Light In The Attic will soon release Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990, a definitive collection of Japanese ambient music featuring tracks from Ryuichi Sakamoto, Haruomi Hosono, and Joe Hisaishi, among others. 

The release is the latest addition to the Seattle label’s Japan archival series that started with Even a Tree Can Shed Tears: Japanese Folk & Rock 1969-1973, and features a collection of 25 tracks from the foundations of Japan’s exploratory journey into ambient, minimal, avant-garde, and new age. Visible Cloaks’ Spencer Doran curated the compilation, bringing together well-known artists from the region such as Ryuichi Sakamoto, Haruomi Hosono, and Joe Hisaishi, also diving deep to excavate lesser-known artists such as Hiroshi Yoshimura, Yoshio Ojima, and Satoshi Ashikawa. This release is the first-ever fully licensed collection of this music, and marks the first time that these recordings will be made available outside of Japan. 

The title, Kankyō Ongaku, translates to “environmental music,” utilized for commercial use in stores, product marketing, installations, public spaces, and more. Light In The Attic further details: “In the 1970s, the concepts of Brian Eno’s “ambient” and Erik Satie’s “furniture music” began to take hold in the minds of artists and musicians around Tokyo. Emerging fields like soundscape design and architectural acoustics opened up new ways in which sound and music could be consumed. For artists like Yoshimura, Ojima, and Ashikawa, these ideas became the foundation for their musical works, which were heard not only on records and in live performances, but also within public and private spaces where they intermingled with the sounds and environments of everyday life. The bubble economy of 1980s Japan also had a hand in the advancement of kankyō ongaku. In an attempt to cultivate an image of sophisticated lifestyle, corporations with expendable income bankrolled various art and music initiatives, which opened up new and unorthodox ways in which artists could integrate their avant-garde musical forms into everyday life: in-store music for Muji, promo LP for a Sanyo AC unit, a Seiko watch advert, among others that can be heard in this collection.

The set is packaged as a 3LP deluxe edition that includes stoughton “tip-on” jackets, slipcase and poster, with indie retailers offering the transparent blue clear vinyl. The 2CD version is also presented as a deluxe edition, housed in a custom 7” x 7” hardbound book. The cover photo was taken from the collection of Osamu Murai, featuring uniquely designed buildings by renowned architect Fumihiko Maki. Extensive research has been put into the liner notes and the layout for both CD and LP versions is stunning, including artist bios, rare photos, original album covers, and an essay by Spencer Doran. 

Light In The Attic is co-owned and operated by co-founders and high school friends Matt Sullivan and Josh Wright. 


01. Satoshi Ashikawa “Still Space”

02. Yoshio Ojima “Glass Chattering”

03. Hideki Matsutake “Nemureru Yoru” (Karaoke Version)

04. Joe Hisaishi “Islander”

05. Yoshiaki Ochi “Ear Dreamin'”

06. Masashi Kitamura + Phonogenix “Variation III”

07. Interior “Park”

08. Yoichiro Yoshikawa “Nube”

09. Yoshio Suzuki “Meet Me In The Sheep Meadow”

10. Toshi Tsuchitori “Ishiura” (Abridged)

11. Shiho Yabuki “Tomoshibi” (Abridged)

12. Toshifumi Hinata “Chaconne”

13. Yasuaki Shimizu “Seiko 3”

14. Inoyama Land “Apple Star”

15. Hiroshi Yoshimura “Blink”

16. Fumio Miyashita “See The Light” (Abridged)

17. Akira Ito “Praying For Mother / Earth Part 1”

18. Jun Fukamachi “Breathing New Life”

19. Takashi Toyoda “Snow”

20. Yellow Magic Orchestra “Loom”

21. Takashi Kokubo “A Dream Sails Out To Sea – Scene 3”

22. Masahiro Sugaya “Umi No Sunatsubu”

23. Haruomi Hosono “Original BGM”

24. Ayuo Takahashi “Nagareru” (LP Only)

25. Ryuichi Sakamoto “Dolphins” (LP Only)

Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990 will be available on February 15, with pre-order here, and a teaser below.