Capsule was always about change, right from the start when the duo of producer Yasutaka Nakata and singer Toshiko Koshijima released their first album in 2001. That one was a generic pop album, but by the release of their next full-length they completely changed their sound and switched to heavily Pizzicato Five inspired music, releasing some of the best post-P5 Shibuya-kei material, before they slowly shifted towards electro pop and then towards electro house and then EDM in their subsequent albums. Meanwhile, during his electro pop era, Nakata became one of Japan’s to producers as the man behind Perfume and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, writing songs for countless others as well, but while he was sticking to more or less the same sort of sound with the acts he worked with as a producer, Capsule kept on changing with each and every release. Well, at least up until 2015 when they dropped their fifteenth album, Wave Runner and then stopped releasing new material for several years.

They finally broke the silence with a new track, Hikari no Disco in early 2021 and also dropped a few more songs later on, eventually leading up to the December 2022 release of Metro Pulse, their first new album in seven years. I am not sure why they had such a long break, but I guess Nakata probably just wasn’t sure where to go with the project. But listening to Metro Pulse it is obvious that his new obsession is synthwave and ’80s nostalgia in general.

Hikari no Disco already made it clear that EDM is a thing of the past for them as it sounded like something straight out of their earlier electro pop albums. Which was a bit of a disappointing as for me Capsule was always about looking forward and fusing new elements into their unique sound, so them going straight back to an earlier era just felt a bit weird. But the album itself made it clear that it is not the case at all. As while Metro Pulse indeed sounds a lot more like those older albums from their Nexus-2060 ‎/ Fruits Clipper era, skipping the whole electro house / EDM part of their career, Nakata does not stop there and takes the electro pop sound into a whole new direction fusing it with a massive amount of ’80s influences. And while ’80s retro and synthwave are not at all a new thing in the music industry, mixing it with the typical Capsule sound, he still manages to make it sound all fresh and cool.

The starting Hikari no Disco is still not an especially interesting track, but the following Give Me A Ride works wonders with all those so-so typically ’80s synth sounds and melodies (and possible Yellow Magic Orchestra influences?) and it is one of the strongest songs of the album, right next to the likes of Escape From Reality. There are a few tracks where all this ’80s nostalgia is still present, but not as prominently, like Future Wave, that’s a lot closer to the classic Nakata sort of electro pop, but then we have stuff like the superb Start, which sound like something straight out of an old aerobic video, but with Toshiko’s sugar-sweet vocals on top. But still, it is probably Virtual Freedom that sums up the album the best, as it really has everything: electro pop, the ’80s retro and even a bit of Shibuya-kei here and there. And while there are also a few weaker tunes, even those have something to offer, like Wonderland and its deliciously tacky saxophone melodies.

It’s really great to have Capsule back at long last, yet again going to new directions, so let’s hope it won’t be seven years again till their next album.

Metro Pulse
2022.12.14 / cd, digital
01.Hikari no Disco
02.Give Me A Ride
03.Future Wave
05.Virtual Freedom
07.Seaside Dreams
08.Starry Night
09.Escape From Reality
10.To My World


A year in reviews 2022: a series of reviews published throughout December and January about some of the best / most important / most interesting albums that were released this year, covering a very wide spectrum of genres.