When the people at the Berlin-based Samurai Horo label asked Yu Asaeda to contribute to a compilation they were putting out, they got more than they’d bargained for.
“I must have sent them about 20 or 30 tracks in total,” says the Tokyo-based producer. “And then they were like, ‘Do you want to do an album?’ ”
Working under his Ena moniker, Asaeda has spent the past eight years crafting a singular brand of bass music. Whether they’re operating at the tempo of dubstep — as on last year’s fine “Bilateral” album — or the more rapid pulse of drum ‘n’ bass, his tracks retain a fractured, twitching energy, like they’ve just been roused from a fever dream.
“I want each sound to be unfamiliar — to use sounds where you’ve no idea how they were made,” he says of his production techniques. “Everything starts from scratch.”
“Binaural,” the sprawling new Ena album, is the product of some serious dancefloor experimentation. Asaeda is a regular at Back to Chill, the monthly dubstep party started by producer Goth-Trad in 2006, but he’s also begun to pop up at techno events recently. His sets draw mostly on his own productions, and wherever he plays, he’ll be probing the audience, testing how far he can push them before they give up and head to the bar.
“I’m always treading a fine line when I DJ,” he says. “There are easier ways of getting a crowd worked up, but if I used those I’d just get bored.”
He credits the consistently dark mood of his productions to a formative obsession with the “smoky” abstract hip-hop of 1990s producers such as DJ Krush, DJ Vadim and Kemuri Productions — a taste that he shares with Goth-Trad. But it also helps to balance out the music he makes at his day job.
When he isn’t haunting the Tokyo club scene, Asaeda produces tracks for TV commercials and J-pop acts. (He declines to go into any details, but let’s just say that some of the acts in question are big enough to play at Tokyo Dome.)
“It’s like two sides of a coin,” he says. “And with that (commercial) side, they’re really only interested in upbeat music.”
Yet when asked if he’d consider performing at next year’s Ultra Japan, the Grand Guignol of commercial dance music, he can’t resist. “I’m curious,” he says. “I’d be interested to see how my music went down at an EDM festival… It’d probably clear the floor, but on the other hand people might end up getting really into it.”
Promoters, take note.
“Binaural” will be in stores on Nov. 13. Ena plays as part of the Red Bull Music Academy edition of Back to Chill at Club Asia in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, on Nov. 6 (11 p.m. start; ¥2,500 at the door). For more information, visit www.soundcloud.com/ena-iai.
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