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Interview with Shinkei

img  Tobias Fischer

One of the most interesting aspects about your recent collaboration with Mise_en_Scene is that it is not just about similarities, but also about the various ways in which you complement each other. What made it so interesting to work with Shay?
Indeed it may seem like an unholy pairing at first, our approach to music is so different. But when Shay asked me to do something together, I thought it would be challenging to confront myself with a different perspective. I was very curious to see where it could bring me, collaborations are a beautiful way to explore new territories (my next one with Chiharu MK will probably be something entirely different again). Of course it could not work at all, but it seems like it did well.

Was there some kind of agreement or masterplan before you began recording and collecting material?
I like having a theme for each project I work on - in this case it was cryptology - but there wasn't any discussion between us on how the work should be or which kind of direction to take. We simply started exchanging sounds and ideas and let the composition grow its own way. I think this approach is the most interesting approach as it leaves total freedom and can lead to unexpected surprises. I had employed this same working process with Luigi Turra on the YU release and in both cases we ended up with structures and compositions that we could have never planned beforehand.

Next to some drones and microsounds, there also seem to be a lot of field recordings in various recording qualities on the album. Where did these come from?
The theme being cryptology I used digital modes, Slow Scan TeleVision, amateur radio data, Emergency Weather Information Network, Aircraft Communications and Reporting System, Surveillance Radars signals, Unknown telemetries, military transmissions, CIA secret modes.

What, to you, are important points of your sound-aesthetic in this regard?

My works are usually built on a sequence of discreet events where utmost care is given to shaping each single sound. I love exploring the details, the (almost) inaudible, I feel comfortable with sounds on the threshold of audibility. It's an apparently empty world which on the contrary throbs of activity and can unveil pleasant surprises. Silence or "implied silence" (Richard Chartier) is an essential element, too.

The recording sounds incredibly focused, so I can imagine that it took a while until you were both satisfied with the result ...

I am quite picky and meticulous. I may work several hours over a single sound till I am entirely happy with it. But Taylor Deupree also deserves big recognition for handing his magic touch to Scytale.

Is the title of the album in any way a reference towards the compositional process?

The Scytale in cryptography is a tool used to perform a transposition cipher, consisting of a cylinder with a strip of leather wound around it on which a message is written. The ancient Greeks, and the Spartans in particular, are said to have used this cipher to communicate during military campaigns. I particularly like the connection between such an antique tool, the use of leather, wood, and a practice which in our collective imagination is always associated with the most modern developments of mathematics, computer science and engineering. The spiral connection with DNA codes as recently brought to light by Andy Graydon is another possible connection with our compositional structures.

Two tracks are called „Remodeled“ - does your process of making music very much feel like your moulding and shaping your sounds?
Yes, definitely. I would divide my composing in two different phases. Collecting the sound sources (natural/ambience field recordings, objects and acoustic instruments, sounds from old vinyls/tapes, or files downloaded from some obscure corner of the Internet), and the processing of these sources, where they are "remodelled" until I am happy with the result. The research work is as much interesting as the actual shaping of the sounds, this is where unexpected discoveries may happen that stimulate new ideas and projects. 

How important is the aspect of „storytelling“ for the album?

Actually it's all constructed by a number of small encrypted messages, so there are hundreds of stories contained within a larger frame, to be deciphered.

What was the idea behind including the remixes?

Both Remodelled I & II are based on processing of the first two original tracks, we thought it would be interesting to further this process with other artists, to have another view on the material. I think the different approach of the three composers generated three beautiful variations on the theme.

Do you feel the remixes are more an extension of your own work or a second, separate part of the album?
An extension for sure. To carry on with the cryptology metaphor, it's like having different encryption codes over the same message. On the surface they maybe quite different but you know that the informational point of departure is the same for all the "cyphermixes".

What were criteria for cutting out particular passages versus letting them in? In which way do these leftovers now relate to scytale
The starting point was a suggestion from Yukitomo. Taking into account the opinions of artists I respect and value is a good way to improve my work. Immediately afterwards ,we thought to expand those cuts into a new composition, so Leftover_1 was encoded. This process of reworking will continue with other artists as well, since some parts were edited out of Leftover_1 too.

To Yukitomo Hamasaki of Matter, it is essential to create inseparable units of sound and design. Do you feel the final product was successful in this respect?

I am really happy with the final result, I think Yukitomo did a great job with everything, the cover, the artwork, the promotion, calling Taylor for mastering... this is one of those cases where the physical product really offers that additional value over a digital download  that makes the purchase worthwhile.
But I can say so for every CD I published so far. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the labels, they all have been fantastic, I feel extremely lucky in this respect.

By Tobias Fischer

"scytale" is still available from mAtter.

Shinkei Discography:
Binaural Beats [+ Reprocessing] (Koyuki) 2007
Binaural Frequency (Koyuki)    2007
Metrics | Hidamari/ w. FOURM (WHITE_LINE EDITIONS) 2008
(Wu For Luigi) (Shinkei Self-released) 2009
Clean Forms/ w. Luigi Turra & FOURM (Dragon's Eye) 2009
Scytale/ w. mise_en_scene (mAtter) 2009
Yu/ w. Luigi Turra (Non Visual Objects) 2009
Leftover_1 (Dragon's Eye) 2010
Static Forms/ w. Pierre Gerard (Dragon's Eye) 2010

Shinkei at Koyuki Sound
Shinkei at Yugen Art
Shinkei at MySpace

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