Artists Of The Year CMU Approved

CMU Artists Of The Year 2013: Yasutaka Nakata

By | Published on Wednesday 18 December 2013

Yasutaka Nakata

Each weekday in the run up to the Christmas break, we will reveal another of our ten favourite artists of the year. To see each artist as they’re revealed, sign up to receive the CMU Daily or check this page. Next up, producer Yasutaka Nakata…

We’ve already mentioned Japanese songwriter and producer Yasutaka Nakata once in our Artists Of The Year rundown, for his contribution to the multi-layered world of J-pop group Perfume. But he more than deserves to be recognised in his own regard. His work as a songwriter and producer this year has been phenomenal.

Although probably best known for his work with the aforementioned Perfume and singer Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, Nakata actually first broke into the music industry as one half of electro duo Capsule, with vocalist Toshiko Koshijima, releasing their debut album ‘High Collar Girl’ in 2001. He began working with Perfume the following year, producing a number of singles for the group but without huge chart success, while Capsule’s popularity was slowly rising.

But then in 2007 Perfume released their breakthrough single, ‘Polyrhythm’, which took them to number seven in the Japanese singles chart and wound up on the soundtrack of Pixar film ‘Cars’. The following year, their debut album ‘Game’ went to number one, bringing forth the distinct techno-pop sound Nakata had designed for them, and continues to develop.

In addition to writing and recording Perfume’s fourth consecutive number one album this year, Nakata also released his second album with Kyary Pamyu Pamyu in June, which also went to number one in Japan.

A distinctly different act to Perfume, Kyary was originally a model and fashion blogger in Tokyo’s Harajuku district, known for its outlandish style. Working with her, he’s created another very distinct sound to match her visual presentation – perhaps best displayed in the video for ‘Pon Pon Pon’, from her debut album ‘Pamyu Pamyu Revolution’. Though it’s on that second album ‘Nandacollection’ that he really nailed the songwriting for this new sound, better balancing cute and quality.

In a country where the actual music part of pop can seem like something of an afterthought, Nakata stands out as something of a maverick. And this seems partly down to a continued need to create, rather than sell (though he does both). For many, writing and producing two highly successful albums in one year would probably be enough, but in 2013 Nakata also managed to put together the fourteenth Capsule album, ‘CAPS LOCK’. In an interview with MTY Iggy he explained that these days Capsule mainly acts as a project to filter ideas he’s not able to use in his more mainstream work.

And whereas he usually gets the singers he works with to record their vocals onto unfinished backing tracks (a process Perfume discussed with CMU earlier this year), before building them up into their final versions, for ‘CAPS LOCK’ he got Koshijima to record an array of vocal phrases which he then edited into the tracks as he was writing them, using these vocal samples as he would any other sound.

With Nakata on something of a creative high at the moment, and with both Perfume and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu gaining more attention overseas, so too is he. So far his work with Western artists has been limited to remixing Kylie Minogue and Passion Pit, while director JJ Abrams sought him out to rework a track for the Japanese release of ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’. However, Grimes has previously said that she’d like to work with him, and I spotted another of our Artists Of The Year, Charli XCX, at a Kyary gig in London earlier this year, and they’d both be great matches for proper collaborations.

Though when asked about who he might work with in the future earlier this year, Nakata told MTV Iggy: “I’m not the sort of person to initiate these things. But if some overseas artist wanted a taste of Tokyo in their music then they’re very welcome to approach me”.

So, Western pop performers looking for a studio collaborator, please do. And here, to get you in the mood, is a selection of Yasutaka Nakata’s work from 2013…

Capsule – Control

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu – Invader Invader

Perfume – 1mm