Japanese vibraphonist, multi-percussionist and composer Masayoshi Fujita has announced the release of a new album called Bird Ambience which will be out on May 28th via Erased Tapes Records. According to the press release, it brings several fresh changes for the artist. Until now, Fujita would separate his acoustic solo recordings, the electronic dub made under his El Fog alias, and his experimental improvisations with contemporaries such as Jan Jelinek. The new album sees him unite all these different facets for the first time into one singular vision. He also makes a lateral leap from his signature instrument the vibraphone – on which he created his acclaimed triptych Stories (2012), Apologues (2015) and Book of Life (2018) – to the marimba, which takes centre stage on his new album alongside drums, percussion, synths, effects and tape recorder.

“The way of playing the marimba is similar to the vibraphone, so it was kind of a natural development for me and easier to start with, yet it sounds very different”, explains Masayoshi. “The marimba bars are made with wood and it has a wider range than the vibraphone, which gives me a bigger sound palette with more possibilities. I play the instrument with bows and mallets, and sometimes manipulate it with effects.”
The record also marks his liberation from fastidious preparation for past solo releases to new endeavours in improvisation. “I prioritised trying to capture the wonder which happens during those occasional magic improv moments. Sometimes the miking and placement of instruments was pretty rough; things weren’t perfect and everything was done quickly, but it turned out as the final recording. Overall when I couldn’t decide between two takes, I told myself to go with the first”, Masayoshi recalls.

We already shared “Thunder” and the title-track; “Morocco” is the new excerpt. Listen below and check our chat with the artist who details the new album and much more.

“Bird Ambience” is your new album. This album is quite different from your previous works because of the approach to the composition and because the marimba is the main instrument. What are the first vivid memories of this album when you started to compose the music? What was the main focus?

Even before I finished the last album I had the idea of this new album – to combine everything I’ve been doing in different projects, like minimal electronic music as el fog, experimental improvisation with Jan Jelinek and more classical composition of last three acoustic albums, and add marimba to it. First I was just thinking to bring marimba in to have something new to play with and add new sound. I asked one of my studio neighbors to let me play his marimba just to see how it actually sounds like. When I played the marimba for the first time in his studio I was very much amazed by its sound and possibility. It sounded totally different and I could see the vast ocean of possibilities in it. Not only because of its tone and sound color but all those sustain, attack, overtones, character and all the nature of it. It was quite shocking for me as a musician who has played only the vibraphone for more than15 years.

Improvisation is another important key of this new album, right? Do you think which impro sessions are the purest form of experimentation in music? What is your definition of experimentation?

My definition of experimentation is simply to try something you are not sure what you’ll get. That is often something you have never seen or heard before.

I’m not sure if I can call it experimentation but the purest form of improvisation is when you play an instrument alone, maybe only a few notes at once and listen to it carefully, not only to the tone but also the texture and the mood or atmosphere it evokes. As you play and listen, you hear a melody or chord in your head which is not played yet, that is like a suggestion by the instrument. Something the instrument tells you to play. Let the instrument tell. That’s actually how the some of the songs of the new album were made.

The Artwork is very minimalistic. How did you choose it?

Robert from Erased Tapes and I always discuss about the artwork for an album together. This time we were struggling for a quite long time to find the right one. This one was one of the many drafts a designer Bernd Kuchenbeiser made for us. Actually I wasn’t sure about that artwork in the first place but Robert was insisting it. This happens often but I tend to leave the decision to him as I trust him and I know I tend to make wrong decision and regret afterwards regarding artwork and such things. I never do so regarding sound and music but for other stuff I’m rather open.

You are from Japan, based in Hyogo. I’m really interested in the connection between the places we live over the years, our roots and the art. How do you feel these themes connect to your music and your way of thinking music? What are your favourite places which have inspired you the most?

I think my music is related to the land and the nature where I live and create in. That’s what I missed most when I was living in Berlin and it was the biggest reason why I moved to a coutryside of Japan where there is rich nature. It was my dream to live and create surrounded by the nature.

In my music there are often images of the nature like mountain, forest, hills, fog and a bird like a kyte. Once I wondered where those images come from. When I was living in Berlin one day I visited my home town in Japan and then I found everythig there. There were mountains in distance, ocean and forest, and kytes were flying around. I wasn’t aware of it by then but those images have accumulated in me since childhood.

If I talk about it more, I feel there is something beyond personal between the nature and the human, like we are connected to the nature, or we are a part of the nature. I’m hoping to find out more about it one day.

My favorite place that inspire me most is maybe those nature in my hometown, or anywhere in Japan. If I pick one particular place, Akiyoshi-dai in Yamaguchi is something special for me.

Let’s talk abaout the current situation. How are you living these strange times and what are the main concerns as an artist?

I’m doing kind of okay. The situation in where I live is a little bit more relaxed compare to cities for now. Also, as I moved to countryside of Japan I wasn’t expecting to do many live shows anyways. I finished the new album before I left Berlin and I expected that I’ll have a little break and will have a lot of works regarding the moving and new life. Now I produce music in studio more which was one of intentions when I decided to move from Berlin. When I was living in Berlin my income was pretty much depending on the live shows which was pretty stressful as it’s not very stable. And also I didn’t like to fly so many. I do love playing live shows and visit different countries and meet many people but I just hated airports and all the stress of hectic traveling. I decided to move to coutryside and produce more music in studio and do less concerts to diversify the income to make it more stable and less stressful. Luckily until now I had some interesting production work time to time and it also matched to the way of life under the pandemic situation.

My concern now is how I’m going to do when concerts start happening again and I have to travel a lot again. It’s not very easy to travel from where I live now but I think I can manage it somehow.

When the pandemic will be over and there will be live shows again, how would you like to introduce this album on the stage?

That’s going to be a big challenge for me. I have to work on it and still don’t know exactly how I’m going to do it. I have lots of ideas and new interesting equipments but just had no time to try those out yet. I’m pretty excited about it though. I think it’s going to be more improvised and open compare to my past shows.

During and after the lockdown time, Bandcamp was the only online platform which tried to help musicians, waiving their fees on the site on the very first Friday of the month. What do you think of this kind of initiative and how what is your idea about the rights of artist connected to streaming platforms?

That’s of course a great encouragement for artists. And also it gives the audience a chance to support artists. About the musician’s rights in streaming platforms, I’m not very well informed about it which I always think I have to do. I think that’s one of responsibilities as an artist for myself and for the future of music.

Ritual question. Have you seen or heard anything good recently?

My son made new good friends in his new school and looked very happy. Children’s smile always save us.