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That the sounds of Eurobeat dominated the Japanese charts in the 1990s, an era influenced by techno music and the rave scene, is largely the result of one man: Tetsuya Komuro. In 1992, the producer created TRF Rave Factory, arguably Japan's first Eurobeat group and one which brought Europe's underground rave scene to the top of the Japanese pop charts. Breaking sales records in the mid-'90s, the five-piece, comprised of female vocalist Yu-ki, DJ Koo, and dancers Sam, Etsu and Chiharu. Komuro wrote and produced most of their hits until the band largely ended their association with him in 1996. By that time, TRF -- as the band soon came to be known -- had sold 20 million singles and albums combined, and set the template for the all-conquering Eurobeat sound that would be adopted by hordes of J-pop chart toppers, from Ayumi Hamasaki on down.
Japan's most successful producer of the '90s, Komuro had already tasted some success a decade before as leader of the techno/rave group TMN. As that group's career drew to a close at the end of the '80s, Komuro moved to Britain, immersing himself in the local rave and dance scenes before moving back to his homeland, resolving to mix the trance rhythms he had heard overseas with simple, karaoke-friendly lyrics and breezy melodies and bring the formula to young female Japanese record buyers. TRF would be Komuro's principal outlet for this new music.
TRF debuted in 1992 with the simultaneous release of an album, This Is the Truth, and the single "Going 2 Dance." By the end of that year, This Is the Truth had sold 400,000 copies. With 1994's "Survival Dance/No No Cry More," the group began a run of five consecutive million-selling singles. The last of these, "Overnight Sensation," won the music industry's Japan Record Award in 1995. The band's early albums broadened the Eurobeat sound with R&B, house and disco influences. Komuro may have been composing the band's music, but he rarely appeared with the band in performance, allowing the focus to fall on Yu-ki's soulful vocals, DJ Koo's turntablist skills, and the hyper-energetic dance routines of Sam, Etsu and Chiharu. Japan's record-buying public hadn't seen anything like it.
TRF's rise coincided with that of their record label, Avex, which quickly sought to cash in on the boom by signing and releasing other dance acts, also often produced by Komuro, such as Namie Amuro. The label also opened Velfarre, a club in Tokyo's party district of Roppongi that became associated with the Eurobeat sound. In 1997, Yu-ki took some time out from the band, playing the voice in the animated Elmer No Boken (My Father's Dragon) and releasing a solo single. As the Eurobeat sound became overexposed, TRF's sales suffered, with their 1998 single Unite! The Night! failing to perform as impressively as previous albums. Since 2000, TRF have focused less on chart success and more on the club scene, despite the closure of the superclub Velfarre, with the release of several remix albums. In 2006, TRF released their first album of new material in six years, the double-CD/DVD set Lif-E-Motions. The album included collaborations with labelmates BoA, Every Little Thing, and AAA, among others. ~ David Hickey
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