Guided by a love of sleek beats and industrial bass and singularly moody experiments in syncopation, Tokyo’s minimal techno sorceress Akiko Kiyama has been dispensing off-kilter rhythms and textures that veer into sinister directions for well over a decade. With her new, more experimental project, Aalko, arrhythmic patterns are engineered, BPM boxes stretched out and irregular time signatures embraced.
A classically trained pianist and guitar player by the age of twelve, Kiyama quickly fell for drum’n’bass, which turned her to sampling and manipulating electronic equipment and software to craft her own seductively sinister atmospheres. From 2004 until 2015, she released EPs and LPs on a number of solid Japanese and European techno imprints. Electronic Beats recently selected her debut, 2008’s 7 Years, as one of the 15 “classic Japanese techno albums that every head should know.” In 2015, upon returning to Tokyo after years spent in Berlin, Kiyama signalled a shift towards less structured, more experimental output with the launch of her cassette tape label, Kebko Music. Her latest three-track EP under the Aalko project, No Man Is An Island, showcases her knack for incorporating elements from ambient to the ever-changing rhythms of breakbeats. British broadcaster Gilles Peterson ranked the EP’s “B.I.C.” among his top 20 tracks of 2017.
A seasoned live performer known for pushing the boundaries of minimal techno at international institutions from London’s Fabric to Berlin’s Panorama Bar, Kiyama premiered a new experimental live set at MUTEK Tokyo last November, which served as the inspiration for a mix recorded exclusively for The Wire. Making her MUTEK Montréal debut, Kiyama and her hardware setup will take festival patrons to mysterious places, directing a thrillingly fractured musical journey that defies all straightforward loops, moves and grooves.