Michiru Aoyama

Exploring the Possibilities of Ambient Electronic Music with Michiru Aoyama

Lauren Krieger

Ambient electronic music creates introductions to new realities, using the rawness of its emotions to encourage listeners to make connections within themselves. Michiru Aoyama’s music embodies this essence, transporting and transcending through creations that are made to flow with the natural world, bring peace to the mind, and inspire healing. A piano player since he was 3 years old, his love for rock music was transformed by the work of artists like Alva Noto and Christian Fennesz who expressed unique aspects of electronic music through beautiful sounds. By discovering music that represented nature while also creating a feeling of space, the future of Michiru’s life as a musician was forever changed.

From his meditation practice, Michiru finds his inspiration, discovering the stillness where the sound begins to shine. Blending an appreciation for the mathematical elements of computers with the beauty of Earth’s natural wonders, Michiru Aoyama creates music that captures the individuality of humans and nature, resulting in sounds that have never been heard before.

On the website of his label bullflat38, he shares more of his thoughts on computer music today:

With the computer specifications of 10 years ago, one could only manage a considerable alteration – far from what we might call physical.

It was something akin to spilling paint.

Now, however, things are different. There are countless canvases, paints, and other coloring materials, and the physical manipulation of sound has become possible.

This means that one ought to be able to use that technology to make entirely new music, the likes of which have not been heard before. The general public’s impression of electronic music may be that it is cold, or somewhat inhuman.

I’d like to be able to encounter a lot of music that changes that impression.

This philosophy and approach has inspired listeners from around the world and drew the attention of Mango Alley’s A&R Director Alex Golovanov. In addition to numerous appearances on the MA Summer Chillout Compilation series, he also released a series of albums that pushed the boundaries of underground electronic music. And there is still more coming in 2020.

As Alex shares:

Michiru Aoyama Album Cover

His first album “18 – 0308 All” is a total experiment. We’ve never released anything like it before on MA (I don’t think any of progressive house label did), we had no idea about how to do it, how to promote it, what visuals should it have, nothing. All we knew is that we were very inspired by the weirdness and the beauty of Michiru’s music. So we decided to make this release as personal and intimate as possible. All the photos used in the album cover and booklet are taken by Michiru, they’re raw, unprofessional, yet they captivate something he’s been inspired with, so it all starts to make sense and gives you a better understanding of his music.

Michiru Aoyama Album Cover

It’s been a pleasant surprise, but the first album was really well met by the fans and we could call it a success, so we decided there will be more longplays by Michiru on MA in the future. By the end of 2019, Michiru came up with a different kind of sound and technique, so it was a good time to wrap up the year with a beautiful new album, “Flat Lake”.

In contast to raw and almost untouched “18 – 0308 All”, there was a complex and thoughtful post-production work made for “Flat Lake” release. So all the post-production, finalizing and mastering for the album was made by Aeron Aether at his newly opened Aetheron Audio. Aeron was an easy pick for me – we’ve known each other for a long time, he remixed for MA and for my releases on other labels, we collaborated on several tracks, and he’s a known expert in sophisticated chillout/electronica sound. All this ended up in a more mature and exquisite album that surely shows Michiru’s development as an artist and evolution of his sound. The cover art also designed using Michiru’s photos, but this time it looks more “polished” and standardized.

At FRISKY we love to showcase the experimental, ever-evolving music which encourages deep listening, so it is with great pleasure that we introduce Michiru Aoyama as our CHILL Featured Artist. Listen to his exclusive 2-hour set live on Wednesday, March 4th at 2 PM EST [convert timezone] or listen anytime after on-demand with FRISKY Premium.

Get to know more about Michiru Aoyama while you tune in:

Photos by Michiru Aoyama

What first started your passion for ambient electronic music?

I got into this type of music through Ryuichi Sakamoto and then Christian Fennesz, I think. Ryuichi Sakamoto has been making collaborative works with electronic musicians such as Alva Noto, Fennesz, and Christopher Willits in recent years, and I felt like these albums presented new kinds of musical possibilities. I’ve enjoyed listening to Ryuichi Sakamoto’s piano music since I was young, and it often made me feel different kinds of emotions than what I felt when listening to J-pop. The way I listened to ambient/noise music was different to how I listened to J-pop, and this had a big influence on the way I thought as well.

How I felt didn’t have anything to do with what we humans call “liking” or “disliking” something. It’s normal for human life to have ups and downs, but in the past I’ve thought that that isn’t really looking at the world how it is. Our world isn’t just for humans, of course. There are also the worlds of plants, animals, stones, and the sky, sea and mountains. It’s true that feelings like “like” and “dislike” enrich our lives. There was a time in my life when I was sick and tired of music that was clearly centered around love & romance. You could say that my fascination with electronic music was born from that.

The idea that sounds that didn’t exist 100 years ago could be created through close relation to the power of our modern civilization (i.e. high-performance computers) was appealing to me. I was excited at the fact that I was listening to sounds that had never existed before. Sounds such as sine waves and white noise, however, have a relatively low cultural appreciation; I think they just sound like unpleasant noises for a lot of people. I don’t really like these kinds of sounds, either.

It was Alva Noto and Fennesz who expressed them as beautiful sounds – to me, it was like listening to some kind of wonderful phenomena. Mathematical elements are a fundamental part of musical composition, but computers take care of that for us as well. Software such as Max/MSP in particular uses numerical formulae to make sonic systems, which is where I think the strength of the music is also produced.

I was drawn to the fact that Fennesz’s electronic music contains almost no uncomfortable sounds, and how closely it resembles our natural environment. It’s music that functions as a response to things like animals, plants, stones, sand and the sky, rather than human-centric “likes” and “dislikes”. This is due to a number of factors – the fact that it lacks an exact melody being the most prevalent. Melody acts as a kind of statement in music, but Fennesz avoids even something as fundamental as this; it’s simply about feeling the space, and that’s it. Like how the sound of the ocean doesn’t have a melody. I think music like this, that doesn’t sound like it’s imposing on anyone, is the best kind of music.

When did you begin writing your own music?

When I was in my second year of high school. At the beginning, I was writing songs for the band and making rhythms. Like this: https://bullflat38.bandcamp.com/album/michiru-aoyama &https://bullflat38.bandcamp.com/album/nicole

What are the biggest changes in your production style or technique since you first began?

I started playing the piano since I was 3. In JHS, I started playing the guitar and dreamed of becoming a rock guitarist. In HS, I joined the school band, and I started creating music for our band. It is kind of like Bossa Nova and country music. When I was in university, I bought a laptop and used it to create movie soundtracks. When I was 23, I went to a live concert of Austrian guitarist, Christian Fennesz. I was so moved by his music. It was the starting point of my music.

Are there particular emotions that are most prominent in your music?

It’s peaceful.

Who are some artists that you love to listen to?

Aphex Twin, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Fennesz, etc

What qualities do you think make for exceptional chillout music?

I think nostalgia is important.

What is most important for you to communicate through your music

Peace of mind and healing.

Where do you find yourself getting the most inspiration from?

I go to a temple in the early morning of the weekend.
Then, I practice the meditation in Zen Buddhism for about 3 hours.
The heart becomes quiet, gradually like the water surface which is not choppy, but still.
All environmental sound and non-sound, begin to have a meaning to me.
Soon the sound begins to shine.

What can you tell us about the mix you made for FRISKY?

I’ve never been a DJ and was really uneasy about making a two-hour mix. However, I enjoyed it very much when I made it this time, and there were various discoveries. Frisky Radio has so many really great artists, I think it’s a great honor to be able to publish my work.

Listen to Michiru Aoyama’s CHILL Featured Artist Mix: