TOPArt & CultureEntertainment5 Japanese Musicians Share Their List of Artists to Watch in 2022

5 Japanese Musicians Share Their List of Artists to Watch in 2022

We asked established artists to give their recommendations on who to keep our eyes (and ears) on this year

By Kim Kahan

Who is best placed to advise on up-and-coming artists? Artists themselves of course. We asked five established music scene mainstays to select their top picks for the coming year. That includes experimental musician Akiko Kiyama and world-renowned techno producer and DJ, Iori Asano. There’s also Tawings lead singer Cony Plankton, rural festival organizer Atsushi Maeda and Tobira Records store owner and ambient producer Takahiro Yorifuji (Hakobune). Each gave their own hot tips on who they’re watching in 2022.

Akiko Kiyama Recommends: Takahiro Mukai and Mayurashka

Akiko Kiyama is known for her dark, industrial releases. She has appeared alongside artists such as Richie Hawtin and Alva Noto and has toured the world, playing at big hitter venues such as Berghain’s infamous Panorama Bar in Berlin, London’s Fabric Club and Moscow’s Arma17.

Kiyama grew up on a diet of classical piano, before discovering drum and bass at the tender age of 14. She then started producing early while in Berlin. She now splits her time between Tokyo and Osaka where she runs her own label, Kebko Music. 2021 saw her perform live for the first time since Covid hit, playing at Mutek as Project Aalko in Shibuya.

Here’s who she’s got her eyes on in 2022.

Takahiro Mukai

Takahiro Mukai is an Osaka-based electronic composer, who creates industrial experimental electronic music. “The dryness of his music, with its rough quality, tight grooves, and the fact that he doesn’t follow a particular time signature make me (humbly) think that we are heading in a similar direction,” says Kiyama.

“His new album was released last year, in which he stayed true to his previous style. This made me realize that you don’t have to be constantly changing and that it can be nice to stick to your origins as much as you like, as an artist.”

Mayurashka

Formerly the head of an indie band, Mayurashka is an experienced genre shifter who has recently been gaining notoriety as a DJ. She regularly plays at top venues including Vent in Tokyo.

Kiyama says: “Even though Mayurashka is already an established DJ, last year she released her first track ‘Miyabi Noboru’ on Osare Editions. When I first heard it, I was pleasantly surprised. She successfully expresses her unique groove and original sound texture through a relatively simple structure. It displays such a maturity, I couldn’t believe it was her first release. I’m looking forward to her future releases.”

Atsushi Maeda Recommends: Manisdron and Kosei Fukuda

Next up we spoke to Atsushi Maeda, a Tokyo-based promoter and organizer of the rural festival, which attracts visitors and artists from across the world. It’s also loved for its beautiful scenery high in the mountains and varied stellar lineups. Based in Tokyo, Maeda worked as the booker for the club Contact in Shibuya. In addition to organising festivals and parties, he DJs and works in production.

Below are the artists Maeda is looking out for in 2022.

Manisdron

Maeda recommends a recent guest of his Tokyo-based rural festival offshoot event, held at Contact. “Manisdron is the solo project of drummer Takafumi Okada which saw a release in 2020 on Ron Morelli’s L.I.E.S. label,” says Maeda. “His dynamic live set is composed of acoustic drums and synthesizers, wherein he uses the drums to produce a tight, ever-changing beat over the lo-fi synth.

“I recommend Manisdron for fans of dance music. Not just techno, but EBM and post punk too.” He is also known for his role as the drummer of Goat, the renowned band of YPY (Hino Koshiro). I definitely recommend catching him live if you can, to appreciate his impressive drumming skills.”

Kosei Fukuda

Kosei Fukuda recently appeared at Maeda’s rural festival offshoot event at Circus in Tokyo. Kosei also dabbles in the festival scene as an organizer. He planned Enso Festival (sadly canceled due to Covid) and has also brought artists to play at World Heritage shrines for his side project Ganchiku Project.

On Fukuda, Maeda says: “[He] is a Tokyo and Berlin-based sound artist and producer who runs the experimental art platform ‘Reiten’ and releases prolifically on the Reiten music label. He works meticulously, crafting each sound individually. I think that he displays great potential as a producer, putting great effort into the sound quality of his live sets to round off the full experience.”

Cony Plankton Recommends: Tamana Ramen, Deadkebab & Psychic$ and Jesus Weekend

Cony Plankton is the feisty lead singer and guitarist of Japan’s indie darlings Tawings She also sings with DYGL frontman Nobuki Akiyama for Deadbeat Painters. A music veteran, she trained at music college and studied piano from a young age.

Tawings released their first album on Space Shower Records in 2016. Since their debut, they have appeared around the world, including at the SXSW festival in Austin, US. Plankton can be found at electronic music events as well as band gigs and day parties.

Here are her tips on who to listen to this year.

Tamana Ramen

First up is Tamana Ramen, a regular on the Tokyo club scene, painting eerie pictures with her disturbing pop ballads over dissonant melodies. On Tamana Ramen, Plankton says: “I love the contrast between her ethereal voice and the dark worldview she communicates through her songs.”

Deadkebab & Psychic$

The hip-hop duo of Deadkebab (ex. Trippple Nippples) and her partner Psychic$ are mainstays on the Japanese creative scene. Deadkebab is on vocals and hype duty, while Psychic$ is the steadfast beatmaker. “As someone who loves festivals, their music gets me so hyped,” says Plankton. “Listening to them gets me in a trance.”

Jesus Weekend

Jesus Weekend makes songs loosely applicable to the term “Japanese ambient music” via heavenly textured and softly spoken vocal snippets. She released her debut album in April 2021 to widespread acclaim. “Jesus Weekend somehow manages to create this awesome little secret paradise through her songs,” says Plankton. “Go check her out.”

Takahiro Yorifuji Recommends: Chie Otomi

Takahiro Yorifuji, aka Hakobune, is a prolific ambient producer and co-founder of Tobira Records in Kasai, Hyogo Prefecture. His layered soundscapes and wistful guitar melodies have seen releases on labels across the world, from Canada’s Polar Sea Recordings to Germany’s Empiric Records and support from Whities/AD27 boss Tasker in London.

As part of Tobira Records, he runs the Gokkan (Extremely Cold) Festival in Kobe, which sees a day program of DJ sets and live acts.

Here are Yorifuji’s top new artist recommendations for 2022.

Chie Otomi

Chie Otomi creates sonic worlds through her resonating, dreamlike textures and soft, subtle melodies. She played at Gokkan festival and often appears live at venues around Osaka and beyond. Yorofuji also thinks highly of Kochou-no-Yume, another artist on Muzan Editions whose album is scheduled to be released this year.

Yorifuji also recommends Bardo Todol from Argentina and The New Me from the US: “Bardo’s music has a unique psychedelic feel to it. And don’t even talk to me about deep techno without mentioning The New Me.”

Iori Asano Recommends: No Nations

Famed techno producer Iori Asano is known for his wide-ranging DJ sets. During his formative years, he spent time in New York under the guidance of David Mancuso of legendary club The Loft. After which – thanks to a stint in Berlin – he built a name for himself through his slick techno and ambient productions. He has toured the world with both his live act and as a DJ.

Currently he is part of Tokyo Techno Society and runs his own label, Visionary Recordings, dividing his time between Okinawa and Tokyo.

Below is Asano’s recommendation for the year.

No Nations

He recommends the up-and-coming DJ group No Nations, a five-person collective that has been playing across Tokyo and recently running a radio show on Tsubaki FM.

“No Nations has been very active of late, bringing their pure, energetic style to a variety of events,” says Asano. “Free from genre constraints, their sets display great maturity and joyful abandon. I’m really looking forward to seeing more of them in the future!”