nightclubs in New York, the DJs would give me goose bumps,
Tei told Metropolis. I try to be rambo [rough], not
carefully finished. I might make a mistake, but then I just
change the record.
Published concurrently with Flash is Look (Rittor Music),
a book that documents Teis record jackets, event flyers,
artwork and photographs by a man who has also taken a great
interest in his own visual presentation over the decade and
a half of his career.
The Flash tour launches Apr 1 at
Ageha and returns to Ebisu Liquid Room on June 12. www.towatei.com
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