The hushed ambience of Ex Confusion

by Patrick ST. Michel

Special To The Japan Times

As the summer of 2014 came to a close, Atsuhito Omori found himself in a good position. The Nara-based artist who records ambient music as Ex Confusion had released an album titled “Flow” through buzzed-about New York label Orchid Tapes. Artistically, however, things weren’t clicking.

“I was having hard times,” he says. I was making music as always, but it wasn’t going the right direction.”

Putting together his fifth full-length, “Last,” took a long time, but Omori had some friendly help from Stephen Wilkinson, better known by his moniker Bibio. Omori had been in contact with the English artist signed to Warp since 2013, and the two spoke frequently.

“He was very kind. Even when he was busy working on his music, he gave me advice,” he says. “That changed how I view my life, and I found what I was missing.”

“Last” arrives on Nov. 23 and features 12 songs of melancholic acoustic guitar and keyboard ambience, sounds that overlap and slowly morph into each other. The album carries an intensely private air to it, a reflection of Omori’s writing approach wherein he puts image and emotion first before crafting music.

It’s a refinement of his approach to ambient, which he has been exploring as Ex Confusion since 2010. He quit playing in a traditional band in favor of trying to capture the same feeling as one of his favorite artists, Chet Baker.

“His music is very emotional and moving and I wanted to be an artist like him,” Omori says.

All of his work — including “Last” — is recorded in his bedroom. “My room is located by the road and it gets loud every time a car passes by. So I had to record parts at night, when everything gets quiet,” he recalls. “Sometimes I record when my dog sleeps on my lap, which was my favorite time to do it.”

That atmosphere comes through on “Last,” an agoraphobic collection where acoustic guitar peaks through thick synthesizer patterns (“Voices”) and certain numbers sounding as if they were recorded straight to cassette (“Lilac in July”). Yet Omori always locates a sense of longing within.

“I think I’ve only done three or four shows since I started,” he says when asked about taking these bedroom numbers into the public. “I know it’s always nice to meet people, but I’m too shy and I get very nervous when people are standing in front of me and watching.”

Omori says despite this preference, he hopes to take “Last” on tour soon. And he is already working on his next album (“This one won’t take two years to finish, for sure”). But he’s also cherishing what he has learned from the tough stretch leading to his latest work and the assistance he got from Bibio.

“I realized how lucky I am to have such good friends,” he says. “Nothing would have happened without their help.”

“Last” is in stores on Nov. 23. For more information, visit