Last February, I met Toko Yasuda in Tokyo. She is undeniably one of the key figures in the American Indie music scene, having (and have) played in bands such as Blonde Redhead, Enon, The Laps, St.Vincent and PLVS VLTRA as a solo artist, so I was very honoured and happy to get to know this lovely human being. Just like I casually did to Neon Bunny, Baths and Gold Panda, I gave her a disposable camera to freely take pictures of Los Angeles – a place where she bases herself in right now. Here’s what she saw.
Japanese record label Flau has been releasing an array of sensitive, beautiful music for nearly a decade, building a loyal following among discerning listeners in Japan and beyond. Their output ranges from folk and pop to experimental techno, but there is always a delicate sensibility that runs through every record, a quality that characterizes the Flau sound. We talked to Flau owner Yasuhiko Fukuzono about 2016 and where the label might be headed in coming years, on this special year-end interview.
Year End Interview: flau By Alisa Yamasaki, December 31, 2016
What were the most memorable releases to you this year?
Serpentwithfeet left a big impression on me, with both his music and visuals.
In terms of Japanese releases, I listened to Little Museum of Bird, Asa-Chang & Junray and Theater 1. For overseas releases, I listened to Lee Lang and Beatrice Dillon a lot.
What about Flau releases?
At the end of last year, we released two albums (Ocean and Farewell) from the Taiwanese ensemble Cicada, and did a Japanese tour as well. The first release from Flau this year was by Port St. Willow, a singer-songwriter from New York. We couldn’t do a concert here, but he visited several times and we caught up. He told me all about gentrification, Donald Trump and moving to a suburb up North with friends. I helped with the BRRWD compilation, the project between Repeat Pattern and Ta-ku, as well as Submerse’s zine. We also had releases by Submerse, Fabio Caramuru and Molnbar av John. I really want Caramuru and av John to tour Japan next year. For reissues, we had Robert Lippok from Raum and MOTORO FAAM from Flau.
Were there any standout moments for the label this year? What were some new discoveries as a label owner?
We actually had the fewest releases and tours this year, but there were also a lot of interesting experiences through overseas festival bookings and compilations. There seems to be more of a focus on “Cool Japan” music at festivals overseas, and I had to think of how Flau as a label should be involved in that scene. These days I’m interested in how to support the growth of artists who’ve released on my label.
What are some labels you’ve been checking out recently?
I like to discover new labels through Bandcamp and SoundCloud and immediately download music, but I tend to forget to follow up on the labels. I always check out labels that Flau has a close relationship with. Sweet Dreams Press is a label that continues to inspire me.
There are countless microgenres in Tokyo alone. Are there any trends that have caught your attention in the Japanese music scene?
I’m not sure if it counts as a microgenre but I’m interested in local communities that aren’t visible through the internet. Shifts in styles and attitudes among groups are fascinating to me in general.
Flau has impacted the Japanese music scene not only through its releases, but also through its events. How do you approach event curation? What do you have in mind when showcasing live music?
With our regular event Foundland, I do think about how to create a relaxing environment for music. I want to keep throwing events that have the music front and center, not as background music.
What makes you want to release an artist’s music on Flau? Have there been any changes in the “Flau sound” over the years?
I used to only look at completed projects, but these days I’m moved by unfinished work as long as the artist’s personality shows through. I enjoy the process that begins there, thinking with the artists on how to present the project and how to connect it with the public. The label’s taste has changed since it first started. These days I want to release music by artists from Japan and Asia.
What makes Flau special is not only the style of music, but an entire personality created through the record artwork as well. Do you decide on the artwork? Is looking for good art like looking for good music?
I usually choose the artwork but sometimes the artists have requests too. I try to incorporate artwork that reflects the label’s style. I tend to rely on my instincts but I trust Ryuto Miyake who drew the Flau cat. I ask him to do a lot of artwork for the label. It’s the same for music, but I like art that doesn’t try to be weird or edgy for the sake of it, and has a classy aspect to it. A playful spirit is always great.
Do you think 2016 was a good year for Japanese artists abroad?
There are plenty of Japanese artists who do well in alternative scenes abroad, but these days I feel like major Japanese artists are also breaking through. With the internet it’s become so easy to trace what influenced today’s music scene, so in that sense I think a lot of older Japanese ambient and New Age records are going to be talked about again.
What are your goals for 2017 as a label?
We already have a lot of releases lined up for next year, like records by British harpist Emma Gatrill, a collaboration between Tomo Akikawabaya’s project The Future Eve and Robert Wyatt, as well as new projects by Noah and Henning Schmiedt. As I mentioned earlier, I want to focus more on small, local communities. You’ll be seeing more releases by Japanese artists.
Flau is turning 10 years old next year. How does it feel?
I want to use this upcoming year wisely so there will be a 20 year anniversary to celebrate in the future. I’m constantly looking for new talent, so please send me demos!
2016 might be one of the worst years the history could ever remember. God can only guess what the future holds. But as for the futuristic sounds of music, we can always count on King Deluxe, a Vancouver based record label that specialises in exploring the most cutting-edge, visual, and futuristic (and unsigned) artists of the moment. We had a chance to speak with a founder of the label, PK. We talked about who King Deluxe is, their take on 2016, and their own view on the music industry.
Year End Interview: King Deluxe By Satoru ‘Teshi’ Teshima, December 28, 2016
Can you tell us a little bit about King Deluxe? Who is behind the label? Where is it based? We’re based mostly in cyberspace, with me running things currently from Vancouver. With me are a loose collective of artists that sometimes work together, for this label and elsewhere. Plus we constantly have new people contributing from all over the planet although a lot of those are animators and 3D modelers. I myself am a treeplanter, living remotely up in northern Canada for parts of the year. On one hand it makes it challenging to run a label year round but it also allows me to devote myself almost entirely to King Deluxe the rest of the time.
What’s King Deluxe’s manifesto? It used to be something along the lines of let’s make future sounds. Then it evolved to lets make future sounds and sync it with cool visualizations that nobody’s seen before. Now, it’s to put people right inside of our creations. And eventually have our art interact with them.
King Deluxe seems really particular about its curation. How do you find emerging artists and how do you approach them? I spend a lot of time obsessively digging for new sounds and visual art when I’m not living in a tent, so the majority of the people working with the label are those I approached because I found it criminal that they weren’t already signed to a larger label. In the summers I have lots of time out in nature to listen to the music I’ve collected. It’s getting a bit easier though every year to find a good data connection up north, so I’m not entirely cut off.
Globally a lot has happened in 2016. For King Deluxe, what was the biggest news? What excited you the most? On one hand the rise of global populism is disheartening, on the other we finally have impressive virtual reality devices, and a ton of creativity happening within this new medium. It’s early days but quite exciting to me. So years later looking back at 2017 we may all view it as the beginning of the slide into a 1984 style hellscape, but at the same time we’ll be able to escape into our stylized virtual dreamworlds, so it won’t be all bad.
While the streaming sites have been re-defining how we consume music, what’s your view on the music industry now? I know we’re not the only ones finding it difficult to reach audiences and sell our work, streaming is definitely up but overall I feel like we’re in a dip that won’t last forever. Soundcloud once led the way when it came to showcasing fresh sounds and now we need the next big platform to come along. These things move in cycles and I’ve been around long enough to experience the rise and fall of many others, including Audiogalaxy, MP3.com, and Myspace, to name a few important ones.
Basically we need central hubs of new work from those pushing the form, that’s easily searchable and is great for keeping tabs on the artist as well as letting you get in touch with friends with similar tastes. The scene right now is too fractured, but I do think there’s a lot of potential to make a living doing music. I would be surprised if Spotify remains vital for too long unless they overhaul their business model.
As for King Deluxe, you’ll be able to find lots of our new stuff on Steam soon enough. It’s the best place to find VR works and that’s a big focus for 2018. Expect music videos (and short films) that completely immerse people, with 360 youtube versions for those without access to these headsets. Also we’re working on a virtual music festival.
Our second year end feature is “The Best Singles of 2016”. The following selected tracks are all taken from the soundtrack. We hope you like it. For those who might not know so much about us, listen to the tracks and you will see what kind of music we dig.
Stalking Gia – Second Nature
Jessy Lanza – VV Violence
Kllo – Walls To Build
Fortunes. – 501’s
Solange – Cranes In The Sky (Kaytranada DJ Edit)
King – The Greatest
Nite-Funk – Let Me Be Me
Chinah – Can’t Remember How It Feels
Honne – Good Together
Living – A Light
Elderbrook – Closer
Katie Gately – Tuck
Portishead – S.O.S. (ABBA Cover)
Beyonce – Formation (Election Anxiety/America Is Over Edit)
The time is ripe. Coule be too late. I don’t care. Here’s my favourite albums and EPs of this year. The above fantastic and dashing logo is made by a very talented designer friend Kana Saechout. Thanks!
1. Fantôme – Utada Hikaru
2. Hopelessness – Anohni
3. TheHope Six Demolition Project – PJ Harvey
4. Moon Shaped Pool – Radiohead
5. Love Streams – Tim Hecker
6. Blisters EP – Serpentwithfeet
7. Boy King – Wild Beats
8. James Blake – The Colour in Anything
9. Skeleton Tree – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
10. Viet Rose EP – Lanks
11. Sirens – Nicholas Jaar
12. Before the Dawn – Kate Bush
13. A Seat At The Table – Solange
14. You Want It Darker – Leonard Cohen
15. Take Her Up To Monto – Roisin Murphy
16. Blackstar – David Bowie
17. Ultimate Lounge – Semi Precious
18. Oh No – Jessy Lanza
19. Advancement – Solar Bears
20. My Woman – Angel Olsen
21. Redemption – Dawn Richard
22. Freetown Sound – Blood Orange
23. I Had a Dream That You Were Mine – Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam
24. Puberty 2 – Mitsuki
25. 22, a Million – Bon Iver
26. Big Black Coat – Junior Boys
27. Syncope – Port St. Willow
28. The Bride – Bat For Lashes
29. 1 Of 1 – SHINee
30. One Day All Of This Won’t Matter Anymore – Slow Club
31. Third Law – Roly Porter
32. Heart Like a Levee – Hiss Golden Messenger
33. We Move – James Vincent McMorrow
34. Strangers – Marissa Nadler
35. Good Luck and Do Your Best – Gold Panda
36. You Know What It’s Like – Carla Del Forno
37. Stranger Things Original Soundtrack Vol.1 – Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein
38. For Those Of You Who Never Have (And Those Who Have) – Huerco. S
LANKS doesn’t need a label to help make rules. Neither did he need lots of money to create art. He collaborates with friends and family. He believes in people who believe in music. His third EP Viet Rose, which he co-produced with Andrei Eremin, is the absolute proof. The lead singles, “Golden Age” and “Holla” are emotional and experimental take on pop music, while hypnotic “Sometimes” takes hints from the likes of Vaporwave. The final song “Kyneton” may remind listeners of Radiohead ballads; bleak, ghostly, and poignant. Viet Rose, which is named after his favourite Laksa restaurant in Melbourne, is a wonderful representation of who LANKS is, and arguably the best.
Lights + Music sent this Melbourne-based artist a bunch of questions to find out who he is, how he challenges himself on creativity, the making of his new EP, and what he would do to a penguin in a fridge.
Interview: LANKS By Satoru ‘Teshi’ Teshima, October 16, 2016
So, who is Lanks?
LANKS is me. It is my current artistic journey and persona. Some people don’t even know my real name anymore, and this really does feel more like me now. In real life I try to be balanced and level-headed but with LANKS I try to dive deep into my thoughts and emotions.
What songs best describe your personality?
Of my own songs I think Holla is probably the best showcase of me. Emotional and uplifting and there are lots of layers and sections and ideas that all converge to make one big interesting mess. I think that’s me. If I’m looking at other people’s work, I’m not sure, maybe ‘You And Whose Army?’ off Radiohead’s Amnesiac. I like questioning accepted norms and trying to break them, and I think that carries that message a bit.
Have you always been a musical kid since you were growing up?
My older sister and I learned music together from a pretty young age (she played Trombone/keys and I played flute/guitar) and were always playing music together, and even went on to study jazz at the Victorian College of the Arts. So music has always been in the family, jamming out all together and being introduced to the fun and creative side of music first and foremost. My cousin is also a musician, making music under the name Ry X (also in The Acid and Howling).
How old were you when you put your own song online for the first time? Do you remember what it sounded like?
I was always making things, as soon as I picked up an instrument I like creating. I still remember how to play the first full song I wrote when I was 12. I’m not sure if that was the first song I uploaded or not, but I had a bunch of songs I uploaded to myspace as a teenager, and across a few different random soundcloud accounts I probably have a hundred or so random songs and ideas still live on the internet.
Living in Tokyo, it is difficult to see what is actually happening in Melbourne! What is the music scene/community like in Melbourne?
The music scene here is amazing! It feels like there are lots of supportive people and talented creative people all working hard and growing together. Seriously, check out Kllo, Hayden Calnin, Woodes, Big Scary, Andrei Eremin just to name a few. There are lots of people pushing interesting and creative music here, and they are all starting to really impress on the world stage so it’s an exciting time coming up I feel.
I read that you have a home studio. What is your setup like?
It’s pretty minimal and I would like to invest in a few more pieces soon, but I am also a fan of working with restrictions. I have a piano, a guitar, a flute, a mic and a laptop. I only have one plugin right now. It’s been fun making 3 EPs with this same setup, it forces you to be creative when you don’t have a lot. Working with Andrei Eremin on co-production and mixing/mastering helped me bring the songs out and develop them the extra bit they needed though.
How often do you write songs?
I try to write as close to everyday as I can. While on tour I have been writing a little bit less but still making things. I hit road blocks all the time but laziness doesn’t solve problems. A thoughtful, open-eyed, and self-questioning approach is best I find.
When there are too many or too little ideas and you are hitting a creative wall, what do you do to break it?
Creativity and songwriting is all about problem solving, and the longer you stand still for the more you get attached to what was there also. I think my creations have become a lot better the more I have learned to open up a song again and continue developing it. If you sit down and are prepared to spend hours on it and it’s not waste if you don’t use any of those ideas you just came up with, then you’ll be ok. It takes a long time to make something that you are really excited about I think, so devote lots of time to exploring.
More specifically, if you do get stuck, you can also try going for a walk, writing with a different instrument, introducing chance (write notes on pieces of paper and draw them out of a hat or roll a dice), forcing yourself to play on only one string on the guitar or only 2 fingers on the piano, etc etc. Essentially what you’re trying to do is break your natural patterns that your brain wants to walk down. Get out of your comfort zone, the possibilities are endless.
Acoustic and electronic instruments are mixed really nicely in your music. Instrumentation wise, how do you approach songwriting?
I just make sounds with whatever I have around me and that shapes the songs and sonic palette. I love playing piano and I have been playing guitar most of my life, as well as flute, so I experiment a lot with those. I like making sounds that sound unusual to me. That’s what I am always hunting for, something that excites my ear. And the process of creating songs with computers is like weaving a tapestry and takes a lot of time. I really enjoy the process of making things.
Your grandmother is providing you some of the artworks for your recent releases. How did this collaboration happen?
My grandma is a fantastic visual artist and after she designed a tattoo for my sister’s 21st I think there was always an idea in the back of my mind to collaborate with her at some point. My best friend and housemate Will Devereux had done all my cover art up until this year and all my design work, so it was nice to get him to work with my grandma and with her illustrations Will manipulated them a bit and brought a little extra to them also, a bit like a mixing engineer actually. I’ve always been a big fan of my grandma’s work and it has been a real joy to share in this experience with her. No matter what happens with my artistic journey, collaboration with my friends and family will always be a huge part of it, and I’m having so much fun making things with such amazing people.
What’s the meaning behind the EP title, Viet Rose? What does the title entail?
Viet Rose is the name of my favourite laksa restaurant in Melbourne. I live very close to it (too close) and it summed up the past year of my life. Their $10 vegetarian laksa kept me alive. I am a 100% independent artist, which has been a challenge with doing lots of support tours and making 3 EPs in 2 years, but ultimately it means I can release the sort of music I want to and I’ve learned so much doing that. If I release music through a label soon I know why and I know the reasons I would be doing that now, and that is a great thing to learn.
What is it like working with Andre Eremin?
It’s incredible. We both love food, which is the first and most important requirement. And he just has such incredible maturity and skill that he brings to music. It took me a while to find someone who really got what I was trying to do, and isn’t afraid to challenge me on ideas. But importantly, someone that I trust when he does that. This latest EP in particular would not have reached the level it got to without him, and the world will know soon how amazing Andrei is. I’m excited to continue exploring with him.
I noticed that you are an active SNS user (on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter). Do they help you interact more with your fans?
Yes. So much! I make friends with my fans. And through social media we can hang and stay in touch and live our lives together. Social media has downsides, I know, but the upsides are incredible. They take away some of those middle-men that used to control your channels to your fans also. Now it just comes down to you and the challenge is can you engage these people and build some connection with them, just like you would with a song. I think that’s really cool, and the internet has empowered us in that way.
Living in the golden age of advanced technology, everything seems so within reach. Do you feel that how people approach music has changed in a good or a bad way?
I am cynical about technology really changing things. I think humans are pretty much the same, emotional beings that they were before all the advanced technology. What that has brought though is that people can make complete songs in their bedroom, and they have a chance to develop those skills in a quiet, non-confronting environment, especially if they are a bit insecure and want to experiment before they are thrust into a spotlight. But ultimately, there were making people music at home before computers made music, but the biggest change is the channels (social media/soundcloud/the internet) giving these people a way to reach music lovers/listeners with their creations. And you can do it from anywhere in the world.
If you compare your life to a movie title what would it be?
Good Will Hunting – My real name is Will and I am always hunting for more information and knowledge. I really love new experiences and new things are what excite me the most. I don’t see myself as a genius or anything (in case anyone reads into this one too much), I believe in hard work, exploration and patience.
Lastly, if you found a penguin in a fridge, what would you do?
Cuddle it forever.
We, Lights + Music are happy to announce again that this year, we will have our own booth at one of the biggest art book fairs in Asia, Tokyo Art Book Fair2016on September 16-19.
With unique contributors including French children book writer Gabriel Gay, Japanese book writer for educational English books Haruka Ohno, Tokyo-native creative masterminds SHARAH and YOSHI and Tokyo designer team Momongamix, as well as Sydney artist Genevieve Harnett, we will be presenting books, CDs, Zines, Photobooks, post cards from elsewhere and etc, etc. Also notably, New York producer Exitpost is also joining the force, putting out his original CD and artbook. I myself, will also release an art book in collaboration with Canadian designer Christina and Swiss creator Valentin. Drop by!
Details are below.
Dates: September 16th (Thurs) through 19st (Sun), 2016
Venue: Kyoto University of Art and Design, Tohoku University of Art and Design GAIEN CAMPUS
1-7-15 Kita-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan
L+M will have a booth on September 18 and 19.
Irish electronic duo Solar Bears amazed us with their last album, Supermigration with Sci-Fi infused psychedelic electronica. Once again the band is about to wow the listeners with their new album Advancement which will be out March 18 from Sunday Best, a home to their hero David Lynch. Absorbing a various musical elements such as Krautrock, Library music and cinema soundtrack, John Kowalski and Rian Trench build up their unique wall of sound by exploring lights, abstract imageries and textures, as if to take us on a journey to an epic experimental film.
In advance of the album’s release, Lights + Music was given an opportunity to present Solar Bear’s original mixtape Endings are Beginning Mix. Mixing the sounds of lost cinema soundtracks and psychedelic electronica, the band gives hints of what’s to come with this mesmerizing 30 min mix.
Check out the Bears latest single “Man Plus” here. Also read the interview with the band we did in 2012, here.
Dave Sarky – Canadian Colours Theme 4
Aleph – Love Memories
Luis De Pablo – El Espiritu De Colmena
Hudson Mohawke – Kettles
Polish Radio Orchestra – Why Do You Say Goodbye
Eugen Thomass – Regenbogen (Rainbow)
Piero Piccioni – Magic Carillon
Ravi Shankar – Prahjubee
Munju – Moon You II
Hype Williams – Break4love
Francois De Roubauix – Chamonix (Reversed)
Marie Laforet – Pour Celui Qui Viendra
Beaver and Krause – Sanctuary
Mahavishnu Orchestra – Hope