Night Tempo has been around for quite some time. He’s become a household name in the future funk scene for masterfully blending his chopping skill of classic 80s Japanese Citypop and recent years being an actual contributor to the Citypop genre in Japan. The South Korean artist seems to be exploding in popularity in asian markets as well as the west with no end in sight.
So when I saw the notification in my inbox the that his latest album, 夜韻, was released I raced to listen to the album while in a depressing conflict of whether I was drop 18 USD for the cassette. For collectors in the Future Funk / Vaporwave scene we are used to seeing 7-9 USD cassettes, this was double and I ultimately had to drop out of owning this one. Plus did you see his hoodie is 80 USD? Feels out of touch with the scene but maybe he’s trying to grow out of the internet and set a larger name for himself.
When I think of Night Tempo I think of hits like If You Love Me and Night Cruising. Pure funky Citypop remixes with high energy female vocal that make you want to dance the night away… in Japanese. That’s what I was expecting from this album, instead we got what almost feels like a karaoke version of a generic 80s pop album.
If you like instrumental 80s’ pop music, this is your album if you’re looking for Citypop with vocals you might be disappointed. – KITE0080
The closest we get to vocals in a track 5, Entertainment System, with a soulful female vocal that acts more like percussion than addition to melody. Although I will give the Lazer beams going off in Entertainment System some credit. Then again on track 13, New Dawn, which actually does this interesting hip-hop composition of typical beats and a vocal sample that comes in on the 3rd beat of a 4/4. It feels cool and sounds cool actually, probably my favorite song on the entire album.
So a karaoke 80s pop album, it feels harsh to say. There’s something soulless about this album which is weird considering the album isn’t bad, and most tracks (like Boy Meets Girl) will get you humming or whistling along but for me that means the music is almost too predictable and boring. I might not have the best speakers in the world but listening to this and trying to imagine any of these tracks playing at a live gig, I think it would be softball songs to get people in the door sadly.
One song that did stand out was track 7, Digital Shower. It has this slow head bopping late night lo-fi feel that brings midnight rain showers driving through Tokyo to mind. Then we get a pretty peaceful arpeggio around the 2 minute mark after a killer drum roll. Speaking of the drum roll I wonder what that was sampled from as it sounded too organic to be computerized.
Another song I want to quickly touch one is track 14, Access Denied, it this really cool dance EDM track with a wonderful lead synth that some times goes from synth to donks that I really enjoyed.
If you’re looking for a track that sounds the most like the Night Tempo you’re used to listening to and probably the one track that feels the fullest is track 15, Playback. It has all the make up of a future funk / citypop track, a create collection of brass instrumentals, a full bass line and a melody that will get stuck in your head.
There are some pretty impressive instrumental tracks here but my ears just kept wanting to hear some vocals to accompany it. There is a mix of Citypop, EDM and Lo-fi on this and we are seeing Night Tempo grow as an artist outside of relying on sampling and more original production.
If you are a collector of all things Night Tempo, you’ll be happy to know he still has Cassette and Vinyl available on his bandcamp. The ‘夜韻 Night Tempo’ LP will start shipping on Mid-December at $30 USD and the ‘夜韻 Night Tempo’ Cassette with 3D Cover Card will start shipping Mid-November. This was also the first time we saw a miniDisc release for a Night Tempo album, but that sold out instantly.
夜韻 Night Tempo by Night Tempo released October 26, 2019