Thousand Knives

Last updated
Thousand Knives
Thousand Knives of Ryuichi Sakamoto.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedOctober 25, 1978 (1978-10-25)
RecordedApril 10 – July 27, 1978
Studio Columbia Studios 1, 2 and 4, Tokyo, Japan
Genre Electronic, progressive electronic
Label Nippon Columbia
Producer Ryuichi Sakamoto
Ryuichi Sakamoto chronology
Thousand Knives
Summer Nerves
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svg [1]
Pitchfork 8.2/10 [2]

Thousand Knives (also known as Thousand Knives of Ryuichi Sakamoto) is the debut solo album by Japanese musician Ryuichi Sakamoto. The album is named after Henri Michaux's description of the feeling of using mescaline in Miserable Miracle. [3] [4]



The title track begins with a vocoded Sakamoto reading "Jinggang Mountain", a poem written by Mao Zedong during his visit to a well in the Jinggang Mountains in 1965. The song proper is performed in a reggae hymn style, inspired by Herbie Hancock's Speak Like a Child album. The piece segues into "Island of Woods", a ten-minute analog synthesizer composition designed to sound like the natural sounds of an island. The modern classical piano piece "Grasshoppers" follows. On original copies of the album, the entire first side was indexed as one 24:40 long track. The second side of the album contains varied electronic music pieces. "The End of Asia" uses the same melody as Haruomi Hosono's "Worry Beads" from Paraiso (though Sakamoto has claimed that the use was entirely coincidental) and the coda uses the melody of "The East Is Red", the national anthem of the People's Republic of China during the Cultural Revolution. Thus, the album as a whole summarizes Sakamoto's then-interest in Chinese history.

"Thousand Knives" is a staple of Sakamoto's repertoire, being rearranged for his synth-pop band Yellow Magic Orchestra in 1980 for their BGM album; as a classical trio for 8/21/1996; and for a piano duet on /05. Numerous other arrangements have been performed live over the years, both by YMO and by Sakamoto himself; these performances contain one of the earliest uses of the Roland TR-808 drum machine. "Plastic Bamboo" was also a staple of early YMO shows, though the only recording appears on their live album Live at Kinokuniya Hall 1978 released in 1994, sixteen years after being recorded. "The End of Asia" would also regularly appear during YMO shows, with a drastically different studio version included on their X∞Multiplies album.

Track listing

All tracks are written by Ryuichi Sakamoto.

Side one
1."Thousand Knives" (千のナイフSen no Naifu)9:34
2."Island of Woods"9:50
Side two
4."Das Neue Japanische Elektronische Volkslied" (新日本電子的民謡Shin Nihon Denshiteki Min'yō, "The New Japanese Electronic Folk Song")8:05
5."Plastic Bamboo"6:31
6."The End of Asia"6:21


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  1. Mills, Ted. "Thousand Knives Of – Ryuichi Sakamoto". AllMusic . Retrieved October 29, 2020.
  2. Martin-McCormick, Daniel (November 13, 2019). "Ryuichi Sakamoto: Thousand Knives of Ryuichi Sakamoto". Pitchfork . Retrieved October 29, 2020.
  3. Hammond, James (October 9, 2015). "An introduction to Ryuichi Sakamoto in 10 records". The Vinyl Factory . Retrieved October 29, 2020.
  4. Michaux, Henri (2002). Miserable Miracle: Mescaline. Translated by Varèse, Louise. New York Review Books. p. 10. ISBN   9781590170014. ... suddenly a knife, suddenly a thousand knives, suddenly a thousand brilliant scythes of light set in lightning, huge enough to level whole forests, violently slicing up space from top to bottom with gigantic slashes ...