Pylon Icon: Ryuichi Sakamoto

Question: You’ve got the perfect meal queued up—what music do you play to go with it? Among the brilliant moves of Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto was the 2018 compilation of a customized playlist for his favorite neighborhood NYC restaurant, Kajitsu. Sakamoto, who is widely acknowledged as a pioneer of synth pop and techno, is also master of the art of soundtracking. From 1983’s ‘Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence’ (starring David Bowie) and 1987’s ‘Last Emperor’ to the highly disturbing and affecting movements of 2015’s ‘The Revenant’ (not to mention the video game ‘tracks and more), Sakamoto’s textures, moods, and nuanced story building are basically bar none.

"Your food is as good as the beauty of Katsura Rikyu,” Sakamoto told Kajitsu’s chef, referring to the imperial garden villa in Kyoto. “But the music in your restaurant is like Trump Tower.” Then he and New York producer Ryu Takahashi set out to craft three hour’s worth of spacey, celestial, and transcendent tracks to eat with.

Sakamoto, who co-founded the electro-pop genre-defining Yellow Music Orchestra in 1978 and who is also a singer, songwriter, activist, and actor, has been described as a “super-collaborator”—someone who’s desire to make and create with others is underpinned by generosity, humility, and grace. He told an interviewer that he and Takahashi made about five drafts of the playlist and visited the restaurant countless times to listen to them on headphones while he ate. He wasn’t paid for his contribution, and he didn’t include any of his own music.  

Here’s a link to the soundtrack on Spotify—it’s perfect for burgers, haute-cuisine bento boxes, or a bowl of fresh blueberries in the backyard.