Japan has an illustrious history in the field of electronic music, and the land that gave you legends Yellow Magic Orchestra in the ’70s, Pizzicato Five in the ’80s and techno overlords Ken Ishii and Takkyu Ishino in the ’90s continues to teem with creativity. Here are five artists taking techno, house, ambient and other eclectic electric genres in exciting new directions.
Five electrifying artists
It’s possible that Koshiro Hino never sleeps. The Osaka-based experimental multi-talent is busy with several major projects, including hard-charging rock-meets-minimal-dub four-piece Goat and a 20-man ‘hybrid ensemble’ known as Virginal Variations, but he somehow also finds time for YPY, his techno-focused alias. Challenging the conventions of club tunes in ever-innovative ways, he has recently found a receptive audience in Europe, releasing records on Berlin’s Nous and London’s Where To Now? imprints.
Dividing her time between Tokyo and Berlin, Akiko Kiyama is already a household name among European techno aficionados. A master of the minimal, she steers clear of catchy dance tracks and takes her tunes in a more abstract direction. The resulting soundscapes are cerebral beauties capable of moving heart, head and feet.
The name Kohei Matsunaga may not ring a bell to many international listeners yet, but the big time is calling this avant-garde producer, who divides his time between Osaka and Berlin. Recording under the alias NHK yx Koyxen, 20-year industry veteran Matsunaga has been in the beat business since high school and has developed a unique sound best appreciated on the dancefloor. Synths scatter like droplets while a pounding bass line gives the eclectic mixture weight. Look out for Exit Entrance, the new NHK yx Koyxen album on DFA Records, this October.
Japanese producers were quick to embrace footwork, the stark, accelerated kind of dance music that originated in Chicago in the ’90s and gained wider global attention via the UK’s Planet Mu label. But while most of the homegrown productions were content to hover at the level of pastiche, Hiroshima’s CRZKNY has made the genre his own. Unabashedly political, he has been at it since 2012 and released a hard-hitting new album, Meridian, this April. An artillery salvo of juke-y bass with noise elements mixed in, it’s a record that reveals new layers on every listen.
Perhaps the brightest among Tokyo’s new wave of rising indie stars, 27-year-old Hiroshima native Sapphire Slows has gone from bedroom producer to star attraction at major Japanese electronic music festivals including spring’s Rainbow Disco Club and Taico Club. Her new single ‘The Edge of My Land’ is an exciting track that hints at more great things to come on Time, a mini-LP due out this autumn. She describes her own music as 'difficult to put it into words', while national media have typified her as ‘hazy’, ‘obscure’, ‘slow’, ‘experimental’ and ‘pop’. Multifaceted, at least.