Before They Were Y.M.O. - Part 3
We now conclude our three-part special, "Before They Were Y.M.O.", with Ryūichi Sakamoto and his 1978 solo debut Thousand Knives of Ryuichi Sakamoto.
It should go without saying that much of what appears on Thousand Knives hints at what was to come from Y.M.O., as both future members of the group, Yukihiro Takahashi and Haruomi Hosono, join Sakamoto on the recording. Its title track begins with an ethereal vocoder monologue that gives way to a funky space-dance groove, complete with whaling guitar solos and synthesized tribal percussion.
From the music on the album one can catch a glimpse of Sakamoto's early vision of Japanese electro-pop, a music far removed from the cold, calculated rhythms of Kraftwerk, one of Y.M.O.'s most frequent comparisons. And as with Thousand Knives, there is an organic quality to Sakamoto's music; something that is at the same time playful and daring, yet distinctly Japanese.
As a classically trained musician, Sakamoto received instruction in both traditional and electronic music, as well as composition, from the faculty at Tokyo's prestigious National University of Fine Arts and Music. As a result, it is quite easy to perceive an academic influence in the music he produced during the late 1970s. In comparison with his colleagues in Y.M.O., both of whom attended equally reputable art schools, Sakamoto was much more so a "composer" than he was performer (at least outside of the conservatory). Ultimately, it was Sakamoto's academic training coupled with his bandmates' studio background and firm grounding in rock and pop that made Y.M.O. the successful and dynamic group we know them as today.
Ryūichi Sakamoto - Thousand Knives (1978)
坂本龍一 - 千のナイフ
Here's a clip from 1979 of Y.M.O. performing "Thousand Knives" live at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles: