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Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011
At Innit's Osaka parties it's bring your own beats
Special to The Japan Times
Osaka's Innit crew don't hold your typical club event. Though their parties feature a mix of live performers and DJs, founder Masayuki Kubo wants to attract a particular type of reveler — aspiring artists. The Osaka native offers a ¥500 discount for anyone who brings along electronic music that they themselves have made, with the promise that their sonic-coupon could be played during the night.
"Osaka doesn't really have much of an electronic-music scene," Kubo says. "We have a chance to make interesting music and something new."
His initiative seems to be going well so far. Under the Innit umbrella, Kubo has assembled a group of exciting young musicians from western Japan plugging their tunes ranging from textbook club favorites to sounds inspired by acts on Los Angeles' Brainfeeder label.
The bring-your-own-beats idea isn't entirely new to Japan, though. Electronic artist Aroop Roy held a similar event at Koara in Shibuya, Tokyo, from January 2008 till March 2009.
The idea for Innit started last year when Kubo, who records under the name And Vice Versa, met Osaka-based electronic artist Seiho. "He makes very high-quality music," Kubo says. "He thinks about the future of music all the time."
Along with Kubo's girlfriend, Ayako Kita, they organized the first party at Osaka's Nuooh venue back in February. The name "Innit" comes from a British slang term meaning "isn't it" that Kubo learned during a brief stay in London. The trio stuck to online promotion via Twitter and iFlyer, and Kita says almost 40 people showed up for the inaugural event.
One of those was Masaki Konagai, who records under the name MFP. Afterward, he joined the crew in organizing and promoting subsequent events. Konagai, also from Osaka, believes the differences between the scenes in his hometown and Tokyo are clear.
"Tokyo has more of an electronic scene, while in Osaka it's more about rapping than the actual beat production," he says. "Osaka also has a bigger reggae scene."
As well, Konagai brings something of an international sensibility to Innit, having lived in Los Angeles for five years and having spent time in New York and Toronto. He says his MFP project draws heavily from hip-hop, quickly referencing celebrated beatmaker J. Dilla as a particular favorite. Konagai drops other names into his conversation, too, even comparing his online introduction to Kubo to the meeting between Los Angeles producer Flying Lotus and electronic artist Samiyam. The influence comes through in his music; MFP's tracks contain hard beats sprinkled with cosmic whooshes and 8-bit bloops reminiscent of the fellow Dilla-worshipping artists at Flying Lotus' Brainfeeder imprint.
"We model our club events after the ones Flying Lotus did," Konagai says. "That's how he drew in all his label's artists."
Not all of the Innit parties have run as smoothly as those Brainfeeder events, though. Crew member Erik Luebs, who records as Magical Mistakes, says the second installment of the party faced major changes following pressure from the Osaka government to control late-night revelry this past summer.
"The police started cracking down on nightclubs," Luebs says. "The all-night events turned into 'curfew events,' and that happened a week before we were supposed to do the party. We had to switch everything around — half the people canceled. It was a pretty mediocre turnout."
Luebs lives in Shiiba, Miyazaki Prefecture, and is the only artist associated with the Innit crew from outside Kansai. The Riverside, California, native previously spent one year living in Osaka, where he met Kubo.
"I really liked his style of production," Luebs says. "He's very subtle, nuanced and very dreamy. The mood he sets was similar to what I was trying to do at the time."
Luebs was asked to play an Innit event and after seeing it firsthand he decided it would be a great chance to dedicate himself to something musical and got more involved with the group. He designed the event's website and helps with English translation.
Luebs brings some musical variety to the group. As Magical Mistakes, he injects a sense of introspection into his recordings while fellow Innit members keep an eye toward the dance floor. His music routinely features the sounds of Shiiba's nature, including bird and bug samples.
"I like to dabble in everything. I'm not exactly the grooviest person involved in Innit," he says. "I'm doing more of the 'you took too much acid and you are kind of in the corner very confused and you don't want to talk to anybody' thing."
Luebs, Kubo, Konagai and many others in the Innit fold will play the party's fourth incarnation on Nov. 12 at Nuuoh. Ahead of the event, Innit has stepped up promotion by releasing a CD featuring tracks from Magical Mistakes and Seiho, among others.
Another musician appearing on that CD is Kyoto's Kazumichi Komatsu, aka Madegg. He was the opening act for the Osaka leg of a recent Brainfeeder tour in Japan that featured Tokimonsta, Martyn and Teebs. One of Innit's youngest members, at 19, Komatsu's music resembles the spacey electronic soundscapes of the Brainfeeder sound. But whereas that label's artists draw a lot of inspiration from hip-hop, Komatsu fills out his tracks with glitchy ambient music and swaths of white noise, resembling the style Austrian artist Christian Fennesz has pioneered over the past 15 years.
Kubo hopes to expand Innit into a national brand with franchises in Tokyo and Sapporo. Luebs also gets excited over the prospect of international recognition.
"I think, even now, that the artists we've gathered have a lot of potential and are doing things that are already taking off," he says. "Hopefully, Innit establishes itself as this party where cool stuff happens, and from that hopefully it'll launch some sort of record label."
That last wish has been somewhat realized already. Seiho recently launched Day Tripper Records, his own label from which he recently released his debut album. Seiho is set to release tunes from other Innit members such as Kubo as well.
For now, though, Innit primarily want to connect with promising artists in the Kansai region, stressing that they want to use the event as a way to build a music community. They emphasize the "bring your music" aspect, but say it isn't a marketing gimmick — new artists can hear their music played the same night they deliver it, and so become a part of this scene within hours of showing up.
Innit Vol. 4 takes place Nov. 12 at Nuooh in Osaka (6:30 p.m.). Tickets are ¥1,500 in advance or if you bring music that you yourself have made, otherwise admission at the door is ¥2,000. For more information, visit innitmusic.com.