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Despite the slowly growing hype around DJ Klock, he arrives at for the interview, not with a label rep, but with his wife, Yuki. At the office of his small record company, Clockwise, he even answers the phone.

His music provides the same sort of surprise too. As his work with new DJ unit Whahakha attests, his deft use of the mixer and turntables is flawless. But though his skills may come from hip-hop and he may have released his solo album on a techno label, his beats have more in common with free jazz than either genre.

And then there is Cacoy, his odd little side project with two members of psychedelic group The Tenniscoats. Their new album, “Human Is Music,” sits somewhere between Young Marble Giant’s stripped-down electro pop and Yann Tierson’s carnivalesque film scores.

“I want to tamper with complacency,” says Klock, waiting backstage at Tokyo’s Liquid Room before guesting on a friend’s set. “For example, the sound of a CD is made up of two tracks: a left channel and a right channel. I started thinking about what would happen if I manipulated only one channel because we take the stereo system for granted.”

Sounds like a true sound-geek talking, but Klock’s approach has more in common with avant-garde theories of performance than mere knob-twiddling. In the 1920s, playwright Bertolt Brecht urged actors to never let the audience get too comfortable, to continually remind them that they are in fact watching a performance. Brecht called it the “alienation effect.”

Klock’s music gives the listener a similar jolt. Much beat-driven music quickly becomes the soundtrack for some other activity, whether it’s dancing or washing the dishes. Klock never allows that. Just when his beats threaten to hit a comfortable groove, they stutter, twist or splinter, re-establishing themselves at the forefront of the listener’s consciousness.

“The idea of manipulating what we take for granted, if you take it to its logical absurdity, makes one think about human nature itself,” says Klock. “For example, what happened to Japan after it lost the war: questions about progress and how progress occurred. Are people in control of progress or a slave to it?”

And this sort of insight is a second jolt: Klock actually has something to say beyond the silly platitudes that litter most interviews with Japanese musicians. This is partly because of his willful detachment. Klock, 29, still lives, records and runs his small indie label from Ibaraki.

Could it could also be his law school education?

“No, I was a terrible student,” says Klock with a laugh. “It’s from talking with my wife. She has studied all sorts of interesting things.”

Klock’s willingness to discuss, or even admit to, the intellectual as well as musical roots of his music may also explain his close connection with DJ Krush, another notably thoughtful musician. The duo collaborated on a special box set that was released in conjunction with Nike in 2001, and Klock is frequently lauded by Krush as one of the best of Japan’s new generation of DJs.

The accolades from Krush are surprising because, on first listen, their style is quite different. Klock’s beats are spacious, sinewy and challenging. Krush still adheres to a hip-hop aesthetic; his choice of materials may be adventurous, but his music remains populist, and beats steady and fat.

“I do really love hip-hop,” says Klock, “and the music I make has a hip-hop background in that I’ve internalized it. The way [this influence] comes out is not distinctly hip-hop. [Hip-hop] ultimately belongs to someone else, to African-Americans. But the tools I use are the same.”

If discovering hip-hop was an epiphany for Krush, transforming the street punk into a turntable artist, then hearing Krush was an equally formative experience for Klock.

“Having listened to music all my life, I started questioning why Japanese culture hadn’t developed in terms of popular culture. I began to wonder, ‘Could The Beatles ever have come from Japan?’ Then I discovered Krush.

“Japan has a real culture of negativity and cynicism caused, among other reasons, by Japan losing the war. But out of this, you get a figure like Krush, a real artist . . . because of his honesty. And that honesty has become valued, has some currency and validity outside of Japan.”

Does Klock have similar aspirations? Certainly in the material sense: He toured Europe last year and there has been interest in releasing Cacoy’s music overseas. But one senses greater ambition.

Aside from enka, DJ Klock observes, Japan doesn’t really have an indigenous popular music culture. Could his goal be to pioneer a new made-in-Japan genre? Klock becomes uncharacteristically sheepish.

“Yeah, it would be OK to say that.”

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.

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