I don't know how to describe United Future Organization. Their music I can describe: acid jazz, i.e. jazz crossed with club music; cool, baby, cool. But are they a band? Are they musicians? They were a trio of DJs, two Japanese and one French, and they were probably the most musical, not to mention musically satisfying, of the whole mid-'90s acid jazz thing. A thing I liked a lot, incidentally. But whence the music? I saw them once, in a club in Roppongi called Yellow, in '97 or '98, and yes, they were DJs. I was never enough of a club habitué or aficionado of club music to know precisely how records by this kind of outfit are constructed. I know they use samples, but is it all samples?
Take this masterpiece, for example. From their fifth and last album, V, released in 2002; they were past it, just as the whole acid jazz thing had been left behind by the ever-fickle club music scene; the album wasn't their greatest, although it did have a spellbinding cover by Yamaguchi Akira.
"Listen Love" was composed by Jon Lucien, and I've never heard his version but this isn't just a remix of that, because the credits list Jeffery Smith on vocals. I can't find a recording of it on any of Smith's albums (that I can find online; and Amazon really ought to spell his name right), so this is probably a recording original to UFOV. Then why are there no credits for anything other than vocals and piano? Are Messrs. Matsuura, Yabe, and Sebbag actually playing those other instruments?
No matter. The record's a, like I say, masterpiece. Smith's vocal is as lush and romantic, as many-facetedly romantic, as you could wish for. The beat, the groove, is seductive. And the piano - by demigod Yamashita Yôsuke (I saw him once, too, at a fireworks display, of all things, in Ôgaki, of all places, in 1994)(I mention these things because it's so rare that I actually go hear live music that I can remember each one, basically) - well, just listen to it. It's romantic, yes, but not in a soft, sweet way. His piano is a nervous but expert lover, touching you in all the right places, but so fast and unexpectedly that you're not ready for it. It's an eloquence, an insistence, that makes his need and yours plain to feel, combined with an assurance and a knowledge that enable him to fill those needs almost in the moment that you become conscious of them...