Flau marks its 10th anniversary with a burglary, some toilet paper and a commitment to atmospheric pop

by and

Contributing Writers

Yasuhiko Fukuzono is in good spirits but is tired. He spent a late night with the police after the offices of his record label, Flau, were ransacked. Again.

The first burglary happened in July and the second came in mid-September. He lost instruments, computer equipment, CDs and valuable merchandise.

A few days later, Fukuzono tells the story of what happened on Flau’s website, adding a surprising detail: Police have since arrested Akihito Saito, known to electronic music fans in Japan as Ametsub.

It hasn’t been a great way to celebrate the label’s 10th anniversary, but Fukuzono, who also records under the name aus, says he is trying to look for positives.

One positive he may want to reflect on is Flau’s own success. After launching in late 2006, the label quickly won a following both in Japan and overseas. Fader Magazine put it on a list of “Twelve to Watch” back in 2013, and it has drawn talent from a variety of places including Japan (Cuushe, Crystal and Noah), England (Submerse) and Germany (Henning Schmiedt).

The label is currently showcasing its aesthetic side at a small exhibition at Tsutaya’s luxurious book store in Tokyo’s Daikanyama neighborhood. The exhibition includes artwork, CDs and records by artists, and merchandise. The idea came about after fans of the label who work at Tsutaya reached out to Fukuzono and suggested doing something to mark Flau’s 10th anniversary, though Fukuzono says what resulted is less an exhibition and more of an artistic pop-up.

People who know Flau may be familiar with the cat-branded tissues that are handed out at concerts. On display at Tsutaya are also branded sweatshirts, slippers and toilet paper.

“When CDs are delivered to us by the factories, they are always piled together in a way that makes them look like toilet paper,” Fukuzono says when asked where he got the idea for the merchandise. “I also thought about how paper is crucial to the recording industry so I wanted to create something connected to that. Of course, if you want to flush the past 10 years down the drain and just start over — you do that with toilet paper, too”

Most of Flau’s merchandise, which was designed by Ryuto Miyake, has a sense of humor in mind. The slippers were based on the idea that Fukuzono wanted something non-Japanese people could wear in a Japanese house, since shoes need to be left at the door.

“I thought we could make people comfortable, from their ears right down to their feet,” he says with a laugh.

Flau is known for its ambient, soft sounds — both electronic and instrumental — but the recent trend in Japan is toward EDM and brash, highly produced pop music.

“Ten years ago, I think people liked fragile music,” Fukuzono says. “There was a time when people didn’t just enjoy perfect-sounding music, but also imperfect-sounding stuff. Recently pop music has become huge, so some people may have come to think that our sound is boring because it’s not dynamic or powerful.

“To me, music is personal. I like having time alone with it. I think Flau’s music suits that and I think there’s still a place for that in people’s lives.”

Fukuzono pauses for a moment, taking in what he’s just said.

“I like the kind of music that you can listen to while you wear those cat sweatshirts and slippers in the bathroom.”

Flau10 Retrospective 2007-2017 takes place at Daikanyama T-Site Books in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, through Oct. 8. For more information, visit www.flau.jp.