Each week, Sunday School takes a second look at a classic album worth revisiting years after its release. EMMIE staff handpick releases that shaped a genre, defined a generation or deserve recognition despite being left in the distance. Keep up with Sunday School for your weekly dose of dusted-off classics and throwbacks that merit a second spin.
Cochin Moon, Haruomi Hosono
Release Date: September 21, 1978
Good For: Any activity on a sunny day, Dancing with extreme passion, Enjoying the details of life
Standout Tracks: “Hum Ghar Sajan,” “Roof Garden – Revel Attack”
In 1978, legendary Japanese musician Haruomi Hosono took a month–long trip to India. When he was there, he became infatuated with the sounds — both natural and man-made — that filled the air of the places he visited. Upon his return to Japan, he and future Yellow Music Orchestra bandmates Ryuichi Sakamoto and Hideki Matsutake revolutionized electronic music with an innovative blend of exotic Indian music and electronic music. Recorded to be the soundtrack for a fictional Bollywood film, Cochin Moon is filled with a grand sense of wonder and an undeniable cinematic quality.
Over the years, Hosono has grown to become one of Japan’s most influential artists. He’s greatly impacted Japanese pop music as a whole, and shaped the courses of several electronic sub-genres. In many ways, Cochin Moon was the start of his immense influence on the evolution of electronic music. His fifth solo album and first electronic album, Cochin Moon dared to explore new combinations of genres that paved the way for many kinds of fusions in the future.
Functionally, Cochin Moon is split into two parts; the first half — titled Hotel Malabar after the place Hosono’s group stayed in during their trip — features sparse, slow-building electronic progressions that blend the natural sounds of the country with the analog technologies that shaped how its inhabitants communicated. The latter half brings those same elements to life with heightened Indian-inspired rhythms and textures.
During the trip to India, a majority of the travelers came down with severe diarrhea, leaving them incapacitated for several days. In an interview done for the first reissue of Cochin Moon in the United States, Hosono said, “I had no model. Everything had come out of my body, so I was feeling like a baby. Like a baby playing around with toys.” The unfortunate illness cleared Hosono’s body and set him up to approach the music from a completely new perspective. The opening track, “Ground Floor – Triangle Circuit on the Sea-Forest” begins with what sounds like birds chirping filtered through a modular synthesizer. As the environment Hosono tries to engulf us in grows, the song builds to a crescendo that marks the start of a trip through a mysterious world. As the album stretches on, the modular sounds of India filter in and out of the mix just like the birds, the cars and the people of India floating around the bustling cities Hosono visited.
Four of the six songs clock in at roughly nine-minutes, offering ample space for the listener to not only explore the soundscapes that Hosono presents, but to live in them. Throughout each track and transition to the next, Hosono packs a tremendous amount of detail and texture that brings the album to life.
The album’s climax comes with “Hum Ghar Sajan” where vocal melodies are intertwined with repetitious chants, bubbly drum patterns, and a plethora of traditional Indian sounds. While each individual track escalates and resolves itself in the length of a short film, the project as a whole has a greater cohesion. Each track works as a scene for this fictional Bollywood film. Though the story is unknown, it’s clear that it is one filled with grandeur and passion for a deep historic culture.
Over 40 years later, and Hosono is still wildly active in the music world. What is very apparent, now, is that the work Hosono did on this album — and his subsequent work with Yellow Music Orchestra — was miles ahead in its exploration of combining natural and synthetic worlds to create experiences unlike anything that existed until its inception. Over 40 years later, Cochin Moon remains a landmark album that showcases the unique and exciting ways in which musicians can twist, bend and alter the sounds of our world in order to create a new one filled with awe and mystery.