050 - Sugai Ken

Sugai Ken is an incredibly talented experimental electronic producer from Kangawa in Japan. His recent LP ‘UkabazUmorezU’ dropped last month on RVNG. International, the diverse label based in Brooklyn and one of the finest and most innovative imprints around. From a label that has recently given a home to the music of Visible Cloaks, and Japanese producer 7FO, their a perfect fit for the weird abstract sonic worlds featured in Ken’s fourth full length release. The fruits of his labour are truly excellent, it’s a warped world of strange field recordings and distorted dimensions. It manages to find a curious position between eerie unease and an almost comedic playfulness. It’s a truly fascinating listen well worth the price of admission.

It was, however, Ken’s third LP for Lullabies for Insomniacs that probably opened up his work to a wider audience, beyond his homeland. The wonderful ‘On The Quakefish’ is a little softer than his new record, with more notable references to the iconic Japanese ambient records of the 70s and 80s. It’s less abstracted, less refracted and but equally spacious, charming and often beautiful. It was a great pick up by the brilliant Amsterdam based label who Ken clearly holds a special place in his heart for, choosing to dedicate his Métron mix to the label with all eight selections picked from their wonderful back catalogue.

The project from the Melbourne raised Izabel Caligiore, that started out as a radio show deep into the night, has become a project that acts, as the name suggests, as a tribute to experimental music for the dark, quiet hours - and that’s where this mix feels most at home - in the shadowy sonic spaces shared by both Sugai Ken and Lullabies for Insomniacs.

If you enjoy the mix please check out ‘UkabazUmorezU’, available at all good retailers, and be sure to delve further into the discography of Lullabies for Insomniacs here

I spoke briefly with Sugai Ken about his mix, his new record and his use of field recordings. You can also find a tracklist at the bottom of the page.

Hey Sugai thanks so much for the mix - can you tell us abit about it and why you chose to feature tracks exclusively from the label Lullabies for Insomniacs?
You are welcome. LFI continues to challenge releasing deep works, so I'd like this opportunity to be useful for LFI. I hope that through hearing this mix as many people as possible listen to LFI's music.

It appears that Japanese avant-garde music is having a bit of a resurgence, do you think the reissuing of a lot of 70s and 80s classics is helping turn peoples attention towards newer younger artists such as yourself?
Yes, I think that we benefit from this. For example, I think that Chee Shimizu's presentation of 80s Japanese music to overseas audiences has influenced the present situation a lot.

How do you feel when you make music?
I often feel like an artist or craftsman. And I sculpt sounds to express the images/diagrams in my head.

Field recordings seem to be important to your musical composition, can you talk a bit about where you first made the connection with recordings and music and why you use them so much in your own sound?
I noticed the connection at a riverside in front of the house I lived more than 10 years ago. (It was about the same time I was making "Goto no Yoniwa". And I think the visual reminded me the capability of Field-recordings is very effective. It creates something you cannot get through a score.

Wochikaeri to Uzume is a wonderful track, it really reminds me of an old cartoon soundtrack, there’s a real sense of humour to it. Were animation or cartoons an influence on that track?
Thank you. This work was influenced by long‐established Japanese customs and early Musique Concrete.

What are your plans for 2018?
I will go on a Europe tour 2018 (Rewire Festival, The Rest is Noise, etc). And new work will be released in 2018.

Can you recommend some records from Japan that people outside of Japan might not have heard and really should?
It is not records, but I recommend the following folklore entertainments:


Georgia / Mist ∞ Skat / (Lullabies For Insomniacs)
Life Garden / Zhen / (Lullabies For Insomniacs)
Laszlo Hortobagyi / Kirana Baj-Ki Baroque / (Lullabies For Insomniacs)
Garland / kat.ar / (Lullabies For Insomniacs)
Electroscope / Decemember Moods / (Lullabies For Insomniacs)
Tarotplane / A Polaroid Sunset / (Lullabies For Insomniacs)
Million Brazilians / Traversing The Violet Skies / (Lullabies For Insomniacs)
Magic Carpathians / Thalassa / (Lullabies For Insomniacs)

You can purchase all the tracks here:

Words, images & interview by Jack Hardwicke.

Métron Records 2018. Hampshire, UK.