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MASAYOSHI FUJITA

Bird Ambience brings several fresh changes for the artist. Until now, Fujita would separate his acoustic solo recordings from the electronic dub under his El Fog alias and experimental improvisations with contemporaries such as Jan Jelinek, Bird Ambience sees him unite all of these different sides to his work for the first time, into one singular vision. He also makes a lateral leap from his signature instrument the vibraphone, on which he created his acclaimed triptych Stories (2012), Apologues (2015) and Book of Life (2018), to the marimba, which takes centre stage on his new album alongside drums, percussion, synths, effectors and tape recorder.

“The way of playing the marimba is similar to the vibraphone, so it was kind of a natural development for me and easier to start with, yet it sounds very different”, explains Masayoshi. “The marimba bars are made with wood and it has a wider range than the vibraphone, which gives me a bigger sound palette with more possibilities. I play the instrument with bows and mallets, and sometimes manipulate it with effects.”

Bird Ambience also marks his liberation from fastidious preparation for past solo releases to new endeavours in improvisation. “I prioritised trying to capture the wonder which happens during those occasional magic improv moments. Sometimes the mic-ing and placement of instruments was pretty rough; things weren’t perfect and everything was done quickly, but it turned out as the final recording. Overall when I

couldn’t decide between two takes, I told myself to go with the first”, Masayoshi recalls.



Arranged with a perfect Kanso-like balance, the unhurried pace of Bird Ambience allows each sound and phrase enough time to be mindfully absorbed and savoured. This subtle but affective work carries ethereal remnants of Midori Takada’s minimalism, the static atmospheres of Mika Vainio, To Rococo Rot’s organics and the bucolic electronics of Minotaur Shock. Fujita vaporises contemporary and classical, ambient and dismantled dub, controlled noise and fragments of jazz into an atmospheric, static mist, which he skilfully coerces into new forms.

After 13 years in Berlin, Masayoshi recently relocated to a new home and studio in the rural Japanese mountain village of Kami-cho, Hyogo, following his life-long dream of creating music in nature. Even though the album was entirely recorded in Germany before he left, it has this palpable sense of reverie found in the natural world. From there we can only imagine the kind of impact his new life in rural West Japan will have on future works.

TRACK LISTING

1. Bird Ambience
2. Thunder
3. Anakreon
4. Cumulonimbus Dream
5. Gaia
6. Noise Marimba Tape
7. Morocco
8. Miyama No Kitsune
9. Nord Ambient
10. Stellar
11. Pons
12. Fabric

Masayoshi Fujita

Stories (Reissue)

    Ahead of the release of his new album Book Of Life, Erased Tapes will re-issue Stories, the first in a trilogy of vibraphone solo albums by Berlin-based composer Masayoshi Fujita. This quietly exquisite album is like a book of illustrations, evoking scenes of natural beauty and poetic poignancy that combines climactic crescendos laced with electronic detail and luxurious melody. Stories is the beginning of Masayoshi’s mission in bringing the vibraphone — a relatively new invention in the history of instruments often kept in the background in orchestras and jazz outfits — into the spotlight. Having trained as a drummer, Masayoshi began experimenting with the vibraphone, preparing its bars with kitchen foil or beads, playing it with the cello bow or using the other end of the mallets to create a more ambient texture of sound. Focussing on the vibraphone in this way sets Masayoshi apart, dedicating his artistic life to celebrating this fascinating and often under appreciated instrument and making his take on ambient and modern compositional styles a unique one.

    TRACK LISTING

    1. Deers
    2. Snow Storm
    3. Cloud
    4. Story Of Forest
    5. Story Of Waterfall I. & II.
    6. Swan And Morning Dews
    7. River
    8. Memories Of The Wind

    Masayoshi Fujita

    Book Of Life

      Following on from his acclaimed works Stories and Apologues, Berlin-based composer and vibraphonist Masayoshi Fujita will release his new album Book of Life, the third instalment in a trilogy of solo vibraphone recordings, on July 27th via Erased Tapes. Stories, the first in the series and Masayoshi’s debut under his own name, will be re-issued by Erased Tapes at the same time.

      With Book of Life Masayoshi continues his mission in bringing the vibraphone — a relatively new invention in the history of instruments often kept in the background in orchestras and jazz outfits — into the spotlight. Having trained as a drummer, Masayoshi began experimenting with the vibraphone, preparing its bars with kitchen foil or beads, playing it with the cello bow such as in Fog or using the other end of the mallets to create a more ambient texture of sound, as with the title track. Focussing on the vibraphone in this way sets Masayoshi apart, dedicating his artistic life to celebrating this fascinating and often underappreciated instrument and making his take on ambient and modern compositional styles a unique one.

      “I think the vibraphone is capable of more interesting and beautiful sounds that haven’t been heard before. It’s quite a new instrument but it’s often played in a similar way. I feel that there is a lot more to explore with this exciting instrument.”

      Book of Life sees Masayoshi expand on his compositional skills, bringing in more orchestral elements such as strings, brass and even a choir to interact with the vibraphone. And not just any choir — members of this chorus include musical friends Peter Broderick, Hatis Noit, David Allred and Shards who featured on Nils Frahm’s latest album All Melody. The instruments come to represent characters in Masayoshi’s stories, hinted at in each accompanying text contained in the album booklet, which Masayoshi recites at his live performances. They set the scene for each piece, for example “the choir in Misty Avalanche is meant to resemble the blizzard, while the vibraphone is the bird hovering above,” he explains.

      The title track however, was unusual from the start; “Book Of Life is very different to my other songs. It was about humans, whereas the other songs are all about animals and nature. And it was improvised initially, whereas normally my songs are composed and planned. This one was free. I scratched the vibraphone bar as if I was writing something. An image connected in my mind: these two people meeting and sharing their lives. This image was the book of life.”

      The upbeat lead single It’s Magical features two cellos and a flute as extensions of the vibraphone; “like a man who’s put artificial wings on his arms to attempt to fly like a bird, before an airplane was invented,” says Masayoshi. A different version of the song, called Spaceship Magical, also appears on the Erased Tapes 10th anniversary box set 1+1=X. “Like most of my songs, It’s Magical started from one simple phrase that I’d played again and again. But at one point I had two very different versions; one acoustic with orchestral arrangement, whilst the other had distorted guitars with electronic bass that perfectly suited the collaborative nature of the label residency when Robert invited me to participate.”

      His new album arrives at a time of renewed interest for percussive, ambient music following the reissue of minimalist composer Midori Takada’s seminal album Through The Looking Glass last year and compounded by the comeback of Ryuichi Sakamoto, whose cinematic compositions parallel Masayoshi’s storytelling soundscapes. BBC Radio 3 confirmed this renaissance of Japanese music and culture, dedicating their recent Night Blossoms season to new experimental artists, including fellow Erased Tapes vocal performer Hatis Noit. Masayoshi previously released two albums under his alias El Fog that touched on the vibraphone but appeared mostly in a supporting role, accompanying his intricate electronic production. Much like his instrument, he has often been a collaborator as opposed to a front man — his sympathetic musicianship complimenting a variety of creative outputs. Most frequently with the adventurous German producer Jan Jelinek. Their most recent offering Schaum displays a dialogue between the two that makes it hard to tell just where Fujita’s vibraphone ends and Jelinek’s whirring loops begin. Another fruitful partnership was the
      experimental Needle Six piece, a BBC Radio 3 recording of an improvised session with UK electronic artist Guy Andrews for Late Junction. The mesmeric and compelling 30-minute piece was released for Record Store Day in 2016. In addition his label peer and fellow Berlin resident Nils Frahm mastered Stories, providing a fitting symmetry to its re-issue on Erased Tapes now.

      TRACK LISTING

      1. Snowy Night Tale
      2. Fog
      3. It's Magical
      4. Old Automation
      5. Book Of Life
      6. Harp
      7. Mountain Deer
      8. Sadness
      9. Misty Avalanche
      10. Cloud Of Light

      Masayoshi Fujita

      Apologues

        Masayoshi Fujita, the Berlin-based Japanese vibraphone player, also known under his alias el fog came to the attention of label founder Robert Raths a few years ago. Not only because the vibraphone is an intriguing instrument, but also the way Masayoshi treats his instrument and draws ethereal and layered sounds, is what truly attracted him to Masayoshi’s work.

        Having released more ambient-based/electronic recordings of the vibraphone under el fog, Masa became more interested in the sound of the vibraphone itself. He started to compose acoustic pieces and released the first solo album under his real name, titled ‘Stories’, in early 2013. ‘Apologues’ sees Masayoshi for the first time use an array of instruments besides his lead instrument – such as the violin, cello, flute, clarinet, French horn, accordion, piano and snare drum played by friends, but arranged by Masa himself.

        “My idea was to let those instruments express their own images or atmospheres that each instruments have by nature, or have been given in their history, and not treating them just as accompaniments of the vibraphone. Also, it was new for me to compose a song as a whole. As I wrote the vibraphone part first, I tried to hear other sounds in my head and tried to leave enough room for them and sometimes play only fundamental parts on the vibes.”

        In addition to the mallets, Masayoshi often plays the vibraphone with a violin or cello bow, like on ‘Tears of Unicorn’ and ‘Knight and Spirit of Lake’. He would also place bead strings on the vibraphone bars to create an ambient shimmer that can be heard on songs like ‘Moonlight’ and ‘Swallow Flies High in the May Sky’. The latter was composed to let the clarinet express its characteristics and tell its story, whilst the vibraphone takes a supporting role. “The clarinet sounds very warm and soft and very ‘spring’ to me”, says Masa.

        Inspired by “the silence and deepness of the fog, the mountains and the gravity within”, his music has a very unique atmosphere and often creates images in the listener. ‘Requiem’, which Masayoshi composed for French horn, to him evokes “images of mountains, fields and the far away”. The song ‘Tears of Unicorn’ was inspired by a painting which features in Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli animation ‘Kiki's Delivery Service’, drawn by a woman that lives in the forest.

        “With this album the main idea was to evoke images, atmospheres, sceneries and stories in the listener, the images that have accumulated in myself. At the same time it was an exploration of the unexplored beauty of the vibraphone, and also a pursuit of the charm of the instrumentation and the music itself. Erased Tapes releases a lot of great stuff and naturally became my favourite label of late. And I thought it would fit well to my music.”

        STAFF COMMENTS

        Ryan says: Maximum Vibraphone right here. Who'd of thought you could say so much with just a load of metal blocks and some spinning resonator tubes. Fujita shows us how.


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