In another time, Caroline Lufkin could easily have ended up as a chart-topping J-pop star. After graduating from Boston’s Berklee School Of Music, the Okinawa-born artist moved to Tokyo, where she began working on her first album. Her management at the time wanted Lufkin (who performs simply as Caroline) to go down the same road her big sister Olivia Lufkin did. Her path to the Oricon charts was being paved right in front of her.
Instead, Lufkin walked away. Tired of having others twist her music into something acceptable for the Japanese mainstream scene, she struck out on her own. She landed on Brooklyn-based label Temporary Residence, and released her debut album, “Murmurs,” in 2006. The following year she joined the New York group Mice Parade, touring with the outfit and appearing on the 2010 release, “What It Means To Be Left-Handed.”
This January, she released her second album, “Verdugo Hills.” This finds Lufkin crafting minimalist soundscapes that sometimes border on becoming ambient, using dreamy electronics, her voice gorgeously twists through the haze. This sound stems partially by her decision to record “95 percent” of the album in California.
“I lived at the foot of the Verdugo Hills and it definitely created a misty, sometimes gloomy sort of mood on my album,” Lufkin says. “Moving to California was a bit of a shock as I was coming from high-speed cities. California just seemed to move very slowly and there was much more space than I was used to.”
When performing live, Lufkin says she usually can’t re-create many of the electronic elements that make up her songs, so she aims at re-creating the mood of the original alongside her band, which often features members of her family. Her June 11 Tokyo show, though, will be a little different.
“For this upcoming show, my brother, the electronic drummer or MPC player, won’t be available. So we’re trying to adjust to a more stripped-down session,” she says. “Perhaps it’ll be slightly more acoustic.”
Despite turning her back on J-pop years ago, Lufkin now says she finds the stuff fascinating.
“The melodies are not so repetitive like American pop. In Japanese songs, the melodies just keep evolving with little repetition,” she says. “It’s amazing how the mainstream can follow these intricate melodies.”