Elegance and emotions in Anoice's post-rock

ANOICE (2019)

Band: Anoice

  • Takahiro Kido – Guitar, Piano, Synthesizer, Organ, Bass
  • Yuki Murata – Piano, Synthesizer
  • Utaka Fujiwara – Viola, Violin, Wurlitzer Electric Piano, Piano, Synth
  • Tadashi Yoshikawa – Drums, Percussions

After four years since our last chat, Japanese band Anoice has come back with the release of their new album Ghost In the Clocks; we are going to talk with one of their founding members, Takahiro Kido, about their latest effort and the many side-projects revolving around this peculiar band.

Welcome back on our webzine, it’s a pleasure to have you again with us. How are things going?

Hello. This is Takahiro Kido from Anoice. Thank you for giving us this precious opportunity again! We spent this summer recording with a string orchestra for a new album in Moscow, and then started recording new works for other new albums in Tokyo. Now, we are so busy but everything is going well.

It’s been a while since the last time we chatted. Before talking about the new Anoice album, can you briefly tell us what you have been doing in the last four years?

Within four years, we released four albums, four EPs, twelve singles, two compilation albums, and one soundtrack album. Not only under the Anoice name, but also as Takahiro Kido, Yuki Murata, RiLF, Films, and Mizu Amane which are our side projects. We also played at concerts in Asia and Eastern Europe. In addition, we took charge of making a lot of songs for movies, commercial adverts, and TV shows. We sometimes exceeded 100 songs a year.

Now let’s delve into Ghost In The Clocks, which has been released in August. I believe that there is a strong link between this album and “The Black Rain”: first of all, their covers share the same art style and the same character portrayed; but there are also some hints in the song titles, like “After The Rain”. How are these works connected?

As you can assume from the title “After The Rain” which is the first track in this album, we expressed the world that follows our third album, ‘The Black Rain’, with our fifth album Ghost In The Clocks. It might not be suitable that we explain about concrete things that are included within this album, but I can say that all the songs are in chronological order. The girl on the album cover is like a guide to the history. We think that we need one more album to consummate this story.

On the other hand, the cover art for “Into The Shadows” is very different; however, a very similar (or maybe the same?) character is here too, hinting also of a link with this album (which is in turn part of a trilogy about memories where the long-haired girl constantly appears). How is it linked to the other two works?

The girl on Into The Shadows is not the same character as ones on The Black Rain and Ghost In The Clocks. She is a heroine of the trilogy formed by Anoice‘s Into The Shadows, Yuki Murata’s Gift and Films’ A Forbidden Garden. Those three albums include fragmentary memories, but they are dream-like fictions and not in chronological order, unlike Anoice‘s The Black Rain and Ghost In The Clocks. In addition, the Memories trilogy’s covers are oil paintings by Naoko Okada, but The Black Rain and Ghost In The Clocks are drew with a pencil by Yoko Shinto.

There is also another detail that makes me wonder how vast is the story living in your music: “Missing”, a song from Ghost In The Clocks, was previously released as one of three consecutive singles; their cover arts put together formed a fish, which reminded me of the one held by the girl in “Into The Shadows”‘s artwork. What does the fish represent?

This fish represents a living thing that encompasses the world and all of history, or the world itself. The world changes the shape like it is living by itself. Those three consecutive singles are all reconstructed tracks from our past songs. The first single Nothing There is from “Invasion” included in Anoice‘s fourth album Into The Shadows, the second single missing is from a piece composed for “Double Fantasy”, a Japanese TV drama series, and the third single Unknown Error is from “Come Toward Our Line” included in the first album Variations For Spiegel of Mokyow, one of our side projects.

Ok, I love looking at the visual aspect of your albums and I could go on for hours talking about it, but let’s move on to the music. As always, your songs are very cinematic and it actually feels like they want to tell a story; or rather than telling it with words, they ask the listener to imagine it through their own personal experience. I won’t ask you to tell us the tale you had in mind while composing the album (we don’t want to ruin any listener’s experience), but how do you create it and put it in music?

Yes, it would be good if the listeners imagine through their own personal experience, but I want to give them some hints. In The Black Rain album, all the tracks contains sadness, anger, and repulsion, but in this Ghost In The Clocks expresses the resoluteness of not yielding to hardships against them. You can find the girl on the album cover standing up with confidence following the miserable story.

Despite being mostly composed of classical instruments, the whole album has a very post-rock feeling, with many emotional highs and lows which tease the climax reached only at the second-last song; “The Black Rain” also shared a very similar structure and “Into The Shadows” had it too, although slightly differently. Is there a reason for structuring your albums this way?

Each second-to-last song have more magnificent and emotional feelings than others in the albums, but it’s because those are climaxes in each album as you feel. Anoice‘s music is usually cinematic like the soundtrack to a movie, but we need to intonate some songs more because our releases don’t have any images except the album artwork.

The use of samples enhances the storytelling aspect of your music; time seems to be a crucial theme of this album, not only for its title (and some of the songs’ too), but also for a track like “Clockwork Moment”. What is the role of time in Ghost In The Clocks?

It means the passage of time. For example, you can feel it not only in “Clockwork Moment” but also in “After The Rain”, “Time”, and “Rebirth”. Those samples are taken from real clocks and old films recorded in the 20th century. As I mentioned before, all the album tracks are in chronological order.

The album starts off very dramatic and its first half is also quite melancholic, but it slowly gets brighter until the strong rays of hope irradiated by the last two songs (which have very fitting titles). Is there a good ending for the mysterious long-haired character?

Yes. We changed the song tonality from minor to major from 7:19 of “Rebirth” for the first time in this album. It means that the girl found a hope to stand up again. However, her own life has just started.

Let’s talk a bit about your side-projects. I’ve recently listened to Inside – Out Tokyo by Takahiro Kido, a short album using electronic elements and generally more cheerful feelings. What do you want to convey through this project?

At the end of 2005, we had already finished making Anoice‘s first album, Remmings, but we had to wait for over half a year until its release. I had a lot of free time on my hands, so I decided to start my solo project featuring my piano songs. This project progressed in a more neo-classical direction by adding other Anoice members in the second solo album In My Time in 2007, but I wanted to do what Anoice couldn’t. So, I changed the sound colour since the third album Fleursy Music, and as a result, my solo project became the most gentle music of all of our projects. Of course, other Anoice‘s members always join my solo project as the instrument players, but we all enjoy making music in a more relaxing way than with Anoice and the side-projects.

Moving on to Yuki Murata’s piano, the only way to describe it is «beautiful»: her compositions are full of emotion and are powerful enough to create a dream-like world, so a title like Piano Fantasia with such a magical cover art are very fitting. How does she compose her albums?

You might not believe it, but she usually creates her solo music by improvisation with her own piano. For example, she made her first album Films by performing on a grand piano without preparation at her own studio and recorded it nonstop. It took only about 2 hours for the recording. However, since her third solo album Gift, she sometimes writes sheet music for not only piano but also violin, viola, and flute, in order to play the songs at our concerts. Of course, the instrument players and engineers are always Anoice members.

Speaking of magical music, Films’ dark fantasy sound is another perfect example and the two vocalists singing in an original language enhances the otherworldly concept; these two artists are quite mysterious, how did you meet them?

I can’t say who they are, but I met them for the first time when I started music and recruited members of Anoice in 2004. When Yuki came up with an idea for this films project, I soon remember them and asked them to join as the vocalists and sing in their original-created language, because we wanted to deal with the vocal as just one of the instruments. Were making Films fourth album now.

As we just said, some of your projects feature members of other groups like RiLF, where Matryoshka’s singer offers her ethereal voice on a post-rock/shoegaze base. How did the collaboration with Calu start?

When I released my third solo album Fleursy Music in 2008, we held the first concert as my solo project and shared the stage with Matryoshka. This was the first time we met them, and we really liked the voice of their vocalist, Calu. After we released Anoice‘s second album Out Of Season in autumn of the same year, we decided to take some time off from Anoice for a while in order to look for what we had to compose as Anoice. So, I asked Calu to start an alternative rock band, RiLF, together with Anoice. Now, we are making the second album together.

Post-rock is also the genre you chose for your other project Mokyow, inspired by great bands such as Sigur Rós and Mogwai; adding classical instruments and whispered vocals to a more rock-oriented base creates a very soothing, yet also powerful sound. How did Michael Ende’s “Spiegel Im Spiegel” inspire you on Mokyow’s first album?

As you already know, we like playing a session by improvisation, and Mokyow is the experiment space for us. This is pretty effective to our other projects. For example, a mix of classical instruments and rock band sound was adopted to the RiLF project, and an idea of singing with an original-created language became a source of an idea for the Films project. As for Michael Ende’s “Spiegel Im Spiegel”, it is also the same case. We took an idea using the same materials such as melodies, instruments order, and numbers of the note like Shiritori, a Japanese word chain game, in one album. It was the important trigger for Anoice‘s latest three albums.

Improvisation is one of the many aspects of Anoice‘s music, but on Cru it becomes a key feature. How do you work to create cru’s improvised songs?

In this project, Cru, Yuki and me make a good use of particular instruments such as a piano in a concert hall and an organ and cembalo in a solitary house which served as the model for the violin atelier in Studio Ghibli’s animation movie. These places have their unique silent atmospheres, so Cru’s music becomes very quiet. Sometimes, other Anoice members, Utaka Fujiwara and Tadashi Yoshikawa join to this project, but they play by improvisation too.

These were your main side-projects; did you have the chance to work with other artists during these years?

Not much. However, we were lucky enough to share the stage with some of our favourite artists such as Christian Fennesz in Austria, Jambinai in Korea, and Sontag Shogun in US. Yuki often plays a piano for various artists for the concerts and recordings, and also I sometimes take charge of mixing-mastering engineer for our friends and our label’s artists.

Your label, Ricco, is used mainly to release the albums of Anoice and their related side-projects, but many other artists are also publishing their music through it. Which are some albums (not made by Anoice members) that you would recommend to our readers?

It’s soooo difficult for me to choose because I really like all the releases from Ricco Label, but especially the following three albums are great. The sounds are of course wonderful, but all albums have their own unique colours which we can never imitate.

  • Sontag Shogun – Tale
  • Human Pyramids – Planet Shhh!
  • EXXASENS – 2007-2014

In the last interview, we mentioned a possible tour in Europe. Have you been able to realize it or are you working to do it in the near future?

Not yet. We are now making some plans for tours for Hong Kong, China, and Taiwan, but we’ll also soon discuss about Europe. Please wait a little more.

Speaking of the future, what do you plan to do after the release of Ghost In The Clocks?

We are now making three new albums; the second album of RiLF, the fourth album of Films, and a compilation album featuring a string orchestra of Takahiro Kido and Yuki Murata. As I mentioned previously, Anoice will go to East Asia, but we are also probably going to play in East Europe and New York. We’ll also visit some film music productions in Los Angeles when we visit US. In addition, this is my private topic, but I’m making a plan for my private trip to Amalfi in Italy. If my dream comes true, I’m going to invite other Anoice members to play concerts in some cities in Western Europe.

I guess that’s all, until the next time. Thank you very much for your time, if you want to say something to our readers, you can do it here.

A massive thanks to you and all who are supporting us. We’ll be happy if you enjoy Anoice‘s new album Ghost In The Clocks and spread it to all over the world. La ringrazio!