50 years ago, Hokkaido-born singer-songwriter Morio Agata released his debut single, Sekishoku Ereji (Red Elegy), an emotive, shuffling piano ballad that (shockingly) sold half a million copies in Japan. While he would never have another Top-40 hit, Agata would spend the next half century issuing a series of idiosyncratic, experimental pop albums. Today, he’s a beloved cult figure, still actively touring and recording in his seventies.
In his first decade as a recording artist, Agata released a stream of classics right out of the gate — Otome No Roman (1972) melded American-styled folk rock with traditional Japanese melodies, Zipangu Boy (1976) was a sprawling, Haruomi Hosono-produced psychedelic opus, and Kimi No Koto Suki Nan Da (1977) saw Agata tackle slick, lightly funky AOR. While this sort of stylistic schizophrenia might sink your average artist, Agata’s singular voice and magnetic charisma elevates everything he touches, and subsumes it all into Morio Agata World — a joyous, playful and frequently unhinged world.
Arguably the biggest left-turn of Agata’s early career, however, came in 1979, when legendary experimental label Vanity Records’ Yuzuru Agi paired Agata with major players from his label’s roster and the Osaka punk scene for an impromptu recording session. An impressive list of musicians took part (SAB, Yukio Fujimoto (Normal Brain), Masahiro Kitada (INU), Taiqui (Ultra Bide), Jun Shinoda (SS), Chie Mukai (Che-Shizu), and others) and even though they all came from different wings of the underground music scene, together they built an arresting, minimalistic bedrock of synthesized and acoustic sounds for Agata to work his magic over. The recording sesssions were tense and it took a while for the collective to find their footing. But the hard work paid off — Norimono Zukan is a masterpiece of ramshackle new wave and droning dirges, topped off with Agata’s unmistakeable croon, at times delicate, other times twisted. It’s a relatively short album, but a deep one, and Mesh-Key is honored to introduce it to a new generation of music fans.