Takako Minekawa

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Adventurous Shibuya-kei artist who moved into more experimental territory in the 21st century.
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Roomic Cube
Beginning her career as one of Shibuya-kei's most adventurous artists and gradually moving into more experimental terrain, Takako Minekawa defines her music with a playful sense of wonder. On her early albums, she pursued a fascinating mix of innocence and complexity; 1996's Roomic Cube and 1999's Fun9 paired lyrics about cats, tigers, and spiders with music that paid homage to innovators such as Kraftwerk, Yellow Magic Orchestra, and Stereolab. When she returned in the 2010s after a decade-long hiatus, she expanded on the inventive side of her music. Whether in her sound installation projects or on free-flowing collaborations with Dustin Wong such as 2013's Toropical Circle, 2017's Are Euphoria, and 2019's Kannazuki, Minekawa's later work was equally challenging and light-hearted.

Recubed
A child movie and TV star in Japan, Minekawa was always interested in music and formed her first group, Lolita, with some college friends. This morphed into Fancy Face Groovy Name in 1990, which also included Kahimi Karie and members of Flipper's Guitar. After playing in a number of groups, Minekawa was ready to strike out on her own. Inspired by her personal obsessions -- cats, keyboards, French pop -- she released her solo debut, Chat Chat, in 1994, which she followed up with 1995's A Little Touch of Baroque in Winter. Minekawa's music grew more sophisticated on 1996's Roomic Cube, a concept album about her apartment that featured collaborations with Buffalo Daughter and incorporated her fondness for French pop, bossa nova, Neu, and Kraftwerk seamlessly. She followed it with the 1998 remix EP Recubed, which featured Roomic Cube reworkings by friends like Sukia and the Pulsars as well as Buffalo Daughter. Late that year, Minekawa issued Cloudy Cloud Calculator, an aptly named set of lush, playful electro-pop that included a cover of Joe Meek's classic instrumental "Telstar." Another remix album, Ximer, appeared in 1999 and featured contributions from Cornelius and Sukia. Those artists also contributed to Minekawa's eclectic fifth album, Fun9, which arrived in July 1999 and ranged from bubbly synth interludes to sample-heavy, funked-up pop (the album's title is a play on words that sounds like "funk"). The following year, she collaborated with the experimental pop group Dymaxion on the mini-album Maxi On.

Savage Imagination
After marrying Cornelius' Keigo Oyamada in 2000 (they divorced in 2012), Minekawa took an extended break from making music. Aside from covering Haruomi Hosono's "Kaze no Tani no Nausicaa" in concert with Ryuichi Sakamoto in 2007, she spent most of the 2000s focused on her family. Slowly, her interest in writing and performing returned. After seeing former Ponytail guitarist Dustin Wong perform in Tokyo in 2011, Minekawa began working with him on improvised ambient pieces. Later, their collaboration incorporated more of the synths and witty pop of her earlier work into the free-flowing loops and effect-based approach of Wong's music. The pair's first release was the fractured experimental pop of Toropical Circle, which Thrill Jockey released in May 2013. Thanks to their live performances in support of the album, Minekawa and Wong's interplay became more fluent on 2014's Savage Imagination, a free-flowing set of pieces featuring more samples and textures.

Exit Future Heart
In 2015, Minekawa presented the multi-channel sound installation Tokyo Hatsumimi-ku at Sound Live Tokyo, while she and Wong released the single "Payapaya." They began working on their third collaboration soon after, taking inspiration from Japanese and European fusion artists as well as some hearing issues Wong suffered while recording. The results, Are Euphoria, arrived in 2017 and featured production by Wong's former Ecstatic Sunshine bandmate Matthew Papich (who also performs as Co La). While on the Are Euphoria tour, Wong and Minekawa collaborated with the Chicago free music trio Good Willsmith (TALsounds' Natalie Chami, MrDougDoug's Doug Kaplan, and Mukqs' Maxwell Allison) on a set of spontaneous compositions. Umor Rex released the session as Exit Future Heart in May 2018. Just over a year later, Warm Winters issued another live improvised album, the 18-minute piece Kannazuki. Named after the tenth month of the Japanese lunar year, the album was recorded in Tokyo in 2017 and featured Minekawa and Wong teaming up with producer Tarnovski and Haco, the former singer for the Japanese art pop group After Dinner.