One of the most interesting things about the Japanese music scene is how many artists mix and match various genres and themes together in unexpected ways. Combine that with the thriving retro game enthusiast community in Japan and you’ll find YMCK, one of the coolest chiptune bands out there! In this piece, we’re shining a spotlight on the group, covering their members, band history, some of their best tracks, and modern activity. Let’s plug in and listen!
Origins - Who is YMCK?
In the most literal sense, YMCK is a trio of artists made up of songwriter and software engineer Takeshi Yokemura, vocalist and composer Midori Kurihara, and composer Tomoyuki Nakamura. Nakamura and Yokemura also produce the group’s many animated pixel art music videos. YMCK formed in May of 2003 and released their first commercial album, FAMILY MUSIC, on November 3, 2004. They recently celebrated their 15th anniversary with the release of FAMILY BOOK, a CD full of interviews and documentation of their history. The name YMCK is a play on CMYK, the subtractive color model most often used in color printing, while the FAMILY moniker featured in their albums is most likely a reference to the Nintendo Family Computer (aka Famicom).
Magical 8-bit Tour
Aside from their music and music videos, YMCK has also released several computer programs, most notably their freeware Magical 8-bit Plug software synthesizer which can be used with various audio programs to create their trademark retro game-like sound. In addition, they have developed a simple virtual instrument app called YMCK Player 2 and an official YMCK avatar maker that lets users create their own pixel art characters in YMCK style.
YMCK’s Signature Sound
Compared to the many chiptune artists out there, YMCK sets themselves apart first and foremost with the addition of Midori Kurihara’s soft-yet-spirited, electronically compressed vocals which match the lo-fi, Famicom-esque sound wonderfully. While many of their songs certainly harken back to the styles of classic video games, YMCK is further different in their embrace of jazz, fusing it together with 8-bit styling for a unique sound. The element of jazz can be heard throughout their work but is perhaps most evident in their 2017 album FAMILY SWING which is completely jazz-focused.
Glory in my hands
Another interesting aspect of YMCK is that many of their albums have a story attached to them with as with FAMILY DAYS describing their own real everyday lives and FAMILY SWING, which follows the heisting exploits of YMCK as “the phantom thieves” against their rivals “The swingers” in the fictional South American country of the “Principality of Retrojuego”. FAMILY SWING also included a companion board game based on the story called FAMILY TREASURE which came bundled with the deluxe release, a remake of the popular “Deep Sea Adventure” by Oink Games.
You Can Be a Star
Other Activities and Future
Besides their own music album releases, YMCK has contributed to quite a few video games such as several Taiko no Tatsujin (Taiko Drum Master) maimai, and Groove Coaster arcade games, Katamari Forever on PlayStation 3, and the DSiWare puzzle game Art Style: PiCTOBiTS, along with numerous remix and collaboration albums such several TOKYO GIRLS' STYLE releases, a Ghibli Jazz Remix album, and even a Yo Gabba Gabba! album. The group provided the music and animation for the Arad Senki: Slap Up Party anime ED, which is based on Dungeon Fighter Online.
As for the future, YMCK shows no signs of stopping any time soon. They released the outer space themed FAMILY GALAXY TOUR in 2018 which includes some guest tracks from international artists Robotprins, MC8-bit, and Mega Ran. The group’s latest music video is for an insanely cute, cat-themed song called ねこなでたい (Cat wants pats) which is included on their latest release, the previously-mentioned 15th-anniversary album FAMILY BOOK.
Beyond the Laws that Define the Universe
Cat Wants Pats
We hope you enjoyed this article and the wonderful music of YMCK! Let us know what you think in the comments section below and stick with us at Honey’s for more of all things retro-cool and otherwise! In closing, we’ll leave you with one of our favorite songs by YMCK, 52 Futures, a nostalgic love letter to the Famicom, the name referencing the number of colors able to be displayed by the system. We wish YMCK the best of luck in their current and future releases, whatever color they may be!