Urbanity and naturalism in music – interview with aus
di Giovanni Panetta
Interview with Yasuhiko Fukuzono (aus) about his recent part of his discography, his work with the FLAU label and the last album Everis.
Everis cover

Everis (2023). Cover art by TAKCOM, design by NON-FORMAT/ANTI.

Yasuhiko Fukuzono is a musician and a producer from Tokyo, that is the FLAU owner, a label which gravitates toward ambient/electronic/pop/avant sonorities, with a soft and dreamlike approach. Yas is also an eclectic artist under the moniker aus, which this year (2023) released his last album Everis, whereas those sounds tap into the metropolitan and naturalistic heterogeneous and chaotic landscape of Tokyo, which reflects the double-faced character of his creativity.

Searching for its origin, “Everis” name can be referred to as a spiritual, positive-minded behavior, which takes the distance from that chaotic urbanity or it amalgamates into that dissonant chorus through an empathic act with this. Talking about the music, in the following part of this article there is an interview with aus about Everis, the work with FLAU, and a part of his recent discography.

Let’s begin with your record label, FLAU. Its roster reunites several worldwide artists, in the sign of empathic music, between minimalism, pop, avant-guard, ambient, electronic music, etc… How was born FLAU and the idea behind?

“FLAU came into being towards the end of 2006, not as a mere label, but as an event. Back then, I found myself frequently gracing the stages of all-night gatherings. Few shows showcased the kind of music I played, and the majority of events were typical club affairs. Yet, my music didn’t lend itself well to dancing, and the notion of performing in the dead of night seemed somewhat perplexing to me. Consequently, I decided to embark on organizing events in the early evening hours. It was during this time that I reached out to some of my favorite artists and invited them to contribute to a compilation project. The likes of Lori Scacco, Bexar Bexar, Florencia Ruiz, and others enthusiastically accepted.

“Before long, demos began pouring in from around the globe. Additionally, I was fortunate to have talented friends in close proximity, and I aspired for FLAU to serve as a platform for their creative expressions. Simultaneously, an opportunity arose to release the soundtrack of visual artist Sawa Hiraki‘s contemporary art, and it was in that moment that I sensed the ideal opportunity to establish FLAU as a full-fledged label.”


Yasuhiko Fukuzono (aus), pic by Ryo Mitamura.

ReCollected (2013, FLAU) is a collection with your reworks and remixes; in these tracks, a spring-ish, dawns light irradiates with hieratic, consonant harmonies, with a plastic, majestic craftsmanship. Here your potential was expressed with the glitched phrase, which consistency is similar to the brown noises of water waves. Can you tell us about what inspired you for this reproduced work?

“Remixing is truly one of my most cherished aspects of music production. Whenever I embark on creating music, I draw inspiration from a multitude of sources: the dreamlike wanderings of my mind, captivating television and film, and the tapestry of everyday life itself. However, remixing holds a unique place in my heart as it already contains a wealth of inspiration within the music itself. I take delight in approaching remixing as a serendipitous meeting on a bridge, where the original artist’s vision and my own intersect. As a result, you’ll find an eclectic mix of breakbeats, house rhythms, ambient textures, and an array of other sonic forms in my remixes. The forms take on various shapes, allowing for a rich and diverse musical experience. Furthermore, it is worth noting that the artists whose original works are featured on this compilation are all dear friends, and this connection holds great significance to me.”

The single Until Then (2023, FLAU) is characterized by house sonorities in addition to a dub-ish side and a chamber suite part with string instruments which gives a character lyrical and downtempo-like in an ambivalent, post-modern sense. How did this duality happen in the sign of contemporaneity?

“This track is actually a variation of the original composition “Everis.” Over the past few years, I have been dedicated to exploring arrangements in the realm of chamber music. It’s something I’ve longed to delve into, and it became possible when I had the pleasure of collaborating with an exceptional string player. While I certainly appreciate and enjoy minimal deep house, it’s not the style I personally gravitate towards. I’ve always had a desire to create something more musically and compositionally intricate. I’ve been on a continuous search for ways to effectively translate the nuances of chamber music to an outdoor setting, and I believe I achieved that with this piece. The juxtaposition of diverse elements within it reflects my own identity, merging together to create a fresh expression of myself.”

Your last album Everis unifies avant-garde music with pop/lyrical elements and a certain minimalist origin. The sound is very expressive, indeed orchestral and piano parts evoke an ethereal landscape with an earthful link. Can you talk about how Everis was born and the creative process developed?

“I had amassed a collection of audio samples and sequences, recording and pulling them out for each project. I created everything using hardware synthesizers. However, a few years ago, I experienced a burglary, and I lost all my music data and equipment that I had accumulated since I started making music. It was a devastating loss. But then, I realized that the audio material from a previous installation project was in the possession of a collaborating artist. That was the beginning of it all. Even though I didn’t have them personally, there were entrusted materials, and my mobile phone had various audio and video recordings. Of course, they were everyday recordings and not necessarily of the quality suitable for a finished work, but they played an important role in recovering the lost memories.

“In essence, with “Everis,” I tried to reconnect with everything I had lost. We often capture memories from specific moments, but those moments are filled with a multitude of things. So, even if they themselves are gone, I thought it might be possible to reconstruct them from a different perspective. That’s why you’ll find performances by long-time friends and a plethora of dissolved field recordings in this piece. I’ve wanted to create something that feels like an ongoing resonance, a continuous presence on this album.”

Talking about the tracks in Everis, Past Form is characterized by marimba periodic patterns which recalls the composition Music For 18 Musicians by Steve Reich, where those serialist concepts were mixed with pop-jazz harmonies and phrases. Do you share my opinion? How did the ethereal and empathically terrestrial elements meet in this track?

“Initially, I had samples of gamelan and gagaku, along with snippets of film music, and when I started connecting them, I felt the potential for creating a Reich-like minimal music, as you mentioned. However, in my case, I took those cyclical patterns and juxtaposed them with completely free and dissonant piano, the noise of 78 RPM records, and various percussion instruments to express chaos. It was like colliding free jazz with minimal music—a collision of images. Then, midway through, I incorporated Noah’s spoken word poetry and strings, creating a reversal of the musical landscape, akin to the structure of a pop song.

“I recently attended a performance by the Colin Currie Group of “Music for 18 Musicians,” and it was truly immaculate. The musicians exchanged instruments seamlessly while performing with a limited set. Typically, in such music, the emphasis is on the cyclical nature, the pleasurable aspects of minimalism, and showcasing moiré patterns. However, for this album, the concept lies in the importance of disarray, of not being organized, and it serves as a reversal of minimalism.”

aus in bw

Yasuhiko Fukuzono (aus), pic by Ryo Mitamura.

In Everis there’s also an electronic component that gives a more urban character. In Make Me Me, blue atmospheres were linked with a slow synthetical drum beat, and in the following Flo a lysergic ambient develops to the backward of the song, and then we have the more digital work of the interlude Swim, which flows with a latent plastic leitmotiv. For you, what were the reference points and how much did they owe to this digital music, with creativity relatively similar to minimalist poetry and in general to avant-garde music?

“Indeed, I do believe that such music has greatly influenced me. Coming from a background in poppy electronic music, it is only natural for electronics to play a prominent role in my expression. As you rightly pointed out, these three tracks on the album showcase the electronic aspect in a significant way. “Make Me Me” is an exploration of how much emotion can be conveyed through a gentle and simple repetition and structure. In “Flo,” I incorporated my own voice—both natural and machine-like—delving into the uncanny valley. “Swim” is an experiment in cut-ups and drones. All of them revolve around themes of memory and life. While it was possible to fashion them into more dramatic and theatrical compositions, I wanted to convey the idea that despite any significant events that occur, everyday life continues on relentlessly. As for influences, I would mention early electronic music, David Shea, Faust, People Like Us, Ulf Lohmann, Weather Report, and Takashi Yoshimatsu, among others.”

Further recalls the Michael Nyman music with a large exotic touch, whereas a dawn-ish, kaleidoscopic and glimmering light irradiates a terrestrial landscape and audience through that listening. How did these elements happen in this track? Tell about the inspirations from authors, and things or events too.

“In the other tracks, there are various musical inclinations at play. However, “Further” stands out as the most straightforward chamber music piece on the album and, as you rightly pointed out, it evokes a sense of radiance. With the marvelous clarinet phrases provided by Emma Gatrill, we were able to accompany them with the piano by Henning Schmiedt to truly enhance their brilliance. This composition draws inspiration from classical music, influenced by the likes of Mahler, Ravel, as well as Rachel Grimes and Olafur Arnalds, whom I had the pleasure of inviting to Japan.”

Neanic is a suspended flow with dreamlike sonic lines through the end. I can see this as an ideal final track where everything is uncertain between conclusive and continuous elements, where the string part gives a more ultimate musical response with majestic melodies. Can you talk about how this majesticness happened at the end of the record? What were the most important inspirations?

“There are many guest artists featured on the album, and interestingly, all of them are either old friends or artists from the label. It was an attempt to reconnect with friends from a certain point in the past and breathe new life into lost memories within the world. However, Benedicte Maurseth, who contributed as a guest on this particular track, was the only artist with whom I had no previous connection. One day, while I was taking a break from music production, an acquaintance played an ECM record, and the ethereal sound of the fiddle resonated deeply with me, as if it descended from the heavens. That was Benedicte. When I shared the demo of this song with her, she mentioned how it evoked a sense of deep breaths, and that brought me great joy.

“I have an interest in “endings” , moments of emptiness. It can be likened to the deserted high-rise district of Shinjuku on New Year’s Eve, or a shrine after a festival, or a school building after classes. These can all be seen as representations of childhood that end unnoticed by anyone because there is no one there. I wanted to pseudo-recreate that sense of loss with instruments devoid of human presence. And it is with the authentic spirit infused by the fiddle. Perhaps there was no need to include grandeur in this piece, and I used to genuinely despise such sentimentality. But now, I can accept it.”

In the end, talking about the feature, what will be the next news from the FLAU and personal production?

“We’ve already released it on Bandcamp, but there will be a collaboration single by Israeli based artist Zoe Polanski and Kumi Takahara. And there’s also a new single by Rayons.

“On a personal note, my album “Lang” will be reissued on vinyl after a 17-year hiatus. Additionally, there are plans to release collaboration mixtapes and EPs later this year, as well as a remix collection of Everis. I want to make up for the time I took a break by sharing a lot of music. I hope this translation captures the excitement and enthusiasm surrounding your upcoming releases and projects.”


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