B-flower was formed in 1985. Began its life without a name. They spent the first few years of its life in a cocoon of studios in Kyoto. Eventually, they named themselves "B-flower" (the B comes from (Richard) Brautigan), hatched and started gigging locally. But it was inspiration from witnessing Sarah Records - they were so taken by their releases, especially "Air Balloon Road" – that finally gave them courage to release their debut, "Nichiyo no mitsubachi (Nothing on Sunday)", a 3"CD on their own Seeds Records in 1990. Which led them to be discovered by Toshiba EMI. Well, really.
This is their first Best Of release, after 31 long years of their musical adventure.
Nearly all of the tracks are written or released while they were on Toshiba EMI so, apart from some of the earliest songs, it doesn't include tracks from Seeds or Sugarfrost. They are chosen by the band themselves which means that this isn't a half-hearted Singles compilation and stretches to two CDs so it isn’t pared-down either. Most tracks are remastered (they did spend time on the job!) and they are lined up in chronological order.
Released by BM Tunes, Japan (Oct 2016) Track list at the bottom of this page
Limited availability from Sugarfrosty Shop (also on Discogs)
I took this photo back in 1991. I wouldn't have remembered when and where, weren't it for some smudged writing on the back of the photograph. Hideshi Hachino, the singer-songwriter of the band, was asking for old photos of fun fairs. This wasn't my first choice. In fact I had totally forgotten about this one.
But somehow, it leapt out. Hideshi immediately decided this is the one. It was as if he could sense something was there, he was so attached to this image. I still wonder how he could feel this distant link - but it was only after we agreed to go ahead, I turned and found the smudged writing, that said...
Fun fair at the Downs with Matt and Clare, 23/3/1991
You’ll know what that means. But just in case... the Downs is a large park in Bristol right in front of the old Sarah HQ, the Garden Flat. And of course, Matt and Clare are Sarah. It was taken not long after "Air Balloon Road" (which had one of my photos of cherries on cover) and not long after B-flower's own debut single. That special moment. And it's come live again.
Incidentally, the designer of this CD package, Akihiro Soma from Concord Graphics, designed the Japanese Sarah compilation "In This Place Called Nowhere" back in 1992, where I was lucky enough to write the liner notes. Here, it happened again. Another connection.
Akiko / Sugarfrost
Single track (c/w Yeah!) from their 6th album "Clockwise" (1996)
Probably because it was used as an ending track for a TV show that time, this is one of a few by B-flower still to be found on karaoke machines in Japan.
- so great that you're having a best-of CD, congratulations! At Sarah Records we knew B-flower through our friendship with Akiko at Sugarfrost Records, who had taken the photographs we used for some of our best and favourite record sleeves.
We felt a real affinity with what you were doing and the music you were making and particularly loved the fact you sang in Japanese and not English.
Clare Wadd / Sarah Records
I discovered B-Flower when John & Akiko introduced Sugarfrost to me, at the signing of Fugu for a 7 inch. I was fascinated by the Japanese connection and thought this was a brand new world opening to me, with a family of pop friends with exquisite taste.
B-Flower is part of it, with that innocent mixture of Beach Boys, soft rock and C86. I really felt thrilled to be embarked along with them, it’s the soundtrack to a little golden era.
Mehdi Zannad / Fugu
There is a possible world where I disappear. Somewhere between the Greenwich peninsula and Silvertown, I walk off the map. And keep walking. And wherever I my journey ends, I am listening to Grocery Andromeda.
In my clapboard shed in the woods; on the last train out Lubec; face down in the shingle at Dungeness.
B-flower make music for the solitary. Their finest songs speak to me of tangible absence - of empty houses and forgotten rooms. It is music for the sleepless, the single cell, the resolutely alone. Stay still. And alone.
Eddie Oxley / Evelyn Tremble
It was March 1997, and I was in New York City for the first time, staying with one Keith D’arcy. One evening we were relaxing in his Hoboken record room -it would be the first of many such evenings- and as was his wont, he was flipping through a stack of records, saying "you don't know this? Ah, you *have* to hear this!" He pulled out a 7" with a wraparound sleeve in a poly bag (that was how we did it in those days), and placed the needle gently on the record.
Four bars of minimalist piano, then in comes the most simple-yet-aching vocal line. It swooned and yearned, ebbed and flowed, but always with restraint and poise. I was instantly transfixed. Two bare minutes and it's gone. Now I understood why Keith was so careful with that needle; "Stay Still" is such a tender song that one jolt from an unsteady hand might have left a bruise.
Whenever I hear it -and I hear it often- I am always transported back to that evening, nearly twenty years ago now. It is one of the perfect songs; as soothing as balm. Thank you Keith, domo arigato Hideshi.
Harvey Williams / Another Sunny Day
The best music is always that which transports you, emotionally, to a particular place or time in your life. For me, b-flower will always be about World’s End Laundry. I hear the opening chords of Lila no saku hibi and I’m back in 1993. I’m 21 years old. Life is rich with possibilities.
My band Pure had met b-flower the year before on The Birth Of The True Tour. From the first pre-tour rehearsal it was clear that b-flower were a cut above. Certainly in comparison to our ramshackle indiepop! Effortlessly accomplished playing, the musical influences (neo-aco, The Smiths, Felt, the best ‘60’s pop) showing obviously, but with Hachino’s voice, clear and keen, lifting the songs way above any pastiche. And, of course, the Japanese language lyrics add untold mystery to a non-speaker.
I was privileged to visit the band as they recorded World’s End Laundry at the palatial Manor Studio in Oxfordshire, England. I was already familiar with many of the songs from our shared tour, and the recordings steeped the songs in the pastoral atmosphere of the English countryside. The production is perfect. It’s a beautiful record from beginning to end.
Of course, b-flower have released many other fine albums and still make wonderful music to this day. Long may they continue. Life is rich with possibilities.
Graeme Elston / Pure, Eva Luna, Love Parade
I was very lucky to interview Hachino-san years ago and tell him how much I liked his music. I wasn't around in the 90s when they released the biggest part of their discography. I was just a kid then. It was only in the noughties when I was to discover their singles and albums. I was (and still am) an indiepop enthusiast and so thanks to the legendary label Sugarfrost I got introduced to such beautiful music.
Language was not a barrier for me. I don't understand Japanese at all. A few words I've learned but just to amuse my Japanese friends. The songs lyrics are a mystery to me. But somehow they connect. A melody like "#1984" doesn't need me to understand anything at all. It is complete as it is. It sounds timeless and I can find myself humming to it any given day. It is also the year I was born. Can't be more special than that.
Years of meeting indiepop friends around the globe. Traveling. In Germany a friend included in every single mix tape she made, "The Last Snow of Winter". She didn't understand the language either, but the song was a classic for her. I find it funny how a song, even from its first chords, can bring you so many memories of people, places, or moments in life. B-Flower has that power on me.
I had Japanese penpal too who was living in the UK. Perhaps she was the biggest B-Flower fan I had met. She introduced to me to songs from B-Flower I've never heard, and then, got me in touch with the master of it all, Hachino-san. From him I learned small details from the band, like that they practiced while drinking coca-cola or oolong tea, or that Hachino-san used to collect stag beetles, made me feel closer to them. They are no vain popstars, they are just like you and me. That is exactly what their songs make me feel, honesty, a sincerity that sends me shivers down the spine every time.
Roque Ruiz / Cloudberry Records
In the days when things mattered, the idea of singing in your own language was important. And different. Why wouldn’t you? It doesn’t work every single time of course (sorry Jurgen) but thank you Hachino.
And so “Stay Still” gets released in 1993 (before you were born) and is issued here for the first time on cd and … tell me that it doesn’t leave you in an exhausted mess and yet feeling warm. Something like the very last of the charcoal embers. It says EVERYTHING and you’ve got nothing more to add. And, get this, you haven’t got a clue what’s just gone on, except you nod and play it again. And then nod some more. Smiling. Again. Knowing. Again. Just the way it should be. Absolutely wonderful.
And then there’s “Strings”, which isn’t on this cd (note to the compiler – how come?) but is the exact moment when I understood what this releasing-records-thing was all about. The outsider brilliance of people better than me. The Paradiso boys’ design intelligence, D’Arcy’s pen and the sort of song for which there is absolutely no answer. You try. Go on – pull it out and listen. There just isn’t a response. Shit, I could cry.
And then there’s “Sad Astronaut”, which is nothing of the sort and, also, isn’t on this cd either (note to the compiler – I’m coming after you with a broken chair leg) but is the greatest Bus Stop song never released on Bus Stop. Besides the obvious attraction, what nailed it for me was the mention of Yuri Gagarin. Not that it matters but my class in junior school was split into four, with my bit called Gagarin. The other three were Leonov, Conrad and Armstrong. Colours or animals would seem so much easier for seven year olds. But there’s a balanced Merseyside education for you, right there.
Thank you B-Flower.
John / Sugarfrost
1. In the Penny Arcade
2. Nothing on Sunday
from 1991 album Penny Arcade no toshi
3. My Phantasmic Glider*
from 1992 VA The Birth of the True
4. Bye Bye Canary Bird
5. Taiyo o machinagara
from 1992 album Mukudorino meoshita shonen
6. Stay Still
from 1993 Sugarfrost 7" single
7. Lila no saku hibi
8. Tutti frutti icecream ga tokete kanashii
10. Hajimaru, moshikuwa sokode owaru
from 1993 album World's End Laundry
12. Both Sides, Now (Joni Mitchell)
13. The Last Snow of the Winter*
from 1994 album Clover Chronicles 1
14. Kanpekina kiss
15. Nandaka mada yokuwakaranai
16. Grocery Andromeda
17. North Marine Drive
18. Under the Maple Tree
from 1994 album Grocery Andromeda
* also released on Sugarfrost
1. Taiyo no shizuku (sample track)
2. Jet Jet Coaster
4. 21 seiki no Darwin
5. Common Love in Suburbia
6. Grapefruit Spoon Man
7. Rinkai newtown
from 1996 album Clockwise
9. Jiku no butterfly
10. Hibari ga nakukoroni
single tracks 1996-8, also++
13. Okano hito
14. October Song
15. Chino hateyori tatsu
16. On the Eastbound Bus**+
17. The Eternal 59th Second**
from 1998 album b-flower
** new 2014 recordings
Note: version names of each tracks omitted
Used official English titles where available
Only The Birth of the True LP and You are the one for me 7 inch single are still available from us