Has access to Japanese electronic music gotten easier, thanks to Apple? Apple launched an iTunes Music Store in Japan on August 3, bringing to 20 the number of countries with iTunes stores, including not only the U.K. and Germany, but Finland and Luxembourg. Region-specific iTunes stores include region-specific downloads. Thus, sampling Japanese electronic music should prove easier than ever.
Or maybe not. There are only two full DJ Krush albums in the U.S. iTunes store: his most recent (Jaku) and his collaboration with trumpeter Toshinori Kondo (Ki-Oku). Oddly, there’s only one DJ Krush release in the Japanese store: Bad Brothers, his team-up with jazz guitarist Ronny Jordan (odder still, the current Japanese download has one fewer tracks than did the out-of-print U.S. version of the release). There’s no Merzbow at all in the Japanese iTunes store, but at least three U.S. iTunes catalog items feature that legendary Japanese noise act. Of course, these are just cursory searches, and it’s quite possible that some of the Japanese acts are filed using hiragana characters. (Another factoid that surfaced during this surfing: Bjork’s Drawing Restraint is already available via iTunes in Japan and Britain, though it’s not out in the U.S. or in Canada.)
On an initial glance, iTunes Japan prices songs at 150 yen each, which as of this writing is about $1.34 (coincidentally, a penny less than the cost of files from bleep.com); the U.S. version prices songs at 99 cents. Unfortunately, you must have a Japanese credit card in order to download music from iTunes Japan, even the free weekly download. There is some good news, regardless of region: you don’t need a credit card to listen to samples of tracks in iTunes, or to download free podcasts via iTunes. More info at apple.com/itunes.