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Label Profile: mAtter

WA office at Ebis, Tokyo, designed by Yukitomo Hamasaki with Shin Tsuchiya (Shin Tsuchiya Architects) and Tetsuo Iwaoka (m-form), 2007, photo: Tetsu Iraga

This is the first in an irregular series of profiles of some of the record labels and artists, whose music I play on Rare Frequency.

Founded in 2007 by sound artist, DJ, and designer, Yukitomo Hamasaki, mAtter is more than just a means for releasing music. The handful of CDs — each elegantly, if simply packaged — that Hamasaki has put out in the last three years are only part of the overall project. Hamasaki describes mAtter as a kind of platform from which to explore the points where sound, design, and architecture intersect. Projects range from sound installations to architecture and interior design. In fact, mAtter’s first project was not sound-related at all. It was a cross-disciplinary collaboration between Hamasaki and architects Shin Tsuchiya and Tetsuo Iwaoka on the design of the WA Ebis Office and Showroom in Tokyo (see the photo above).

mAtter is a personal endeavor that is very much an extension of Hamasaki’s own work. Each of the four releases in the label’s modest catalog — Hamasaki d+p (2008), Go Koyashiki, Slit, Andy Graydon Geomancy, and Shinkei + miseenscene Scytale — was selected and the artwork designed by him. The following interview with Yukitomo Hamasaki was conducted by email in late February/early March 2010.

Interview with Yukitomo Hamasaki

What inspired you to start mAtter?

I wanted to control everything myself, including all of the music and the artwork, etc.

What is your background? How did you come to make electronic music and sound art?

At first I was a DJ. I deejayed at various clubs, mixing a kind of dub-based music. After a while, I started to DJ in a cafe. It was not a space for dancing; instead each guest had his own space. People gather in the cafe to enjoy conversation or to relax alone. “As a DJ, how should I arrange music in this space?” I asked myself. And I decided to arrange the sound like pictorial art. I referred to Mark Rothko. I was interested in empty space and the relevance of the sound within that space, and I began to compose. It is the “d+p” of my work.

Photo from the +lus “Flex Acoustics” Installation, February 2010

Could you talk a bit about the relationship between mAtter’s sound pieces and architectural work? To what extent is your own work, such as d+p, influenced by physical and spatial concerns?

I consider space very much in both fields. I am interested in time and space. And I can confirm it by the phenomenon of the shadow. The movement of the shadow of a building that happens because of the light of the sun is a reference point for the temporal development of my compositions/music.

In d+p I was conscious of spatial placement. The sounds that come out of the right and left stereo channes are asymmetrical, and the sound moves through a change of time. It is movement of the sound element that the sound information has. I think that music with the melody puts the notes on the score and forms the melody. However, because d+p doesn’t use musical notes, it is composed by the continuation of the sound and the change.

Is there a specific aesthetic or approach that you would say unifies the various artists on mAtter?

It is a very difficult question…. I think that there may be various methods of expression. And, I have managed it as an assumption that each one is mAtter.

What upcoming projects and releases do you have planned for the label?

It will be a work combining sound, image, and text. I cannot yet say in detail, but I think that it will be very important.

An overview of the mAtter discography

 Shinkei + mise en scene Scytale CD 2010

On this latest mAtter release, Italian sound artist David Sani (Shinkei) and Shay Nassi (miseenscene) collaborate on four delicately textured pieces full of electronic hiss, quill-like distortion, otherworldly metallic hums, and an assortment of crackling, crunching field recordings. The heaven is in the details and the devil is in the distractions here, so focused listening is a must. You will find lots to occupy your ears once you hone in on this microsonic beehive of activity. Also included is a trio of excellent remixes by Luigi Turra, Michael Hartman (of TV Pow fame), and Yukitomo Hamasaki.

 Andy Graydon Geomancy CD/DVD (2010)

Simultaneously intimate and highly abstract, this collection of sound and video pieces by American sound artist, Andy Graydon, is the first DVD release on mAtter. The raw materials for the sound piece are field recordings, but they are almost apparitions of themselves. The original materials were subject to considerable processing and manipulation, and were then cut to acetate for an installation piece. After the installation was taken down, Graydon used the well-worn recordings as a basis for the seven untitled parts of Geomancy. The pieces themselves are full of uncanny hums and ominous rumbles that pulse and undulate, with the occasional quiet crackle or submerged sample rising to the surface. There’s an odd blurring of natural and unnatural sounds that takes place, which creates an odd sort of tension, so that even at moments of relative calm, there is an undercurrent of instability.

You can watch Farwander, a self-described story of “finding identity within displacement,” which is the most intensely personal of the four Super8 films collected on the DVD. You can also view still images from the films in the Beyond Geomancy section of the mAtter website.

 Go Koyashiki Slit CD (2008)

With stuttering beats and bass pulses that skirt the edge of full-on funkiness, this is the closest thing to a dance record in the mAtter catalog — at least for one half of Slit. Koyashiki works with sine tones and fragmented field recordings to create an ascetic, yet infectious series of rhythmic studies akin to some of the less-abrasive digital micro-funk released on Raster-Noton. For the other half of the album, Koyashiki creates crunching, crackling sonic sketches that are simultaneously engaging and disorienting.

 Yukitomo Hamasaki d+p CD (2008)

The debut release on mAtter was by label founder, Yukitomo Hamasaki. d+p is a starkly minimal, yet beautiful album. Sharp high frequency tones fade in and out of range, punctuated by the occasional bass pulse or hissing static. At times it’s reminiscent of the ultra-reductive work of Thomas Köner only far less lush and enveloping. At others it’s more akin to the austere, pinprick soundscapes of Mika Vainio and similarly forbidding, yet somehow beguiling.

Download an outtake from the record (full of lovely insectine tapping and a persistent, ghostly hum) at Kuro Neko Music.

-Susanna Bolle

mAtter label site
Andy Graydon
Go Koyashiki


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