A juke-filled, global set of songs compiled in Japan reflects the fear and uncertainty of the atomic age, recontextualizing the joy of footwork into ominous, often unsettling compositions.
Anger over Fukushima even drew out a group that isn’t always eager to get political in Japan—musicians. Long constrained by commercial commitments, performers such as Ryuichi Sakamoto and Kazuyoshi Sato criticized the government’s handling of the situation online and appeared at protests against nuclear power. Still, many artists chose to express anger and worry through heavy metaphor rather than directly, if at all.
The Atomic Bomb Compilation series is direct with rage. Started in 2012 by Hiroshima juke producer CRZKNY, the project gathered dance songs around the theme of “the tragedy caused by abuse of nuclear energy.” The United States’ use of atomic weapons on CRZKNY’s hometown and Nagasaki at the end of World War II were remembered on these collections, both as memorial and reminder of nuclear energy’s destructive past. The music, fittingly, is ominous and frequently chaotic. Although initially heavy on domestic artists and footwork, later releases brought in creators from around the world dabbling in a variety of styles. Vol. 4, released on the 71st anniversary of Japan’s surrender, is the best installment yet, featuring over a dozen electronic acts coming together to painfully reflect and highlight the paranoia of present-day nuclear power.
Protest sits at the center of Atomic Bomb Compilation Vol. 4, but it also offers a snapshot of how international artists have absorbed the Chicago-born juke sounds in the years since RP Boo, Traxman, and the Teklife crew started receiving increased attention. This set features contributions from Japanese producers, members of Polish Juke, creators in Mexico and beyond, each giving their own perspective on the high-energy style. Jakub Lemiszewski pushes “Exceeding” towards suffocating levels with rippling synths, while Argentina’s Aylu makes good use of space on compilation closer “Y_Y,” a cut where every breath and skittery drum hit lingers in the air.
At 25 songs, Atomic Bomb Compilation Vol. 4 is an overwhelming listen given its intentionally bleak vibe. But this series isn’t meant to be an escape. It memorializes immense human suffering brought on by nuclear weaponry and looms high as a cautionary tale for catastrophic misuse of nuclear energy. There’s very little fun to be found in exploring the concept of man-made Armageddon. Instead, this collection highlights the urgency of a highly politicized issue and soundtracks an uneasy, uncertain life in the atomic age.
Read more at Various Artists Atomic Bomb Compilation Vol. 4