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The Sound Waves and Photons of Japan’s Aoki Takamasa

To see more pictures and videos from Aoki Takamasa, check out @aokitakamasa on Instagram. For more music stories, head to @music.

(This interview was conducted in Japanese.)

Osaka, Japan-based musician and photographer Aoki Takamasa (@aokitakamasa) likes to get a bit extraterrestrial when discussing his art.

“If you were to look for a conceptual connection between my music and photography,” he says, “it would be something like: ‘An alien unexpectedly came to this Earth as a tourist, and these are the results.’”

Cryptic though it may seem, his explanation makes perfect sense when taken in conjunction with his body of work. Aoki’s photographs, which he exhibited in both Tokyo and Osaka this year, range from landscape vistas to casual snaps of friends loitering in the streets. Linking them all together is a sense of curiosity from behind the lens: no matter how simple his subjects might seem to the viewer, they’re all portrayed as equally interesting — and equally worthy of celebration. Aoki puts this mindset down to his time living in Paris and Berlin.

“Through living in Europe, I became aware of the limitations to my knowledge, and I feel like I became more open-minded,” he says. “I also became able to keenly observe terrestrial civilization from the perspective of an outsider … all these everyday occurrences, brimming with wonders that are casually overlooked — it’s from these that I started to derive the stimulus for my works.”

Whereas Aoki’s photography assumes the otherworldly perspective to which he alludes, his music positions itself much closer to its audience. Originally releasing several records on Japanese electronic imprint Progressive Form throughout the early 2000s, Aoki then began to slowly transition away from melodic, club-oriented house tracks to more abstract studies into the very fundamentals of rhythm. It was at this point, in 2009, that he made his debut on seminal German label Raster-Noton with Rn-Rhythm-Variations, before following it up with the full-length RV8 in 2013. At times, the latter approaches sound artist Ryoji Ikeda-like levels of deep rhythmic texture. But where Ryoji’s work is informed by the abstraction of mathematics, Aoki draws significantly from the intangible qualities of the human condition that, unsurprisingly, can’t be quantified by science.

“I now perceive rhythm from a truly fundamental perspective,” he says. “Sounds that provide impetus for the body to start moving naturally; patterns that ensure that movement continues; and, thirdly, an unpretentious quality that makes a pleasant curiosity well up throughout your body.”

—Mike Sunda for Instagram @music

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