Beyond the Outer Dimensions of Noise // An Interview with YUKO ARAKI


Photo by Adi Putra

Multi-instrumentalist/composer based in Tokyo, Yuko Araki since her early age has never stopped delving into eclectic. equally imaginative and disturbing sonic territories, as the drummer of the oriental/tribal dream psych band Kuunatic and a founding member of the Neoclassical noise duo Concierto de la Familia, to finally undertake her solo project teetering amid droning harsh noise and abstract analog synth-induced atmospherics, layered with pulsating rhythmic sound frequencies and samples of Japanese traditional instruments, seamlessly alternating tension and release, dizziness and transcendence.

Following the first EP “I” for the Indonesian label Gerpfast Kolektif and the debut full-length, “II”, via Italian boutique tape label Commando Vanessa, both in 2019, Yuko Araki is going to release her third solo album titled “End of Trilogy” via Australian label Room40, as to “close a circle”, albeit at the same time a hint at future new bold sonic explorations.

  • Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us. Starting from the beginning of your musical path, what is your first memory of music? I read you first studied classical piano, when did you start playing with analog gears, samples and electronics?

My first memory of music is my mom singing Karaoke. She is very shy but also a very good singer and when she was in a good mood at family parties I could hear her singing Japanese Enka ( sentimental Japanese pop music loved by old people and truck drivers ). I started to play guitar mid-2000’s and got into experimentation with guitar and some strange pedals + marshall amp in a rehearsal studio and making feedback sounds from them. Then I met Paul from YobKiss – which was my previous project – and he suggested to me to start playing analog synth in 2013 so then I commenced to compose with electronic instruments and explore further and further and further.

  • What artist, event, or casual inspirations occurred where ‘noise’ and “harsh sounds”, as a form of art, ceremoniously “clicked” for you?

There is a small venue called Ochiai Soup in Tokyo where I hang out most weekends ( pre-Covid ). I saw lots of Japanese/international artist’s noise gigs there.

Too many artists to mention but it’s such an interesting scene and community … the intensity of the noise and the quality of the sound systems here in Tokyo make the experience completely overwhelming. But to be honest I am more interested in some of the younger up and coming artists who are showing that it is a continuingly evolving scene. Artists like Blackphone666 and Endon.

  • What kind of emotions lie beneath your clash of sounds? How do they reflect your emotional world in everyday life? Or are they more detached worlds existing separately, independent from real life? What is the connection or the interconnection between the two states?

My musical life interprets all the different kinds of emotions I feel. In fact, often I feel that I would love to make sounds even just after I wake up.  Making sounds is very, very important to me in the way in which I can articulate my emotions much, much more expressively than I can do by verbalizing.

  • How do you work in creating your music? Do you start from a pre-established idea and elaborate on it or is it more improvisation and inspiration of the moment?

The way I build my musical creations is by combining all of the above. If I delineate the percentages it’s perhaps 10% /25% /65%.. maybe. I can not leave these inspirations alone for a long time period because I don’t want to be haunted by those ideas in my dreams.

  • Do you always rely on basic minimal elements and instruments or do you try to employ a more expansive palette each time?

I tend to expand and develop my musical expression as widely as I possibly can. Developing technique, trying new tools and impulsive passion help drive my music. Now I am less afraid of trying to master electronic music composition.

  • “End of Trilogy” takes us on a journey of self-discovery through an alternate sonic realm of hallucinatory perception. How did the concept originate? What/Who is your inspiration?

For “End of Trilogy” I wanted to make an album that was structured by all short length compositions which is the complete opposite of my way of doing live performance – long-form improvisation. My inspiration was the situation when the pandemic “seemed” to begin and was still very confusing all around the world but there was a clear feeling that tragedy was looming. I was getting sick of the invisible fear and tried to make the music more playful, radical and a bit chill under those conditions of increased restriction and anxiety.

  • The titles of the tracks are very evocative. Do they tell a particular story? From personal experience?

I gave the pieces their titles when the words just flashed into my mind from their sound. I used to be inspired by sci-fi novels for track titles but for this album, it was like a self-made fantasy that just had its discreet story.

  • The frequencies and vibrations elicit a nostalgic vibe, as well as a modern depth, defying dimension. Is this intentional? About how much of the process is recollection/repetition and how much is experimentation?

It’s all experimentation but I used vintage analog pedals like the HM2 – in fact only analogue instruments and actually I love the music from the late 60’s and the 70’s era so these things might inspire that nostalgic feeling.

  • What is your perception of the Japanese “noise” and experimental scene? Many consider it as a reference point…

Sadly the scene is getting smaller due to the population decline in Japan I think. Lots of international artists were coming here and performing before the pandemic hit and gave us inspiration tho.. so the scene where I hang out is getting more cross-genre now. I suppose and hopefully, the Japanese noise and experimental scene will keep developing in unprecedented ways.

  • You played in many places around the world. What are your beloved live experiences so far? What are the differences you’ve experienced in the audience and scenes between Japan, the US and Europe?

One of my most memorable shows was at the Jogja Noise Bombing Festival in Indonesia. I performed at a culture centre in Yogyakarta in early 2019 with a maximumly excited audience. I was impressed by their hospitality as well – they are an amazingly good team, helping each other a lot.

I think it’s quite a similar audience in both Japan and Europe (I’ve never played in the US), but if I have to I compare them the Japanese are pretty shy and they don’t communicate much verbally to me after the show.

  • Nowadays musicians have endless possibilities to generate and manipulate sounds. While in the past all were primarily focused on sound, today the experimentation should be on more compositional ideas, the structures, and the concepts behind the music, etc. To ask yourself not which sounds to use, but why and how?

I think it’s important to take all the time we need which gives us the ideas we need to explore more of our own potential but also it is important to be open to the chance to meet with future collaborators.

  • Music is today (the present), but it is also the past, what was before (the tradition), and tomorrow, the intuition of what will come (the future)…how do the three of these temporal axes construct and dissect your music?

While the music traditions of the past inform who I am I feel that what is my musical intention is to defy or even destroy some of the worst aspects of music culture – there is really a lot of terrible Japanese music worth rebelling against. Nonetheless, a vital element of my music is improvisational or intuitive and of course inspired by current events like for example the Covid crisis. And it goes without saying that electronic music provides a vehicle for anticipating various futures.

  • I read in the press about ‘almost Kosmische’ sensibilities, it’s certainly not related to droning mantric repetitions, but maybe to an arcane inner connectivity between sense and ritual arcane dimensions of existence or to the ‘vibrancy’ of nature /earth?

I come from such a completely different generation to that which made the original late 60’s, 70’s sounds so I have no deep connection to their philosophical ideas and aspirations. I can say that their music inspired my own to go in new directions.

  • Traditional Japanese music has mirrored its surroundings for centuries – from the shakuhachi (seventh-century bamboo flute) who echoed nature’s heterogeneity, until the synthesizers in all their developments since the late 70s replaced the classical instruments, echoing the twisted technologized cities, how does your music reflect today’s Tokyo landscape and how is it rooted in the more traditional elements?

Tokyo is a busy and crazy city I think, people are forced to conform to quite an extremely conservative social culture but alongside strange cartoons and eroticized advertising. I feel that this city is getting old and decaying, declining, but also there are very futuristic things going on simultaneously … So the tension and release which my album describes might come from that confused place.

  • Which of the contemporary artists, composers, or bands do you feel the most affinity with?

Ultimately my music just comes out of me, my personal expression, but I do feel a strong affinity with Daisy Dickinson, who is the visual artist with who I will be collaborating on my next tour – I think we work really well together.

  • What’s on your ‘stereo’ lately?

I am listening to lots of DJ mixes over internet radio like NTS, Noods, HKCR and Fango. I am also into the local music happening in Bristol at the moment like the collective called Illegal Data. But I miss something I can not reach out to now because there are not so many music events happening and no tours. So I also just rave alone at home listening to Dj Persuasion.

  • To our very welcome guest the final words

Thanks for reading and checking out my music! I hope that I can perform in your town before too long!

Yuko Araki new album “End of Trilogy” is due out April 2, 2021, on Digital Format, through Alex English’s Room40 label.

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picture by Shoko Yoshida