057 - Masahiro Takahashi

There is so much amazing music coming out of Japan at the moment that it's hard to keep track of it all, but one of my favourite recent finds has been the work of our latest guest, Tokyo based multi-instrumentalist Masahiro Takahashi. The self proclaimed 'bedroom recorder' creates gorgeous, mellow, organic sounding music that seems to exist as an antidote to the hectic energy of an international mega city. Masahiro himself describes his creative process as like tending to a miniature garden when he returns home from work - it's a lovely and fitting analogy.

Consider his 2017 cassette Music of inside the Snail's Shell, a record that seems to move reluctantly at the pace of it's titles mollusc protagonist. It's a fine example of the quiet restraint that exists in his music.

For Métron Masahiro has put together a collection of his own works, featuring new tracks from his upcoming album Ominpresent Windows (due for a cassette release through Jj Funhouse but can be streamed & downloaded now directly from Masa's bandcamp), remixed versions of tracks from the aforementioned Music of inside the Snail's Shell and eight exclusive new recordings especially for this mix. It's always wonderful to receive new music for this series and the new tracks here are exceptional, adding to Takahashi's ever evolving and distinct sonic identity.

The tracks glide together as glistening chimes combine with hallucinogenic drones, souring strings and strange otherworldly recordings, all knitted together with the nostalgic sounds of Masahiro's elegant guitar playing. It's a beautiful snapshot of a talented artist whose musical miniature garden continues to expand and refine.

I spoke to Masahiro about Tokyo and his house shows. You can read the full interview beneath the artwork.

Loved the mix Masahiro, thank you so much. Can you tell us a bit about the music that you made for this?
It consists of 14 songs of my work: 8 new songs for the mix, 4 songs from the upcoming album, and 2 re-mixed songs from my last album “Music of inside the snail’s shell”. I mixed them into one, with the feeling of floating up and sinking down.

What made you decide to make music?
As a teenager, I used to play guitar and bass in an alternative rock, punk cover band. I had a chance to buy a used Yamaha 4 track tape recorder and a sequencer at reasonable price. I just happened to find them listed in the classified board at a local instruments shop. Then I started experimenting and recording music by myself. I liked musicians who experimented with recording such as Cornelius, Beck, His name is alive and other US/UK bedroom musicians, so the recording style fitted me.

I’ve not been to Tokyo but by all accounts it sounds like a busy, bustling, high-octane city - is making ambient music something that helps you to keep a good balance in such a busy urban environment?
I think it’s important for me to keep my own pace by creating music as if I’m slowly tending a miniature garden after coming home from my day job. However, I’m not sure if my music is defined as ambient music. For now, I feel soothed when I listen to or make music that is quiet and calming or takes me to some faraway place.

If I lived in the countrysides, I would learn from the sounds of nature. On the other hand, in Tokyo, I can refer to urban clutter and the sound of advertisements. We are unconsciously
affected by all the environment surrounding us. In this way, I admit my work is influenced by Tokyo. I think going to shows and meeting people is a large advantage of living here. There are still nice parks and public baths where you can feel quiet here, though.

You have a new album coming out - what can listeners expect?
My new tape, Omnipresent Windows is coming out through Belgium label, Jj funhouse soon. I mainly used a Boss’s looper to make tracks and added simple melodies to them. The songs were composed while imaging traveling through different windows, moving from one unknown place to another. I’m happy if listeners could enjoy going from a different space and time. Taking a long walk, discovering a little truth to the wild, floating on a soft cloud bed, dreaming of a lazy garden, or escaping on the night train.

You spent a couple of years living in Vancouver, Canada - how did that experience differ from your life in Tokyo?
Living in a foreign country was great for introspection. I realize how much my language, the way I think, melody and rhythm are engrained in myself. When I listened to pop music on the radio in Canada, I realized how much growing up with J-pop and Enka (Japanese folk song) influenced me. When I spoke in English, I found myself communicating and thinking differently than in Japanese. In terms of the society, Japan has perfectionism and authoritarianism while Canada respects new challenges with a do-it-yourself attitude. Many Japanese fear or feel hesitant about people with different backgrounds but Canada is totally opposite. They are proud of being multicultural and inclusive. These different points definitely influence creation, the dissemination of work, community building, and event organizing.

Apart from that, having performed/released music and met amazing friends through music in unknown place gave me confidence and widened my possibilities.

You and your partner organize ‘house shows’ in your apartment, this sounds great - what happens at these shows?
Basically, what we do is having people over for a performance with some of our favourit musicians while hanging out comfortably at home. I think people feel more relaxed and it’s easier to communicate at a house show than at venues. It’s cool if performers and audiences can exchange and develop their ideas. I performed house shows in Canada and it was mind blowing to me because I had never heard of it in Tokyo. Once me and my roommates put on a house show and we were all the performers as well as inhabitants. It was fun. Even though house shows in Canada are literary held at a house, it’s kind of funny to put on shows at a normal apartment in Tokyo. There’s been a lot of interest so far from musicians and the audience. People are really excited about it.

We always ask for some musical recommendations perhaps you could point us towards some Tokyo based artists you’re listening to at the moment?
I curated this cassette compilation “Sound Journal: Do Nothing” on Slow Editions, which is an artist books and multiples label run by my partner, Eunice Luk. You can find some of our favorite Japan based musicians on this tape: 夕方の犬(u ·ェ·), H. Takahashi, Hegira Moya, Takao, and Endurance. In addition, we had Lieven Martens from Belgium, it was exciting to have him in the mix. Also, I recommend Tokyo based folk duo Maiwai, the leader Kazuya mastered this mix and the compilation. miku-mari, who creates astonishing sound with guitar. K/A/T/O Massacre is the music event held every Wednesday where you can find interesting musicians in Tokyo.

All music by Masahiro Takahashi
1. Light from the window (Omnipresent Windows)
2. View from the car window (Omnipresent Windows)
3. Brain is your Ocean
4. Eyes of typhoon (Music of inside the snail’s shell)
5. Insect dance
6. Slow down
7. Sonota: the other
8. Lost property on Internet
9. Playing music instruments
10. Being and Time
11. Cloud bed (Omnipresent Windows)
12. After ecstasy (Omnipresent Windows)
13. Sennin’s hill (Music of inside the snail’s shell)
14. End of the Summer

Métron Records 2018. Hampshire, UK.