Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Yoko K.: The Well-Rounded Radio Interview

The first time I heard Yoko K.'s music, through a submission I received via SonicBids, I found myself pulled into her alluring soundscapes and songs and kept coming back for more over the following weeks. With layered recordings hinting at influences like Bjork, Massive Attack, Portishead, Brian Eno's ambient work, and jazz vocalists, Yoko K.'s music is all her own.

Yoko Kamitani, who works under the name Yoko K., was born in Japan and moved to the United States in 2004. Her debut album, 012906, was released in 2006 by Asahra Music in Washington D.C., which won her the Best Album in Electronica/Dance award at the 6th annual Independent Music Awards.

Yoko K. performed, produced, programmed, and recorded the album almost entirely by herself. As singer and keyboardist, she also has the help of some string and horn players, but the scope of 012906 doesn't feel like an album recorded at a home studio with the help of a few musical friends. Instead, it's the kind of project an early-era Bjork might have created with a level of confidence, risk, and adventure that made me think Yoko K. was overdue for more attention. And, as with most albums that reward repeated listens, I kept finding new layers to what Yoko K. was doing on the album, truly moving electronic music a step forward through her choices of instruments that she pairs. I love the mood that the entire album creates when heard in sequence.

Yoko K.'s influences are trance, trip-hop, and classical, but she also weaves in jazz, Celtic, and funk at unexpected moments to great effect. There's an air of improvisation, though as a sole artists/producer in the studio, it is likely more planned than not.

Also like Bjork, Yoko K. has a playful persona that resonates throughout the work, as if she herself is finding her way through the words and music. 012906 mixes electronic instrumentation with acoustic instruments, resulting in organic electronica, as she calls it.

Yoko K. is working on her second album and, in something of a Well-Rounded Radio first, she has shared ten demo versions and early mixes with us in advance of the final product coming out later in 2010. To me, each piece sounds like Yoko K. is creating more complex pieces and I'm sure her next release will be even more accomplished than the first.

Yoko K. has also created music with other collaborators as well as producing music used in conjunction with artists and organizations with some political and societal inspirations. She is also a keyboard player and backing vocalist for Dust Galaxy, a solo project of Rob Garza from Thievery Corporation, and toured across the United States and Europe in 2006-7.

Yoko K. also performs with Aphrodizia, Aphrodizia at The Velvet Lounge, Aphrodizia at The Velvet Lounge II, Aprhodizia at The Velvet Lounge III, an experimental music ensemble, in the Seduce & Destroy series and with visual artists; some highlights can be seen at All Our Noise, Presentation at NMWA / CreativesDC and From Nothing. You can also see two videos of her songs Blues of Grande Chai and Hello Hello.

Yoko K. was also generous enough to let me use Hello Hello as part of the Musicians for Music 2.0 presentation that I recently posted online:

I sat down with Yoko K. in Washington D.C. to discuss:
* how her first album came to exist
* how those first songs come together for her while working mostly alone
* how her work with visual artists is impacting her aural work

Songs included in the interview include:
1) Take Off (012906) (in preview)
2) Uchu Ryokou (012906)
3) 012906 (012906)
4) La Complainte D'r2 (012906)
5) Blues of Grande Chai (012906)
6) Eleventh Year (012906)
7) Deviant Flower First Mix (demo for upcoming album)
8) Hello Hello (012906)
9) Bubblenest Short (demo for upcoming album)
10) This Beast (demo for upcoming album)
11) AppleZ videoedit (demo for upcoming album)
12) Hug Robot (demo for upcoming album)
13) Cry 129 (demo for upcoming album)
14) Yoake (012906)
15 Carry On (demo for upcoming album)
16) Vaspa (demo for upcoming album)
17) Prisoner (demo for upcoming album)
18) Underwater (demo for upcoming album)
19) Tap (demo for upcoming album)
20) Yun Ae Se Po

To purchase Yoko K.'s 012906 album visit the, Amie Street, Asahra Store, CD Baby, iTunes, or Lala.