In the Head the Aural Is Born
It is certainly a rare opportunity when someone has the privilege of interviewing one of his favorite artists. Akifumi Nakajima, otherwise known as Aube, has been recording noise and ambient works for over twenty years now. What started mainly with water experiments, soundtrack material for contemporary art exhibits, had progressed in recent years to something unprecedented. Since those early years, Akifumi has manipulated a panoply of source materials, including, and not confined to: Water, Kyoto, 1 Voltage Controlled Oscillator, Steel Wire, Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy, 1 Monophonic Analogue Synthesizer, Metal, Heartbeat, Glow & Fluorescent Lamp, Small Speaker, Brain Wave-Electroencephalogram, Bible, Fire, Bell, Glass, Earth, and Air. Obviously, not just anyone can take a brain wave electroencephalogram, for example, and process it to produce a fascinating sonic result. It takes an imagination, a sensitivity to sound, and, above all, an ability that very few possess. For my part, and for many others, it is Akifumi Nakajima who is one of the few in the world today that does in fact possess that said skill, and he has proved this again and again over the years.
But Akifumi considers himself no ‘artist’ in the generic sense of the term. Rather, he tends to consider himself a ‘sound designer’ utilizing, in his words, “only a limited source material per a release or a performance.” As for the sound sources that he has used, those I have listed, though, according to him, many more will come.
In Aube there is no ideology or philosophy. There are no external points of reference, as it were, making for a very exploratory, subjective style in the music, open to a wide, if not unlimited, scope of interpretation. The listener is pretty much forced to come to his own conclusions about the music; as there is no one absolute conclusion given, if any. I asked Akifumi if this was intentional, and he only said ‘maybe.’ But I think there is more to this story.
What had drawn him to ‘design’ such music in the first place? Why not do something safer, more traditional, less ‘dangerous’? I only receive an elliptical answer at best, but I suppose I had nothing more to expect. In answer to my question asking from where he draws his creations, “in my head,” he tells me, and that’s simply all.
Is there any lineage in his work that can be a traced, a metamorphosis over time?
“In early years, since 1991 to 1994,” he relates, “I was into harsher and louder sound. Since 1995, I was interested in quiet ambient sound more and more though I had my interest for listen it. Then, I started to shift and make such way also.”
Aube is known mainly for its water experiments, of the ones, particularly, that had been released in his formative years, and the recent ones on Manifold Records, among others. Was there any modus operandi for the early water experiments, I inquire? Was there a reason why so many of his releases have involved water instead of something else? An aim at purity, perhaps, water being one of the most abundant elements on this earth?
“There was some,” he answers in the affirmative, but refuses to speak any more. Again resuming his reticence.
The Aube project has been characterized by many critics and sources, desperate for the ease of constraints, under all sorts of headings, from minimalism, escapism, to just pure noise. When I ask Akifumi what these words and classifications signify to Akifumi, and whether one could be more accurate than the rest for describing his work, he rather disinterestedly tells me that “maybe minimalism is fair.” But it seems obvious that the question carries little weight.
As an artist living in Japan, the veritable Kingdom of Noise, where such worldly renowned avant-garde artists as the Hijokaiden, Keiji Heino, C.C.C.C. and the legendary Merzbow were born, Aube should certainly not seem out of place among the neighboring entities, at least strictly in so far as the ‘scope’ of his work is concerned. I wonder how life in Japan inspires him? Does he find that, for example, a certain environment or state of mind enhances his creativity?
“I think my life in Japan inspire my work as I’ve never been to live any other country,” he tells me, “but I can’t tell what inspires me exactly. It comes unconsciously.”
In the true spirit of surrealism, apparently, though whether he shares any interest in surrealism, I unfortunately never found out.
If Aube are the ears, I ask, what may be the eyes?
“G.R.O.S.S. is my label’s name as well as my design’s name which is maybe the eye.”
For anyone who might not be aware, Akifumi Nakajima also runs a label, called G.R.O.S.S., which has started in 1992 and has released, according to the head, the following bands: Monde Bruits (Japan), Roughage (Japan/Canada), Dislocation (Japan), Mortal Vision (Japan), Kapotte Muziek (Holland), Allegory Chapel Ltd. (USA), Taint (USA), Shlomo Artzi Orchestra (Israel), Club Skull (Japan), The Black Museum (USA), Small Cruel Party (USA), Trance/Macronympha (USA), Thirdorgan (Japan), Hands To (USA), Princess Dragon-Mom (USA), Maeror Tri (Germany), Shida (Japan), Red Gnein Sextet (USA), Speculum Fight (USA), DMDN (Holland), Daniel Menche (USA), Dead Voices on Air (Canada), Deisel Guitars/SIAN (Japan), THU20 (Holland), Kinkakuji/Ginkakuji/Gokurakuji (Japan), Sshe Retina Stimulants (Italy), Telepheroque (Germany), Near Earth Objects (Australia), Loop Circuit (Japan), Hyper Ventilation (Japan), Crawl Unit (USA), Sympathy Nervous (Japan), Iugula-Thor (Italy), Quest (Holland), Pain Jerk (Japan), Skin Crime (USA), Yellow Cab (Japan), Sudden Infant (Swiss), Mariann Kafer (France), Masonna (Japan), Incapacitants (Japan), Mark Solotroff (USA), Meiji Jingu/Ise Jingu/Heian Jingu/Atsuta Jingu (Japan), MSBR (Japan), Onomatopoeia (UK), and finally, Smegma (USA).
“Officially, G.R.O.S.S. stopped releasing products on December 1997. After that, I’m releasing a few Aube titles in very limited quantities on G.R.O.S.S. with other labels or gallery. So, G.R.O.S.S. is a label for releasing my sounds only - now and in the future,” he finishes.
Not only does Akifumi help distribute and release CD’s, but he does package design as well. Most of the Aube releases, which have been included in packages as varied as a bag of water to steel plates, have been designed by his hand and his mind only. According to him: “Almost all…”
What does Akifumi think of the harsh noise artists today and the rest of the scene? Is it heading in any particular direction today, at the turn of the millennium?
“As I’m not listening the harsh noise,” he explains, “ and the rest of the scene already now (since a few years ago), I have no thoughts about them.”
When I questioned him about what we could expect in the future from Aube, if there were any interesting new sound sources he would utilize in the future, his answer left me curious: “I have some,” he said, “but don’t want to tell about it yet, until I could finish it well.”
As for what we could expect soon from Aube in the way of releases on the G.R.O.S.S. label, he did not say anything specific, but only to “expect something new.” Simple words, but perhaps none more appropriate, as, indeed, every Aube release leads one to a new, uncharted place. Be it places as far reaching as the highest reaches of the empyrian to the caverns beneath underneath the earth to the most private recesses of the inner mind, for Aube there are no limits. This artist is definitely one of a kind.