J-Pop Sunday – capsule

Hello! Kaito here! So, regular readers of this column – if there are any of you – will know that I recently went on a little holiday research trip to Tokyo. I didn’t come back empty handed. As well as the charming Rei Ayanami coffee mug currently sat to my left I also brought home with me a number of J-Pop CDs, including the latest release from the subject of this week’s entry: capsule.

Yasutaka Nakata & Toshiko Koshijima: The duo behind capsule

Quick Guide
Act Name: capsule
Years Active: 1997 – Present
Genre: Shibuya-kei/Electronica/House.
Notable Tracks: Sakura (2001), jelly (2006), Jumper (2008), World of Fantasy (2011), Step on the Floor (2012)
Not to be confused with: Capsule, a screamo band from Miami, Florida.

A quick side note before we start, you probably noticed the term “Shibuya-kei” in the genre list. Originating from the Shibuya district of Tokyo in the early 90’s, it’s best described as a mix between Jazz, Pop and synthpop. capsule’s 2007 track Sugarless GiRL is a nice example of the genre:

So, onto the duo themselves. Yasutaka Nakata and Toshiko Koshijima met and formed capsule in 1997 after meeting a music festival in Kanazawa. Capsule operates with Nakata acting as composer and co-producer while Koshijima provides the vocals. Although their pair formed capsule in 1997 it wasn’t until 2001 when the pair were signed by Yamaha Music Communications that they released their first single, “Sakura” (さくら/Cherry Blossom). capsule’s first album “High Collar Girl” – also released in 2001 – featured a sound almost unrecognisable in comparison with their later, more successful works. “High Collar Girl” had much less of a focus on the electronic sounds or synthesizers that the duo would later become known for. “High Collar Girl” failed to chart.

“Sakura” features a vastly different sound compared to the duo’s later work.

n 2003 the pair followed “High Collar Girl” with their next album “Cutie Cinema Replay”. Another odd release, “Cutie Cinema Replay” featured guest vocalists and an odd French theme prevalent throughout the album – complete with the use of accordions on several tracks. However, for all it’s strangeness “Cutie Cinema Replay” did manage to chart! At rank 232…

Undeterred at the lack of success so far, Nakata set up his own record label under Yamaha, “Contemode”. From there capsule began to grow from strength to strength, eventually finding their current sound – found in tracks such as 2006’s “jelly”, 2008’s “Jumper” and 2012’s “Step on the Floor” – and became a success.

Aside from his work with capsule, Nakata has managed to find the time to work with and produce the albums of a number of other big name Japanese artists. These artists include Perfume, MEG and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. (Yes, Nakata is the man that inflicted KPP onto the world…) Meanwhile Koshijima has focused her efforts solely on capsule.

The video for Jumper, from the album “More! More! More!”

To date, the duo has released 17 albums – including a self-remix album and three compilation albums. 2008’s “More! More! More!” was their biggest seller, managing to shift over 60,000 copies; a number that could be considered staggering when compared to “Cutie Cinema Replay” which struggled to make it past sales of 2,000. Their 2011 album had originally been scheduled to drop at the end of March that year under the working title of “Killer Wave”. Unfortunately, the 2011 Tōhoku Earthquake and Tsunami caused the pair to album to delay and re-edit the album until a later May release under a new name and with a replacement title track “World of Fantasy”.

Neon road trip! (The video for “World of Fantasy”)

“World of Fantasy” became capsule’s highest charting album, reaching #3 in the Oricon Weekly Charts. Since then the pair have continued working together and show no signs of slowing down any time soon. Which is a good thing. Because they’re totally rad. And because Miss Koshijima has nice legs…

Anyway! Until next time!