Written by Luke Alex Davis 10:31 am Sampling

Oto-tetsu + sampling Japan’s rail service


There’s an underground scene in Japan filled with train sounds and PA systems.

Field recordings used in music is nothing new and probably the most primitive form of sound art in history. But there’s a new scene in Japan using a particular type of outdoor sounds.

The oto-tetsu scene (from the Japanese words oto meaning sound and tetsudō meaning railway) takes the sounds and ambience of the Japanese rail system. When you think about it, there are a multitude of different noises mashed together in train stations but you never really notice them if you commute. Oto-tetsu producers extract them and turn them into fast-paced tracks.

Fans of Dance Dance Revolution will be familiar with the tempo and hard thumping rhythms associated with oto-tetsu music. It’s very much a hodge-podge of sound and music; mechanical order and melodic chaos. Songs rise above 160bpm with stuttering samples and thudding drums. It’s a unique experience but showcases the power of sampling.

According to The Japan Times, oto-tetsu producers use Reaper to make their tracks. It’s a cost-effective DAW, starting at $60 for a personal licence (or if you make less than $20,000 a year from music created on it) but a commercial licence costs just $225. As most of the producers making this music are in their teens and early 20s, this is a very young genre and arguably a sound of their generation.

Stream one of those oto-tetsu songs below.