Infusions: Alixkun explores the ambient sounds of Japan

A new series connected to our globe-trotting Infusions party where we invite guests to explore the music of a particular country, artist, era or movement.

French born now Japan based record collector and DJ Alixkun is the co-founder of Jazzy Couscous, working with Brawther to trace Japan’s fertile musical history with links to the current day. Their Once Upon a Time In Japan compilation in 2015 was a brilliant chronology of early deep house in the Far East and came at just the right time to ride a wave of increased public hunger for the sound. While music for clubs dominates much of what Jazzy Couscous do, they throw plenty of warmth thrown to the beatless too. Here Alix compiles an hour long Infusions mix to explore ambient textures from his adopted home and answers a few questions.

Jazzy Couscous’ latest release is with jazz legend Kazumi Watanabe and a remix from Kuniyuki – buy from Juno.

Can you tell us a bit about your Infusions theme? What does it mean to you and why is it significant to you as a DJ and music lover?

It’s hard to define, but I would borrow a word created by one of my favorite record shop in Tokyo, Coconuts Disk in Ekoda. They produce a mix serie called “walearic”. “wa” is the Japanese kanji for everything related to Japan. So “walearic” is a concept of Japanese Balearic music, and I think it suits this theme pretty well. A mix of ambient, electronic jazz, dreamy pop, leftfield. A true mind trip experience.

What originally drew you out to Japan from France and what’s kept you here all this time? 

I’ve always been attracted to Japan. Our Generation (I’m 35) is the first generation who has been heavily influenced by the Japanese pop culture. As much as a lot of people in our parents generation were influenced by the American pop culture and flew there to live the American dream, I flew to Japan to see what it really was like. I found wonderful people, awesome food, and an extraordinary number of record stores with incredible music. How could I not want to stay?

Eight releases in, Jazzy Couscous has become a strong platform for supporting new and old Japanese music. Are there any sounds of the area you’d still like to explore?

Along with my friend Brawther, we’ve been doing a mapping of the Japanese early house scene, which led us to release the compilation “Once upon a time in Japan…House” back in 2015. We were also working on a documentary but it kinda stalled because of our respective agenda, and the amount of work it required. I’ve been exploring Japanese music for more than 10 years now, and lately I’ve really been into this 80s Japanese vibe, at the crossroad of ambient, synth pop and electronic jazz.  Japanese music scene is extremely rich, and at the same time hard to access because of the language barrier and the distance. I really feel privileged to live here and understand the language.

What’s one thing that makes Japanese music unique from all other countries? It doesn’t necessarily have to be a sound, it could a characteristic or even as abstract as a philosophy. 

The interesting characteristic of the Japanese music scene, is that for every single music genre that happened in our occidental world, there was a local equivalent scene in Japan for that. It’s probably the only country in the world where you can find such a phenomenon. Whether you’re looking for jazz funk, folk, synth-pop, post-punk, hiphop or techno, you will find a Japanese scene with wonderful artists. Each time it is of course heavily inspired by its occidental counterpart, but it never lacks this particular Japanese vibe, hard to define, inviting you to an oriental musical trip.

Any standouts from the mix you’d like to give special mention too? 

Definitely Ippu-do’s “aqua nostalgy”. an almost 10min track starting with deep pads and a steel drum played by Yann Tomita and then evolving into a very tribal vibe thanks to heavy traditional drums. A true beauty. The funny thing is that it was originally only released on a limited edition version of one of the band’s live concert vinyl album. But because the cover art is exactly the same for the limited edition and the non-limited one, I think most people didn’t notice it, except for hardcore ippu do’s fan. It’s a shame because this track is incredible.

What’s on the horizon for Jazzy Couscous in 2018?

I’m about to close the licensing process for our next compilation. I must say this is extremely hard in Japan, as a lot of artists and record labels simply refuse to licence out anything. This time, I’m focusing exactly on putting together a project focused on the same vibe as my mix. Japanese ambient, synth pop and electronic jazz from the 80s. A very unexplored scene until very recently, with lots of gems! If everything goes well, it should be out around Spring 2018. Super looking forward to present this one!

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