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LISTEN / PIECES / READ / TOKYO TRACKS / TRACKS

008 / Haruomi Hosono / Hotel Malabar Upper Floor, Moving Triangle

A hirsute Jonny Nash wrote a short essay on his favourite Tokyo record shops. Handed it to me as he left Japan. Both a blessing and a curse. This was back when I only had two kids and I made it my mission, once a week to head into central Tokyo and find these places. A good excuse to get out, try to get to know my way around and practice the language. I think EAD was second on the list. One Tuesday morning I somewhat stressfully traversed Tokyo’s Metro system, from my language lesson in Harajuku to the shop in Koenji. The journey mildly ambitious for a beginner. The shop was closed. Shutters down. A message daubed something about being closed for the summer. In December. I later learned that this message had been written at least five years before. It took a phone call from my wife to the shop to discover that generally there was no point trying til after 1 PM. I was left to wander the second hand clothes shops and struggle with café menus for the next couple of hours. No such thing as “just a coffee” in Koenji. You have to state your beans.

When I first visited at the end of 2006, EAD excelled in original pressings of New York disco classics. Loft and Paradise Garage playlists. To back this up there was a photo on the wall of Mancuso going through the racks. Does Mancuso still go digging? Would have thought there’d be an army of people doing it for him these days. Humbled when he plays a tune they’ve found. Anyhow, EAD, not cheap, but considerably cheaper than the basement of Disc Union in Shibuya, which was the other place you could find this stuff. I ended up mainly buying favourites I already had, like Melba Moore`s Standing Right Here. Replacing bootlegs.

Back then behind the counter was the owner Yozo and the lovely Nagi, from Dazzle Drums. Nagi DJing alongside Nori at Smoker, at ten years plus Club Loop’s longest running weekly night by far. G had a D-Train 12 in his hand and Nagi told us a story about being at Francois Kevorkian’s birthday party and James Williams singing ‘Happy Birthday’. She seemed to like G. Think it’s because he looks a little bit like Danny Krivit.

After about a year, we’d do a regular tour of shops. Always making sure to hit EAD last. First, and we’d have no money left to spend anywhere else. But it was here that we would plot. Yozo providing hot tea in the winter, umbrellas in monsoon. Restaurant recommendations when we were hungry. Politely correcting my Japanese.

With time, Nagi left (too busy with DJing and production) and the shop’s stock began to change. First, a load of Cosmic-related stuff appeared. I heard a rumour that this was Chee Shimizu getting rid of things he’d learnt and assimilated. Legend has it that he sold all his Italo once he’d been exposed to Baldelli. Then selling the Cosmic to settle on his own sound. Chee now running his own supremely obscurist on-line shop – Organic Music. I think I hovered up most of his cast-offs.

Now, in its 13th year, EAD is still the first place to try if you need a reasonably priced classic 12, but driven either by 1) a mellowing brought on by the birth of Yozo`s son, 2) regular visits to Shelter in Hachijoji (Chee again – DJing his unique mix of fusion and yoga instruction records), 3) the need to supply his customers with new discoveries or 4) the lack of decent dance spots left to dig in New York, the shop is floating towards a more spiritual plane. ECM-like jazz, rare prog, experimental electronics, free folk. It was Yozo that turned me on to the Batteaux LP and got me a copy of Conrad Schnitzler’s ‘Electric Garden’.

In 2008, Jez from Innersounds was over looking specifically for Japanese music. Yozo shrugged. EAD stocked none. Both Me and Yozo told him to go to Recofan. But things have changed again. My Osama Kitajima collection all comes from EAD. And my buying there these days is divided pretty much equally between spiky post-punk dubs and Japanese artists. I don’t know if Japanese music will ever be in vogue, but interest seems to be on the increase and it is something we are both trying to research and promote.

I don’t get into Tokyo so often these days, and when I do I can usually only hit one spot per visit. So once a month, each shop in rotation. Each shop maybe once every four months. But every weekend I get some “Daddy`s time”. Around 4 PM on a Saturday afternoon. The kids watching TV after a trip to the pool. I sit down with a pot of coffee, switch on the PC and go over the records Yozo has just put up. A quick caffeine-fuelled call while making dinner and I’m sorted. I wouldn’t/shouldn’t say it’s a weekend high-light but you could set your watch by it.

At the beginning of the year, I promised Yozo I would write about EAD. It has taken so long even I was wondering if it was just a hollow promise aimed at obtaining discount. I asked him for a list of his top ten Japanese records, again for not entirely unselfish reasons. This was one of them.

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