YMO - BGM (1981), 7/10

YMO’s shift in direction during their follow up to the legendary Solid State Survivor in BGM is undeniably pure style and shine. Yet amid the infectious melodies that Yellow Magic Orchestra were known for, there are a number of synth experiments that make it worth delving into and give it a place among their best works. "Ballet" and "Music Plans" are catchy and gorgeous. "Rap Phenomena" is oddball fun and has playful chanting that gives it uniquely playful entertainment value. "Happy End" is a lucid and haunting ambient track that truly excels as an example of fluidly blending the more energetic surrounding tracks with its experimental inclinations. Of course, "1000 Knives" is a beautiful re-imagined cover and one that truly elevates the original to the trademark YMO sound with new vigor rather than simply borrowing or reinterpreting the melody. The soundscape in "Camouflage" is biting and wonderful; it reminds me of an underground combat sequence from the likes of Shinobi, yet has its own identity carved out of its nuanced approach to sound not found in other synth-work of the eighties. The aptly titled "Loom" paints an impressively visual atmosphere to end the recording on a high note as an artistic interpretation of visual sound. The album itself is a bit all over the place, yet its divergent, assorted track list gives it a unique value and purpose beyond catchy synthpop; you will stay for its tangents rather than its obviously energetic and instantly fetching melodies. While there are perhaps more important and certainly more fashionable albums from the trio, BGM is their most ambitious yet successfully cultivated project for its industrious use of indiscriminate sounds and abstract approach to songwriting.