Selected by Yuri Suzuki. Listen to their podcast below:
Kyoka is a Japanese-born, Berlin-based electronic producer, DJ, installation artist and field recorder. Her capacity to explore and experiment is a common thread in all of her work. When speaking to Kyoka, the conversation veers from the memory of dismantling audio equipment in her family home, to her current obsession with microphone directivity; next she’s talking about field recording a flood in Northern Spain and then a temple in Kyoto.
You’re originally from Kanazawa in Japan - what’s it like there? It’s a traditional city, and it’s always been quite isolated from Tokyo. People are really proud of its history, it’s nicknamed “Small Tokyo”. It’s only been connected to the express train for about four years so it’s quickly become a trendy city to visit and there’s a nice contemporary art museum. It’s an interesting time for the place, because it always created its own culture and suddenly it’s really open.
“I remember really liking the sound of concert halls, and the reflection of sound after something had just finished, the echo, it felt like a ghost or something, that was the first thing that made me really interested in sound.“
What was your musical upbringing like? I started piano lessons when I was three, but I remember really liking the sound of concert halls, and the reflection of sound after something had just finished, the echo, it felt like a ghost or something, that was the first thing that made me really interested in sound. I remember playing with two cassette recorders and making an echo. I remember when it broke, I took it apart and started understanding how it worked.
When did you move to Berlin? 2008, but before that, I was always moving around. I lived in Los Angeles and all over Tokyo. I would move somewhere new every six months. Berlin’s really international, even if I stay in my own neighbourhood. But even last year, I spent most of the year on a placement at an art and technology centre in Zaragoza in Spain.
OK, tell us about that… I was an artist in residence at ETOPIA Center for Art and Technology, I could get an elevator from my bedroom to a fab lab with a laser cutter and a 3D scanner. There were recording studios too - I did a lot of field recording.
The city flooded while I was there, and the parks just became giant lakes. I took a waterproof 360 camera and a waterproof field microphone, and recorded lots. The footage is really great. I want to make something with it soon.
When it wasn’t flooded, the air was extremely dry, which means sound travels really fast. In Japan, where it’s really humid, the sound is heavier and slower. As a field recorder, I really noticed the difference.
Have you done any field recording in Japan recently? Yes, I recorded at Mibu Temple in Kyoto. They’re doing a piece about it on Japanese television tomorrow. The temple asked me to do something around water. I love working with water, it features in all of my installations, and all of my equipment is waterproof.
I tried to use the recordings from the temple and the computer to give the feeling of what it sounds and feels like to be underwater. It will need a good soundsystem!
“The city flooded while I was there, and the parks just became giant lakes. I took a waterproof 360 camera and a waterproof field microphone, and recorded lots, the footage is really great.“
You recently played in a show curated by Aphex Twin - could you tell us something about your live show? Something I’ve felt good about recently is a piece made using just one kick. The original kick sample is poor quality, but I keep playing it, sending feedback through the mixer and the computer and adding delay and echo. I think I have a different experience to most people with delay and echo because I had that physical experience of tape recorders. It’s just dum-dum-dum-dum but with delay and phase, it becomes musical and starts to bend - it’s like an unstable kind of techno. The effect in the room is strange, it makes an ordinary kick drum sound really rich, like vinyl.
Vote for Kyoka if you want to hear more from them. Each of the Curators selections with the most votes will receive further exposure, a mentoring session with one of the curators and the opportunity to create a podcast that shares their own story.
Yuri Suzuki, Japanese designer sound artist and electronic musician on Kyoka