Top 10: Rising Japanese Electronic Music Producers

Even ignoring the language barrier, it can be remarkably difficult to find out information about certain strands of electronic music coming out of Japan. As befits an underground scene, the majority of house and techno producers here shy away from over-indulgent displays of self-promotion, taking a low-key attitude towards their releases, events, and the like. Arranged in no particular order, the names that follow might not jump out immediately, but many have already featured on standout mixes and compilations; if there’s one thing that’s consistent, it’s that they all let their tracks do the talking.

Wata Igarashi - The Summon

Wata Igarashi

While Igarashi can be found DJing at some of Tokyo’s premier techno events, it is his recent forays into production that have really marked him out as one to watch. Following a pair of solid EPs last year, this summer saw Igarashi inaugurate fledging Berlin label Midgar with a release that should cement his reputation yet further. The four tracks are simultaneously spacious and neatly compact, each hinting at dancefloor potency whilst maintaining its subtlety. The highlight is the acidic riffs that adorn the record throughout, both warm and delicate, recalling the sci-fi leanings of Joey Anderson.

Takaaki Itoh - Killing All Anarchists

Takaaki Itoh

Surely a contender for best-titled release of last year, Takaaki Itoh’s A Fancy Haircut Will Not Help You To Make Better Tracks EP is a far more serious manifesto than its tongue-in-cheek, confrontational caption might first suggest. Hailing from Sendai city, Itoh has been a driving force within a modest sized techno scene in the Tohoku region of Japan for just about two decades now, by running WOLS label, regular club nights, and has been consistently churning out punishing, visceral techno stompers year after year – meticulously honing his style whilst paying little attention to fleeting trends and fashions. His productions conjure up brutal industrialism – the sonic equivalent of the twisted metal cyberpunk of Tetsuo: The Iron Man and its sequels – easily matching the likes of Perc and Regis at their darkest and angriest.

Naoki Shinohara - Timeless

Naoki Shinohara

In Naoki Shinohara’s productions, one can sense a deep-seated appreciation for classic house music that transcends any geographical boundaries. Berlin’s Steffi, in her official mix for Panorama Bar – the institution where she holds down a residency – juxtaposes Fred P’s “Project 05” with Shinohara’s “Timeless,” a track with a simply infectious bassline. Fred P must have also been impressed, going on to release Shinohara’s Dimension EP on his Soul People Music imprint earlier this year.

Kyoka - 23 iSH


Now based in Berlin, Kyoka is perhaps best known for her releases on Raster-Noton (she was the first solo female artist to feature on the imprint), including the much acclaimed full-length Is (Is Superpowered) which emerged earlier this year. Kyoka’s career has taken her across the globe both stylistically and literally: from improvised jam sessions while backpacking across America to performing in Tokyo’s art-noise scene as part of the duo Groopies, and now to modular synth experimentations in Europe. Throughout all of this, she has minted a sort of playful inversion of Japan’s kawaii aesthetic, as evidenced by her menacing vocals on her recent collaboration with Diamond Version, “Feel The Freedom.”

Keita Sano - People Are Changing

Keita Sano

Based all the way out in rural Okayama – far, far away from the clubbing epicentres of Tokyo and Osaka – Keita Sano has seemed to bypass the domestic scene entirely, releasing instead on a handful of international labels, most notably New York’s Mister Saturday Night Records. “She Was The One,” a B-side on the People Are Changing EP, was championed by Funkineven on his mix for XLR8R, whilst the title track made it into the Brooklyn imprint’s Brothers and Sisters’ compilation along with two other tracks from Sano. Sano’s raw, rough-and-tumble drum tracks share more in common with the lo-fi house sound currently booming in New York rather than the typically polished Japanese approach to 4/4, and mark him out as one of the most unique producers in the country as a result.

Ryo Murakami - Depth Of Decay

Ryo Murakami

Those abroad will perhaps know of Ryo Murakami via his association with the inimitable Steve Bug – be it the latter’s inclusion of Murakami’s track “Monument” on his Fabric 37 mix, or Murakami’s several releases on Steve Bug-founded labels Dessous and Poker Flat between 2007 and 2009. Prior to that, Murakami released his debut record “The Lizard” on Rebelone, the sub-label of Damian Lazarus’s Crosstown Records, under the alias P.A.N – a name which was then transferred to Murakami’s own label Panrecords (not to be confused with the Berlin imprint PAN). In recent years Murakami, now based in Osaka, has steadily transitioned away from the deep house trappings of his earlier work towards an entirely more experimental ambient sound, culminating in the release of a long-awaited debut full-length, Depth of Decay, last year. The album is a master class in subtlety: a world of tense atmospherics created with pinpoint manipulation of reverb and feedback. Murakami’s live sets are likewise renowned for their powerful reproductions of his shadowy soundscapes.

Steven Porter - Deed

Steven Porter

Don’t let the name fool you: Steven Porter actually refers to the Japanese duo Yuji Kondo and Katsunori Sawa, who run the equally mysterious 10 Label imprint out of Kyoto. Both with the label and their own output, Kondo and Sawa appear to value quality over quantity. 10 Label’s releases have seen their productions as Steven Porter appear on wax alongside tracks by the likes of Ancient Methods, Perc, and Dalhous. Much like the aforementioned names, Steven Porter’s tracks incorporate noise and industrial influences, resulting in alarmingly visceral electronic body music.

Mystica Tribe - Flowers

Mystica Tribe

Aside from the inclusion of track “His Temple” on Hessle Audio founder Pangaea’s Fabriclive.73 mix CD, Mystica Tribe is not a name that appears particularly frequently. The alias of Tokyo-based producer Taka Noda, Mystica Tribe draws on soul and psychedelia to construct an intriguingly unique brand of dub techno: wonky, disorienting, and yet just about danceable enough for it to work in the clubs. After a trio of releases on Holland’s SD Records, this year saw the creation of his self-run imprint Mystica Tribe Records, which should provide the perfect platform for this idiosyncratic figure going forward.

Stereociti - Klass


When it comes to deep house, few producers in Japan can claim to approach the genre with as much class or competency as Stereociti. His debut album Kawasaki, released on Berlin label Mojuba in 2011, pairs classic Detroit tropes with a melancholic undercurrent that perhaps reflects the suburban ennui of its title. Elsewhere, Stereociti’s back catalogue is full of more lush, textured explorations in 4/4 that demonstrate why Detroit legend Mike Huckaby was so keen to show him off to the world on his radio show back in 2007.

Hiroaki Iizuka - Java

Hiroaki Iizuka

Another producer to inaugurate a label with its debut release – this time London’s Them Records – Hiroaki Iizuka’s hardware-driven style of jacking techno recalls the likes of Blawan and J. Tijn: tailor-made for peak-time destruction. Images of dark and dingy warehouse raves are what are summoned here, suggesting that the dominant clubland atmospherics of London have inspired Iizuka as much, if not more than his native Japan.

By Mike Sunda on October 23, 2014

On a different note