Noriko Tujiko: not merely sweet, cute and aggressive

by Felicity Hughes

N oriko Tujiko meets me in Shibuya wearing a multicolored outfit of clashing greens and reds. On her feet are velvet slippers.

The Paris-based singer and electronic musician is not one to make choices based on others’ opinion of her, and this kind of freedom is the key to understanding why, despite releasing a whopping 11 albums since 2000, her artistic output has never dried up.

Indeed, Tujiko has had a prodigious output of both solo and collaborative projects. Her latest, entitled “Trust,” was released in Japan on March 8 on the Nature Bliss label.

“I started out when my boyfriend bought a synthesizer,” she says. “I played with it and then made the first album really quickly. No confidence problems. Like building with Lego.”

Though Tujiko is often compared with Bjork, this is a misleading tag: her work veers more toward the minimal, starting with several looped passages that build up to become a complex and multilayered structure.

“I really like (Bjork’s) early work, but when I started playing music, I was already too old to be impressed so much,” she considers. “I don’t think we’re so similar.”

For the past seven years, Tujiko has lived in France, where conditions for musicians are different than in Japan. The move was never meant to be permanent, but her partner is French and they have a child together. “I’ve never felt that France is a musical place. In Japan, many people make music, and often they are doing another job to survive, but in Paris it is the opposite. There is some support from the (French) government, so when a person decides to be an artist or musician, they never do another job and they don’t make music often either” she laughs.

The new album is partly a solo venture and partly collaborative. “There are some new tracks and old ones remixed by other people, such as Time, who is Japanese, and Damien Shingleton from the U.K. Now I’m recording with (French musician) Lionel Fernandez. His music is really nice.”

Tujiko’s creative process is fairly straightforward. “Most of my inspiration comes from singing, but sometimes I start with just sounds,” she says.

Her favorite track on the new album is the delicate and achingly beautiful “Kirei.” “I was singing this song to my baby girl, and I called up her father, and he played guitar over the phone, so it was a little family track,” she explains. Singing this song a couple of weeks later at a live show in Shibuya, Tujiko’s eyes swell to twice their usual size and the whole room seems to throb with emotion.

While motherhood has clearly given her new inspiration, Tujiko also states that it has slowed her prolific output. “I’m too busy with my kid,” she laments. “Everything is too slow.”

Despite this, she has recently started to write and direct her own movies. She’s completed two movies to date, “Sun” and “Sand and Mini Hawaii” — which will be shown at Uplink in Shibuya on March 19. Both are atmospheric mood pieces with little action, although Tujiko explains that “Sun” has a plot of sorts: “The sun is dying and it’s really hot. There is one Vietnamese girl who emigrated to Paris. She is cleaning the apartment of a French brother and sister, so they are in the story, too.” Despite telling the story of a poor immigrant struggling to come to terms with global warming, Tujiko is adamant that this is not a political movie about climate change; it’s more an exploration of the different characters involved and how they interact.

As for the future of her music, Tujiko is keen to develop ever further. “I would like to make music with somebody who makes really funky music,” she says. “I never manage to make something really funky. Maybe I don’t have anything in me which is funky.”

Tujiko is also keen to use different equipment and make a whole new library of sounds. “I still use the same equipment as six years ago — like most girls I’m slow to follow technology,” she says. “When I started, I made a lot of samples, but I really want to forget these and instead make new ones.”

By now it should be clear that her music is anything but limited. She describes her style best herself: “I like something that is not only sweet, not only cute, not only aggressive: I like something mixed. I hope that my music can make people discover something. Happiness is not always about ‘whooo!’ ” she says, waving her arms about and opening up her huge eyes even wider.

“Sun” and “Sand and Mini Hawaii” will be screened at Shibuya Uplink ([03] 6821-6821) on March 19.