Where has June Chikumas music been my whole life, asked the guy whos never played video games.
Where has June Chikuma's music been my whole life, asked the guy who's never played video games. Freedom to Spend

June Chikuma, "Oddman Hypothesis" (Freedom to Spend)

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Japanese composer June Chikuma designed music for Nintendo’s Bomberman franchise circa 1983, among many other video games that formed the chiptune aesthetic that's proved to be surprisingly durable into this century. She's also composed for film and television over the last few decades. The golden-eared, underground-culture savants at RVNG Intl. and its Freedom to Spend subsidiary (Matt Werth, Eternal Tapestry's Jed Bindeman, and ex-Yellow Swans member Pete Swanson) have done the world a favor by collecting June's recordings off the ultra-obscure 1986 LP Divertimento and other stray cuts from the period for Les Archives (released on LP with bonus 7-inch on April 5).

Les Archives contains music of extremely advanced rhythmic sensibilities—a sort of proto-IDM/drum & bass intricacy that's astounding for '80s productions. The balance between playfulness and braininess is impressive throughout. June imbues these tracks with a distinctive ominousness that overwhelms the video-game context—although I'm just theorizing, as I've never played video games (true story).

Probably the closest reference point for this music to most Westerners would be Yellow Magic Orchestra, but June works in a more abstract manner. There are also oblique similarities—especially in the odd, metallic percussive timbres—to the material gathered on Light in the Attic's Kankyō Ongaku box set. This stuff is too bizarre for the club (unfortunately!)—although the Art of Noise-like "Divertimento" might be able to sneak its way into more adventurous DJs' sets. It's easy to hear why Oneohtrix Point Never/Dan Lopatin is a June Chikuma champion.

"Oddman Hypothesis" is one of those unusual constructions that elude easy classification. The chunky drums timestamp it to a certain strain of mid-'80s pop and electro, but the meter is irregular and the synthesized timbres suggest metallophones made out of titanium and solar flares. A contemplative, TV-theme-like melody demurely tries to break through the thick percussion flora, its poignancy heightened by the struggle. If you dig Japan's sublime 1981 album Tin Drum, you will likely flip for "Oddman Hypothesis."

You can view director Amanda Kramer's visual interpretation of June's music here.