Tsuchiya on the cover of his 1982 solo album, "Rice Music." Photo by Masayoshi Sukita.

Masami Tsuchiya
& Ippu-Do

Not to be confused with the Aum Shinrikyo scientist Masami Tsuchiya, who was sentenced to death for his involvement in the 1995 Sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway, this Masami Tsuchiya is much more happy to walk around in space-age stewardess outfits and unleash face melting guitar solos on the unsuspecting public 1.

Tsuchiya formed Ippu-Do in 1979 along with keyboardist Akira Mitake and percussionist Shoji Fujii and the group released their first album, "Normal," that same year (with the name " Ippppu-Do" on the cover) 2. Crafted with standard New Wave sensibilities, their debut can be a bit of a frustrating listen as Tsuchiya's generally painful vocals, backed by a plodding rhythm section and numbing production, occasionally give way to sharp synthesizer programming, groovy rhythms and supreme guitar shredding. It's a bit like Japan's first album, actually, since Ippu-Do find themselves sticking to second-fiddle rock archetypes more often than to their own, and much stronger, ideas.

Their next two albums, 1980's "Real" and 1981's "Radio Fantasy," followed the same general pattern, mixing low-tier New Wave with moments of occasionally brillant technopop. These records come off equally as frustrating, as it's clear the band isn't playing to their full potential.

Ippu-Do finally seemed to get their act together with the 1982 single "Sumire September Love," a light hearted pop track that reached #2 in Japan, sold 800,000 copies and was used in a Kanebo Cosmetics commercial 2, 3. Much like how David Sylvian totally changed his vocals for Japan's "Quiet Life," Tsuchiya's vocals are completely calmed down on "...September Love." Without the phony rock howl, Tsuchiya comes off as a much more comfortable and confident singer (though his voice is still pretty limited), and it leaves a lot more room in the mix for the track's punchy synthesizers and out-of-nowhere violin solo.

Following "...September Love's" success, Ippu-Do took a short break for Tsuchiya to record his first solo album, "Rice Music," and play guitar with Japan during their Sons of Pioneers tour in 1982. One of Tsuchiya's best efforts, "Rice Music," is a consistent set of songs with somewhat avant leanings. Tsuchiya thows in the ususal East vs. West, traditional vs. modern stuff one would expect from someone working in the shadow of Yellow Magic Orchestra, but he, along with his cast of excellent guest musicians, uses those themes to great effect. It's worth tracking down a copy of the album just for the guests, who include Steve Jansen, Mick Karn, Ryuichi Sakamoto (on the track "Kafka"), Bill Nelson and Percy Jones. Tsuchiya even has photographer Masayoshi Sukita (famous for his pictures of David Bowie in the 70s) "playing" a Polaroid SX-70 on the album!

After returning from his tenure as Japan's tour guitarist, Tsuchiya re-formed Ippu-Do with Akira Mitake to record a fourth album, 1983's "Night Mirage." Percussionist Shoji Fujii didn't return to the band for this album, and they instead enlisted Steve Jansen to play drums. Richard Barbieri also contributed to the album, and his synth programming can be heard all over the track "Moon Mirage." Tsuchiya's time touring with Japan clearly influenced him substantially, and the LP plays as a fantastic companion to the material on Japan's "Gentlemen Take Polaroids" and "Tin Drum." The album is filled with similarities to Japan's work, from jilted East/West funk to Erik Satie inspired compositions. However, the LP still stands extremely strong on its own and is likely Tsuchiya and Mitake's finest recording.

Ippu-Do called it quits after releasing a live album in 1984 and Tsuchiya and Mitake managed fairly well with their solo careers through the end of the 80s. Tsuchiya has since released another six solo albums, though none have reached the caliber of "Rice Music." Tsuchiya also landed a gig with the Duran Duran offshoot Arcadia (more proof of Nick Rhodes' idolization of all things related to David Sylvian) and contributed to their excellent 1985 LP, "So Red the Rose." Mitake has fared slightly less well in his own pursuits, though his 1983 solo debut, "Out of Reach," produced by Richard Barbieri, is generally a satisfying listen.



1980 Real Epic/Sony
1981 Radio Fantasy Epic EPC 85351
1982 Lunatic Menu (compliation) Epic EPC 25139
1982 Some-Times (compilation) Epic
1983 Night Mirage Epic EPC 25506
1984 Live and Zen Epic

Masami Tsuchiya

1985 Tokyo Ballet Epic
1987 Life in Mirrors Epic/Sony
1988 Horizon Epic/Sony
1989 Time Passenger Epic/Sony
1997 Mod' Fish ?
1998 Forest People ?

  1. "World Briefing: Asia: Japan: Death For Gas-Attack Sect's Chemist." The New York Times. Jan. 31, 2004. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C0DE5DE1F38F932A05752C0A9629C8B63.
  2. "Ippu-Do." Pop Academy. http://park10.wakwak.com/~techno/ippudo.html.
  3. "Masami Tsuchiya." Testament. http://www2u.biglobe.ne.jp/~kay_dac/testament/text/masami_tsuchiya.html.

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