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Album Review

Having initially made a name for themselves by mixing the traditional music of their island home of Okinawa with the beats and production techniques of Western, especially British, club music, Anglo-American duo Ryukyu Underground branch out somewhat with Shimadelica (a pun on Primal Scream's 1991 album Screamadelica and "shima," the Japanese word for "island"). The opening track, "Suminashi," builds from its ambient beginnings, and the guitars give the sound a distinctly retro psychedelic flavor, as they do on the sitar-laden "Shimadelic Sound System" that follows; it's a thread that continus through to the wah-wah guitars that infuse the closing number, "Erabu no Komoriuta." However, its when the duo, along with their gang of native Okinawan collaborators, start coming to grips with the songs of the Okinawan islands themselves that Ryukyo Underground's sound reveals their full range — as on their dub-influenced take on Sadao China and Osami Okamoto's "Kogane no Hana," in which Ryukyu Underground take an already astonishing melody and give it a haunting edge of their own, and in the moments during "Thirteenth Moon" where the trance-like layers of synths and electronic beats give way to the traditional vocal and sanshin melody underpinning the track. While the electronic aspects of Ryukyu Underground are certainly rooted in '90s British artists like Massive Attack and Portishead, what's striking about the group is how easily that sound is transplanted from the rainy, grey skies of Bristol to the sunny, tropical shores of Japan's southernmost islands, and how effective that is.


Genre: World

Years Active: '00s

Souljazz, Inc. DJ Keith Gordon and Jon Taylor are Ryukyu Underground, a duo that combines traditional Okinawan folk music with ambient, hip-hop, trip-hop, dub, and drum'n'bass. Along with other artists from Okinawa like Nenes, Rinsho Kadekaru, and Misako Ohshiro, the fusionist duo's "Tinsaga Nu Hana Dub" appeared on 2001's The Rough Guide to the...
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Shimadelica, Ryukyu Underground
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