Yellow Magic Orchestra

Profile:
Japanese electropop band, formed in 1978.

The principal members are Haruomi Hosono (bass), Yukihiro Takahashi (drums) and Ryuichi Sakamoto (keyboards).

The band was originally conceived as a one-off studio project by Hosono, the other two members being recruited session musicians - the idea was to produce an album fusing orientalist exotica (cf their cover version of Martin Denny's Firecracker) with modern electronics. However the first album (with its cutting-edge production) was very popular, and the studio project grew into a fully fledged touring band and career for its three members.

Making abundant use of new synthesizers, samplers, digital and computer recording technology as it became available, their popularity and influence extended beyond Japan. Generally the band are highly regarded as pioneers of electronic music, and continue to be remixed and sampled by modern artists.

The band had stopped working together by 1984 (deliberately using a Japanese term meaning "spreading out" or "branching out" rather than saying they were "splitting up"); the three members returning to their solo careers but continuing to collaborate. They released a one-off reunion album, Technodon, in 1993.

The early 2000s saw Hosono & Takahashi reunited in a project called Sketch Show. On a number of occasions Ryuichi Sakamoto has joined in on Sketch Show performances and recording sessions. He later proposed they rename the unit "Human Audio Sponge" when he participates, although outside Japan they also used "Yellow Magic Orchestra" until ownership issues with former label Alfa were resolved, so subsequent live releases use the original band name.

Oricon chart statistics -
Singles:
Technopolis : 9 in Oricon chart, 293,000 copies sold
Rydeen: 15 in Oricon chart, 225,000 copies sold
Tighten Up: 43 in Oricon chart, 38,000 copies sold
Kimi Ni Mune Kyun: 2 in Oricon chart, 347,000 copies sold
Kageki Na Shukujo: 15 in Oricon chart, 79,000 copies sold
Ishin Denshin: 23 on Oricon chart, 57,000 copies sold

Albums:
Yellow Magic Orchestra (US Mix): 20 on Oricon chart, 250,000 copies sold
Solid State Survivor: 1 on Oricon chart, 1,021,000 copies sold
Public Pressure: 1 on Oricon chart, 393,000 copies sold
Multiplies (Mini LP): 1 on Oricon chart, 412,000 copies sold
Multiplies (US version): 7 on Oricon chart, 186,000 copies sold
BGM: 2 on Oricon chart, 275,000 copies sold
Technodelic: 4 on Oricon chart, 118,000 copies sold
Naughty Boys: 1 on Oricon chart, 243,000 copies sold
Naughty Boys Instrumental: 18 on Oricon chart, 31,000 copies sold
Service: 5 on Oricon chart, 135,000 copies sold
After Service: 2 on Oricon chart, 123,000 copies sold
(Source - booklet of the compilation "We Love YMO", 1998)
Sites:
Aliases:
Members:
Variations:

Artist

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Albums

ALC-1511 Yellow Magic Orchestra — Yellow Magic Orchestra Yellow Magic Orchestra Yellow Magic Orchestra (Album) Alfa ALC-1511 Japan 1978 Sell This Version
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ALR-6022 Solid State Survivor — Yellow Magic Orchestra Yellow Magic Orchestra Solid State Survivor (Album) Alfa ALR-6022 Japan 1979 Sell This Version
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RL 9-0 Evita / Yellow Magic Orchestra — Yellow Magic Orchestra Festival (2) / Yellow Magic Orchestra Festival (2) / Yellow Magic Orchestra - Evita / Yellow Magic Orchestra(LP, Transcription) AFRTS, United States Department Of Defense RL 9-0 US 1979 Sell This Version
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AMLH 68516 X∞Multiplies = 増殖 — Yellow Magic Orchestra Yellow Magic Orchestra X∞Multiplies = 増殖 (MiniAlbum, Album, Comp) Alfa AMLH 68516 Italy 1980 Sell This Version
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ALR-6033 Public Pressure = 公的抑圧 — Yellow Magic Orchestra Yellow Magic Orchestra Public Pressure = 公的抑圧 (Album) Alfa ALR-6033 Japan 1980 Sell This Version
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CN 3691/S In Concert-239 — Yellow Magic Orchestra Yellow Magic Orchestra In Concert-239(LP, Transcription) BBC Transcription Services CN 3691/S UK 1980 Sell This Version
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ALR-28015 BGM — Yellow Magic Orchestra YMO* BGM (Album) Alfa ALR-28015 Japan 1981 Sell This Version
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ALR-28030 Technodelic — Yellow Magic Orchestra YMO* Technodelic (Album) Alfa ALR-28030 Japan 1981 Sell This Version
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LPU-0001, LPU 0001 Service — Yellow Magic Orchestra YMO* Service (Album) Alfa LPU-0001, LPU 0001 Europe 1983 Sell This Version
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YLC-20002 Naughty Boys (Instrumental) = 浮気なぼくら (インスツルメンタル) — Yellow Magic Orchestra Y.M.O.* Naughty Boys (Instrumental) = 浮気なぼくら (インスツルメンタル) (Album) Alfa YLC-20002 Japan 1983 Sell This Version
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YLR-28008 Naughty Boys — Yellow Magic Orchestra Y.M.O.* Naughty Boys (Album) Alfa YLR-28008 Hong Kong 1983 Sell This Version
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YLR-40001~2 After Service — Yellow Magic Orchestra YMO* After Service (Album) Alfa YLR-40001~2 Japan 1984 Sell This Version
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ALCA-137/138 Faker Holic YMO World Tour Live — Yellow Magic Orchestra Yellow Magic Orchestra Faker Holic YMO World Tour Live (Album) Alfa ALCA-137/138 Japan 1991 Sell This Version
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none Complete Service = コンプリート・サーヴィス — Yellow Magic Orchestra YMO* Complete Service = コンプリート・サーヴィス (Album) Alfa none Japan 1992 Sell This Version
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TOCT-8070 Technodon Remixes II — Yellow Magic Orchestra YMO* Technodon Remixes II (Album) Eastworld TOCT-8070 Japan 1993 Sell This Version
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TOCT-8050 Technodon Remixes I — Yellow Magic Orchestra YMO* Technodon Remixes I (MiniAlbum) Eastworld TOCT-8050 Japan 1993 Sell This Version
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TOCT-8010 Technodon — Yellow Magic Orchestra Yellow Magic Orchestra Technodon (Album) Eastworld TOCT-8010 Japan 1993 Sell This Version
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SPCD-1379 Technodon Live — Yellow Magic Orchestra YMO* Technodon Live (Album) Eastworld SPCD-1379 Japan 1993 Sell This Version
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ALCA-545 Live At Kinokuni-Ya Hall 1978 — Yellow Magic Orchestra Yellow Magic Orchestra Live At Kinokuni-Ya Hall 1978 (Album) Alfa ALCA-545 Japan 1993 Sell This Version
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ALCA-543 Live At Budokan 1980 — Yellow Magic Orchestra YMO* Live At Budokan 1980 (Album) Alfa ALCA-543 Japan 1993 Sell This Version
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ALCA-5055 YMO - Winter - Live - 1981 — Yellow Magic Orchestra Yellow Magic Orchestra YMO - Winter - Live - 1981 (Album) Alfa ALCA-5055 Japan 1995 Sell This Version
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ALCA 5065-6 World Tour 1980 — Yellow Magic Orchestra Yellow Magic Orchestra World Tour 1980 (Album) Alfa ALCA 5065-6 Japan 1996 Sell This Version
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ALCA-5150 Live At Greak Theater 1979 — Yellow Magic Orchestra Yellow Magic Orchestra Live At Greak Theater 1979 (Album) Alfa ALCA-5150 Japan 1997 Sell This Version
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ALCA-5250 増長 X∞Presumptuous — Yellow Magic Orchestra YMO* & Bakusho-Mondai + Hidekazu Nagai YMO* & Bakusho-Mondai + Hidekazu Nagai - 増長 X∞Presumptuous (Album) Alfa ALCA-5250 Japan 1998 Sell This Version
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VICL-60483 YMO Remixes Technopolis 2000-01 — Yellow Magic Orchestra Yellow Magic Orchestra YMO Remixes Technopolis 2000-01 (Album, Comp) Victor VICL-60483 Japan 1999 Sell This Version

Add Review

ArthRMH

ArthRMH

October 9, 2022
Japanese Kraftwerk? Nah, more like japanese Beatles. Truly one of the best bands of all time.
adrjen

adrjen

March 8, 2022
edited 9 months ago
To those wanting to get into YMO, you have to understand that there's YMO the group, and then a gazillion projects related to the group/solo projects, who were all pushing boundaries of japanese music from the late 70s to late 80s. Some stuff you might vibe with, others not so much, but the great thing about the YMO-verse is that it opens your mind to new genres/aesthetics. Here's a quick starter guide. Keep in mind that a lot these albums haven't been reissued and aren't on Spotify, so I'd recommend finding them on Soulseek.

In regards to YMO the group: I'd say start with YMO - self titled from 1978, then Solid State Survivor (1979), then either BGM (1981), Technodelic (1982) or Naughty Boys (1983). Tbh, I prefer Hosono and Sakamoto's solo/side projects overall to their YMO output.

Great Sakamoto records: Thousand Knives ("Tomita-esque" album), Futurista, Illustrated Musical Encyclopedia, Summer Nerves, Adventures of Chatran + Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence OST, Left Handed Dream, Esperanto, Neo Geo. Some of his later more "modern" works are also interesting, check out his stuff with Fennesz and maybe Chasm. Oh and do check his "Works" series, music for commercials. Some of his productions/arrangenments for various jpop acts:
Taeko Ohnuki: Sunshower, Cliché, Signifie
Mari IIjima: Rosé
Akiko Yano: her 3 albums from 1980 to 1982 are all top tier (his wife at the time)

Now moving on to Hosono, there's a crap ton of mind boggling music he's made, and all his albums from his debut to the late 1990s are masterpieces, I never skip a track. Some of my favorite solo albums: Hosono House, Tropical Dandy, Cochin Moon, Paraiso, Philharmony, SFX, Nokto de la Galaksia Fervojo, Pacific, Making of Non Standard Music, Omni Sight Seeing, Mercuric Dance, Medicine Compilation
He's also produced and worked on a gazillion albums and projects, ranging from really cheezy (but unholy good) jpop to IDM and techno. A few that have a special place in my heart:
FOE- Friend or Foe
Miharu Koshi-Tutu, Parallelisme, Swing Slow
Test Pattern- Après Midi
HAT - Tokyo Frankfurt New York, DSP Holiday (don't miss those if you're into glitch/idm, features Tetsu Inoue and Atom TM)
World Standard - Double Happiness
Love Peace and Trance - new age ambient
Sandii - Eating Pleasure
Pizzicato Five - Debut Album (debut from 1987, basically an early incarnation of Shibuya-kei)
Chiemi Manabe- Album from 1982 (blueprint of technokayo, the style of Jpop "invented" by YMO)
Inoyama-Land- Danzindan Pojidon (japanese minimalist ambient)
Apogee & Perigee - Album from 1984 (the OG Wall-E)
Shoujotai- From S, ESCAPE
(Also check out the 20th Century Box, 6 CD compilation of songs he's written/produced for other artists, wonderful wonderful stuff)

Yukihiro Takahashi, on the other hand has (in my very arrogant opinion) mostly mediocre releases and a limited palette. I would still check out Saravah, Neuromantic and his Susan productions. He has a few great standalone tracks though, Flashback and Insect Symbol coming to mind.

Finally, here are some other artists (other than the ones already mentioned) connected to the YMO-verse that are worth checking out: Tin Pan Alley, Pacific 231, Hiroshi Satoh, Chakra, Towa Tei, Jun Togawa, Bill Laswell, Van Dyke Parks, Mikado, Guernica, Sheena and the Rokkets, Kazumi Watanabe, Cornelius, Rajie, Rei Harakami, Exotics, Cosmic Invention, Kiyohiko Semba, Logic System, Yasuaki Shimizu, Maki Nomiya, Eiichi Ohtaki, Shi-Shonen, Urban Dance, Neo-Plant, Makoto Kubata, Killing Time, Water Melon Group, Ippu-Do, Hajime Tachibana, Mishio Ogawa, Yamashita Tatsuro, Phew, Minako Yoshida, Interiors.

I have big "best of" compilations of sakamoto and hosono I made a long time ago with a bunch of rarities, if ppl are interested I can upload a link.
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matthewmkeane

matthewmkeane

February 19, 2022
The YMO universe is one of the richest musical seams that’s out there to discover. From their group albums, their solo projects and their production credits, to the albums they played on for other artists, it’s a Pandora’s box of joy and innovation. The most satisfying musical rabbit-hole I’ve ever leapt down.
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Zaroff

Zaroff

September 8, 2020
My favorite band of all time. Either collectively or individually. There's just nothing else like it, anywhere.
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tony879

tony879

May 22, 2020
Remixes of these classic tracks, is just a no no. Leave them be!
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SailorMaxie

SailorMaxie

April 16, 2020
It bugs me to this day that this band never really caught on in the USA. Given the market for techno music and foreign acts in the country nowadays, YMO could have become something big. Sadly... It seems they came out a bit too early to gain a loyal fan base stateside.

We got three albums, a handful of singles, and that was it - everything else was exclusive to Japan and Europe. That just hurts.

All that aside, YMO is still one of the best names in electronic music.
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tedmills

tedmills

November 14, 2018
Kraftwerk is the German YMO!

I cannot over emphasize how all-encompassing this band is in Japanese pop history, three amazing musicians from different generations, all with different talents, and some--like Hosono--coming from already established discographies. They have given me so much listening pleasure over the years that I'm jealous of anyone just now getting into their music.
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TropicalDandy

TropicalDandy

August 31, 2018
My opinion: Not the Japanese Kraftwerk. Their use of melodic layering and complex musical compositions were antithetical to the cold and minimal nature of most of Kraftwerk's oeuvre. Many of their songs have a sense of levity about them, displaying either a joy in the creative process of musical experimentation, or just plain silliness (as in their work with Snakeman Show.) Of course, I find it insultingly reductive to say that such a prolific genre-bending musical group is nothing more than a 'version' of another group. But to compare YMO to Kraftwerk is to ignore the entire concept of musical composition and complexity in order to focus on a singular surface-level observation: they both use synthesizers.
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yalajules

yalajules

October 23, 2017
So so inventive so they were qualified as Japanese Kraftwerk.
FINrock

FINrock

April 19, 2015
Japanese craftwerk, very nice!
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