Atelier Pink Noise finds solace in quietude with 'Meditation of silence'

Continuing in the rich tradition of Japanese ambient, environmental, and new age music, Atelier Pink Noise releases a brand new full-length, 58-minute long album titled ‘Draw a Sleeps.’ Today, we get to listen to a selection from the album, a track titled ‘Meditation of silence.’ For the uninitiated, pink noise is a mathematical noise function that is perceived very similarly to soundscapes found in nature, such as waterfalls.

Atelier Pink Noise, however, instead of using pink noise in his compositions, goes straight to the source and samples the world around him. The sounds of forests, water, small animals, and more reverberate through his compositions, processed and warped to evoke new aural worlds, excitingly fresh yet still intimately familiar. APN blends these sources beautifully with rich, uplifting synth chords that are nominally abstract, but still manages to provoke a narrative within the mind, if one focuses clearly enough. Indeed, I would invite you to experience this track, as well as the rest of the album, in a peaceful and intimate setting, with the lights low and your eyes closed. Perhaps you’ll even see the natural sources from which these sounds originated from.

Stream ‘Meditation of silence’ above, and listen to the entire album over on Spotify.

— review by autonomy

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A modern made in Japan classic with Sweet William's 'Jasmine Instrumentals'

Born in 1990, producer / beatmaker from Aichi Prefecture Sweet William took the Japanese hip hop scene by storm alongside Okinawan MC 唾奇 (Tsubaki) - with the release of their album ‘Jasmine’ in 2017.

The release received widespread support, largely for it’s smooth, expertly-crafted beats and head-nodding lyrical wordplay. But in many ways, it is the album’s deep and personal approach that makes it an honest gem of Japanese modern music. The album’s title ‘Jasmine’ refers to the local tea of Okinawa, which has been a favourite drink on the islands since the days of the Ryukyu Kingdom for hundreds of years. The title sums up the sound and feel of the album well: a refreshing and fragrant experience with notes of nostalgia. The release is an invigorating start to finish listen with guest appearances from Fukuoka-born singer Kiki vivi lily and Tokyo rapper Jinmenusagi.

Following up this modern day classic is a recently released fresh perspective on the album - Jasmine Instrumentals. Stripping away all the extras to let Sweet William’s meticulous productions speak for themselves, the album contains velvety keys, crunchy beats and crisp samples. There’s even a bonus beat ‘Walkin’ (above) not previously found on the original album.

’Jasmine Instrumentals’ is highly recommended for any hip hop head, beat scene fan, or someone who just needs a good chill after a long week.

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Beyond The Hill's 'Granular Life' will turn your life into film

The debut EP from Japan’s 丘を越えて (Beyond The Hill), out now on 16:9 Recordings, is the perfect first release for a label ostensibly focusing on cinematic styles of music. 16:9 is of course the standard aspect ratio for High Definition digital video, and the EP’s title of ‘Granular Life’ is certainly evocative of one of the most distinct qualities of film, namely grain. But the title also goes beyond visual qualities, and can be taken more literally: these tracks were produced using granular synthesis techniques.

The opening track, Flicker Wind, (listen above) is a timeless ambient opener that would do well to accompany any number of tasks in daily life. It is at once precise in tone, and also flexible to interpretation. Think Boards of Canada in their more cinematic mode. The rest of the tracks on this EP only strengthen this comparison, expanding the Granular Life cinematic world in all directions. It’s a shame that such a carefully constructed world clocks in at under 15 minutes, just when you start to feel at home in its warm embrace. Nevertheless, it’s a strong first release from 16:9, and we’ll have to keep an eye on the label to see what they conjure up next.

Stream “Flicker Wind” above, and find the whole EP on 16:9 Recordings’ Bandcamp.

- review by autonomy

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The magical world of Masakatsu Takagi

While many features on our blog are about up and coming musicians, part-timers, or those looking for a break, Masakatsu Takagi is very much a professional musician. While not a household name by any stretch, those interested in anime will have no doubt heard Takagi's work before. He has been a frequent collaborator with Mamoru Hosoda and has scored his highly acclaimed animation films, Wolf Children (2012), The Boy and the Beast (2015) and this year's Mirai (2018), which has already garnered rave reviews both in Japan and around the world.

The film was recently released in America through GKIDS. The soundtrack which contains our featured track, "Inner Garden" was released the same day by Milan Records based out of LA. While I haven’t had the chance to watch Mirai yet to comment on how the music harmonizes with the image, from what I've heard of the score, including this whimsical little number "Inner Garden", it more than stands on its own as a beautifully composed, emotional soundtrack.

Masakatsu Takagi has been compared to some great composers like Ryuichi Sakamoto, Goldmund, Philip Glass, Alexandra Streliski and more, but his work really stands on its own. There's a magical quality to his compositions. There’s a feeling of being in touch with nature, a simplicity, free of noise and clutter.

Our featured track, "Inner Garden" is a wonderful example of Takagi's talent and contains rich instrumentation ranging from delicate piano flutters, to chimes, wood blocks, strings and more. There's an Asian feeling to the tune, leaning towards Buddhism or Shintoism, as bells, blocks, chimes and a feeling of serenity loom throughout. There's almost a cyclical feeling emoted, which I'm sure has to do with themes in the film as, Mirai deals with a young boy travelling through time to meet his relatives from different generations.

The soundtrack to Mirai was recently released and comes highly recommended to fans of animation music, soundtracks, classical music and piano music. This is a piece of art everyone should really discover. It's a chance to shut off the noise of the world for a bit and be transported to a magical world created by Masakatsu Takagi.

Animation fans make sure to catch Mirai, especially if it's playing a theater near you. For the rest of us, if “Inner Garden” has piqued your interest, make sure to check out Masakatsu Takagi's other art, both in audio and visual form on the following platforms below:

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Spiritual music from a Tokyo Dragonfly

Next up for your listening pleasure is a local (for those of us in Japan, that is) Japanese artist, Tonbo (meaning Dragonfly in Japanese). Tonbo has been flying around the Tokyo underground electronic music scene for some years now, exploring the spiritual side of music and Japanese culture. Tonbo produces, DJs, plays guitar and even gets on the mic from time to time. He also puts on a regular party dubbed the Tonbo Matsuri, (Dragonfly Festival) which is described as, "...a crazy bash to make a place for releasing spirits." Our featured track, "Gion", comes from the recently released Yellow Trance EP. It’s been released on the Psymatics label and follows Tonbo's first full length album, released in early 2017, Tokyo Mad Cave. Tonbo works and collaborates with numerous musicians and creators, "Gion" follows that trend. The tune features the Japanese traditional string instrument the shamisen, as played by Tokyo Ghetto Shamisen.

"Gion" is hard to pin down, it dabbles in the ambient, downtempo and psychedelic genres, while also containing elements of minimal, acid house and trance. As a whole it has a deep, transcendental feeling, combining analog and digital sounds. There's both traditional Japanese drums and our aforementioned shamisen playing a dominant role in the track, along with electronic drum beats, treble droplets, and a constant bassline. At times the track feels foreign and cold but always maintains a feeling of Japaneseness; a certain ancient spirituality, that lingers throughout.

Tonbo is an interesting experience listening to in single track form. A given tune feels like it belongs to a piece of a much bigger expression. I have a feeling a full set from Tonbo is an experience that is sure to transport participants to another world and may very well be up to the task of releasing a spirit or two in the process.

If our Dragonfly man Tonbo has enticed you, as he has me, make sure to give him a look on the following platforms.

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An Acid House Rollercoaster from Japan's CD Hata and Koyas

Japanese producer Koyas and his Tokyo-based label 'Psymatics' continue their eclectic collaboration series with a fresh creative amalgamation for the third instalment. This time welcoming experienced producer and multi-instrumentalist: CD Hata. 

Hata serves as the synth player, producer, and remix director for the well-known Japanese psychedelic jam band 'Dachambo.' Formed in 2001, the band's free form live jams, deep tribal rhythms and energetic stage presence has made them a festival favourite in Japan. In addition to his participation in the band, CD Hata also works on his solo production and DJ projects, which has brought him to festivals and club events around the world.

Koyas is a producer, DJ, and label owner based in Tokyo. He manages the label 'Psymatics' which releases a variety of electronic music with an emphasis on spontaneous live creation. Koyas is also one of the first Ableton certified trainers in Japan and runs Ableton Meetup Tokyo; a regular producers' meetup that features guest speakers and workshops. In addition to his active duties as a trainer and organizer, Koyas has released on quality Japanese imprints such as Jet Set, Third ear, Grand Gallery and more. 

'Spring Lover' is a reconstructed recording of a hardware-drive session from the 2 experienced producers. Showcasing the live, spontaneous nature of the collaboration, the track's acid bassline chugs ahead like a locomotive while live synth solos and eclectic effects bring further flavour to the sonic framework. 

Support the release on Bandcamp. 

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New Music: Aalko "No Man is an Island EP"

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The No Man Is An Island EP is a single cut from the debut album of the same name by Aalko, a new project by Kebko Music founder Akiko Kiyama.  Aalko is a culmination of Kiyama’s recent practices in a wider musical spectrum that go beyond the confines of her minimalistic techno characteristics. Taking a floor-oriented side out of the No Man Is An Island cassette album, this single cut features three tracks that work wonders in a DJ context.  These tracks give nod to Kiyama’s peculiar self full of sonic idiosyncrasies, showing no fear of breaking accepted conventions.
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Tokiomi "Secret Stash" A/V collab- Tev 13

It's release week!  Japanese beatmaker Tokiomi releases his first full length album "Secret Stash" this coming Thursday, November, 16.  To celebrate our first physical release we collaborated with 7 of our favourite visual artists to get their interpretation of the sounds 🎶  

Here's the first clip from Vancouver visual artist - TEV 13