Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on August 2009

Courtesy of Origami Productions

Courtesy of Origami Productions

As a longtime employee at Victor Entertainment, Yoshi Tsushima had plenty of chances to observe the decline of the record industry at close range. This, apparently, wasn’t enough to deter him from launching his own imprint.

Tsushima now runs the boutique label Origami Productions out of an office in Setagaya-ku, presiding over a small roster of funk, soul, hip-hop and fusion-influenced Japanese artists. To get the message out about their music and breathe life into the CD format, he hit on a novel approach.

“Digital may be the future, but CDs and album artwork have a physical appeal that digital can’t match,” he explained in a recent visit to the Metropolis office. “The idea with Laidbook is to tap into that desire for something physical.”

Laidbook is the name of the group formed by guitarist Yukihiro Atsumi (a.k.a. Thirdiq), keyboardist 45 (a.k.a. Swing-O), drummer Mabuana and bassist Shingo Suzuki. All of them have released their own discs and have done session work with artists like Steph Pockets and the Ananda Project, so it wouldn’t be too much to call Laidbook a kind of label supergroup.

Tsushima took a forward-thinking approach to marketing. Beginning with Laidbook 01—The Beginning Issue, he’ll be releasing one CD each month. Each is nicely priced at ¥1,000 and features a package of ten unique “art cards” created by Origami’s in-house design team.
“The idea is to offer something different each time—and to do something that appeals to collectors,” Tsushima says. “At a time when record stores are facing dropping sales, they are really supporting our attempt to reboot the CD format.”

Not that Tsushima is anti-digital; he simply has affection for CDs—and a suspicion that others may yet, too. Laidbook 01 is a compact, five-song effort that gives big nods to ’70s funk and soul, refracted through the prism of ’00s hipster Tokyo. The standout track is “I Only Want You,” an intelligent rap outing featuring Canadian producer Think Twice and rappers Schubert and Manchilde. A nicely produced video filmed in Tokyo and Montreal documents the transpacific collaboration on Laidbook’s MySpace site (www.myspace.com/laidbook).

The group appears live alongside noted old school hip-hop DJ Dev Large in a party hosted by music magazine Wax Poetics at Shibuya lounge bar Microcosmos this weekend, as well as at Origami’s own regular party, My Favorite Soul (MFS), at Nakameguro watering spot Solfa next week.
Lyman Woodard Organization “Saturday Night Special” Release Party@Microcosmos, Aug 22. My Favorite Soul Vol.4@Solfa, Aug 27. See club listings for details. http://ori-gami.info