NEW YORK – Seiho Hayakawa knows how to work a room. After his show at Black Bear Bar in Brooklyn — a performance that saw him thrashing his long hair back and forth to electronic beats — the Osaka-born musician takes a walk through the crowd. He chats with the locals and poses for selfies. The overall verdict is that he’s pretty charming.
In fact, the 29-year-old’s charm offensive seems to be working in many areas. Speaking to The Japan Times last week, pop star Akiko Yano also sang Hayakawa’s praises. They worked together on her album “Welcome to Jupiter” last year. More recently, he collaborated with J-pop star Daichi Miura on his track “Cry & Fight.”
When The Japan Times spoke to Hayakawa in 2012 it was for the release of “Mercury” on his own Day Tripper Records label. Since then he has managed to climb the ranks of the country’s independent electronic music scene and, along with Takuma Hosokawa (aka Avec Avec), released an album on a major label as Sugar’s Campaign (“Friends,” 2015). Hayakawa has now released his third solo album, “Collapse,” via Matthewdavid’s Leaving Records based out of Los Angeles. It’s being released in Japan via Beatink.
“The Victor Entertainment label that Sugar’s Campaign is with, Speedstar Records, has a certain color, and Sugar’s Campaign fits that. But as a solo artist, my music is instrumental,” Hayakawa says about the difference between his group and solo work. “I don’t care if my music is released on a major label or independently, I just want it to spread worldwide. Any label that can do that would be great.”
Hayakawa’s global outlook when it comes to music isn’t revolutionary for a Japanese act, but he has been fairly successful in achieving a balance between building a name domestically and overseas. He’s played Cakeshop in Seoul twice, Eurockeennes in France, with PC Music in London and at Low End Theory in Los Angeles. Part of this may come down to sound, he is influenced by the electronic music of Baltimore and Los Angeles, in particular the Brainfeeder scene that includes Matthewdavid and Flying Lotus.
However, though he came up through the Osaka and Tokyo club scenes, Hayakawa says he has found himself a bit tired with them recently.
“There was too much music coming out on SoundCloud and Bandcamp, the scene got stuck and couldn’t progress,” he says. “That’s how I felt, anyway. What I was making was boring.”
Hayakawa adds that he doesn’t think his music is boring anymore, but self-reflection caused him to try and break down his club-oriented sound in order to rebuild it. Hence, the name of the album, “Collapse.”
And “Collapse” achieves this change in sound. Third track “Edible Chrysanthemum” mashes together field recordings, ambient music and jazz, resulting in something that feels like a condensed avant-garde film score.
“There’s an ambient sound, a bird is crying, water …” Hayakawa muses aloud before mentioning that he used both actual recordings and samples on the tracks. It appears, however, that he wants the origins of what the listener hears to remain vague, repeating: “What is real is important, what isn’t real is important.” Once again, there is a “collapse” in how the listener interprets what they hear.
“Deep House” is another standout track, the genre for which it’s named shows its presence but Hayakawa deconstructs it.
“House music is repetitious and predictable, but music should be unpredictable,” he says of the song. “I used some modular synths when making it and they are unpredictable, even when I program them myself.”
Hayakawa’s personal favorite on “Collapse” is “The Vase,” which is also the first single. Listeners who hear it for the first time will note a marked difference from his earlier work, such as “I Feel Rave” from 2013.
“When I created the song, I didn’t have a concept. It just sort of came out,” he says. “After the song was done, I listened to it and the song told me that the world I’m really interested in has no human beings.” Expanding on this idea, Hayakawa reveals a recent fascination he has had with machinery — fax machines, lights and ATMs — but more how they run independently.
In contrast to this image of an artist recording bird calls in natural settings and speculating on a world without people that’s populated by the machines they’ve left behind, Hayakawa still knows how to schmooze. The Miura project, which he co-composed and produced, came about after he presented his idea to an Avex representative after a show. Could this mean work with popular group Exile Tribe is next? “Perhaps,” he laughs, adding that he is currently working on new music for Sugar’s Campaign.
Hayakawa’s next show will be the release party for “Collapse” on June 30. Given his talent for working a room, who knows what new ideas will come out of this one.
“Collapse” is in stores now. Seiho plays with M83 at Studio Coast in Koto-ku, Tokyo, on May 26 (7 p.m., ¥6,500 in advance; 03-3444-6751); and WWW in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, on June 30 (7 p.m., ¥3,500 in adv.; 03-5768-1277). For more information, visit www.seihooo.com.