A masterpiece returns.
The last five years have seen the reemergence of a towering figure of electronic music. Through multiple boxed set releases, and a dedicated Bandcamp page releasing unheard works at an unfaltering pace, the work of pioneering cybernetic composer Roland Kayn has reached a wider audience than ever before.
Now, a bedrock work in establishing this reputation is available once more, as Tektra, his overarching landmark work of the early 1980s, is finally restored to availability after decades out of print.
Reissued by Reiger Records Reeks – the composer’s own label, now presided over by his daughter Ilse – Tektra here unfolds across 5 CDs. The new edition was mastered by Jim O’Rourke from a transfer of the original tapes present in the Lydia and Roland Kayn Archive. It implements Kayn’s directions on crossfades and edits as fully as possible, while also reincorporating almost 5 minutes of music previously unavailable in digital format.
Kayn’s glacial, otherworldly electronic landscapes have always been somewhat at odds with the world of contemporary composition his background and training located him within. His rejection of compositional dogma and traditional musical structures eventually led him to discover a source of endless inspiration in the cybernetic generation of material, and the curatorial act of listening itself.
Perhaps this is why Kayn’s recognition is only approaching its zenith today: his work is far from the passive, unobtrusive world of “ambient”, but its embrace of extended duration, drone-like textures, and the exploration of space as timbre are undeniable shared attributes. Today’s most forward-looking musical practitioners – many of whom cite Kayn as a direct influence – have perhaps discovered a similar territory, at the threshold point where mindblowing complexity approaches the overwhelming sensation of true immersion.
A hitherto-unreleased electronic masterpiece from Roland Kayn, singular pioneer of cybernetic music.
Over a period spanning the late 70s through the early 80s, Kayn (1933–2011) issued a quintet of extended works that quietly but definitively redrew the map of electronic music. Informed by cybernetics and a desire to actualise analogue circuitry as an agency in the compositional process, this music adopted a form that can only be described as oceanic, as side after side of vinyl allowed a wholly new vocabulary of electronic sound to find its shape.
In the decades that followed, these multi-LP boxed-set releases became hallowed documents of contemporary music (as well as highly prized collectors’ items). Kayn’s initially subtle influence belied a gradual shift towards the widespread adoption of his ideas and practices in the 21st century, incorporating both the rise in popularity of modular synthesis as a music-making tool, and the huge advancements in machine learning and AI.
Following the recent reissue of ‘Simultan’ (1977) and the first-time release of late work ‘A Little Electronic Milky Way of Sound’ (2009), it was clear that a new generation of listeners and musicians were eager to discover Kayn’s vision in all its vastness.
Kayn's own label, Reiger Records Reeks, has been reawakened by his daughter Ilse, and her long-cherished dream of releasing this music is now finally a reality. Across 10 CDs of immersive audio, expertly remastered by Kayn aficionado Jim O’Rourke, listeners are now finally able to digest Kayn's little-known masterpiece, and to inhabit sonic territory that has waited unspoilt for decades.
Meitei’s 2020 album 'Kofū' was the bold bookend to an expedition, where sounds were first navigated and then subverted in 2018’s 'Kwaidan' and 2019’s 'Komachi'.
All three albums were Meitei’s attempt at immersive storytelling, reimagining moments of Japanese history he felt were being washed away – not least by the unforgiving sands of time – through wistful compositions that stretched across ambient music, hauntology, and musique concrete.
When it came to finalizing 'Kofū', Meitei found he was left with over 60 fully realized tracks, bursting with ideas that fired in divergent, curious directions. Meitei was content with the 13 tracks he had selected. But when it came time to begin his next album, he found that it had been sitting in front of him all along. He realized his work wasn’t over yet.
Meitei sounds right at home celebrating the past he first reimagined in his previous work. The merriment is palpable in its first two tracks of 'Kofū II' – a loop of cheery whistling amidst the clanking of wood leads into strings, cricket sounds and flutes, all united in bustling harmony.
'Happyaku-yachō' is where it comes into focus. Pitch-shifted vocal samples roam around in the crowded sonic field. “My image of this music is that it expresses the vibrant mood of Edo's merchant culture,” says Meitei, “where old Japanese dwellings were densely packed together in a vast expanse of land.” The affair becomes bittersweet as the track leads into the desolate 'Kaworu', a compositional piece lifted from his 'Komachi' sessions – a final requiem to his late grandmother.
The album is bursting with spectral vignettes of wandering samurais, red lanterns, ninjas, puppet theatres, poets, even a vengeful assassin ('Shurayuki hime', known to Western audiences as ‘Lady Snowblood’).
'Saryō' is as elegant and refined as you would expect. It induces stillness in its repetition, with each synth note a brushstroke. It was inspired by a Sengoku-era tea house he once visited, designed by national icon Sen no Rikyū. Meitei tied it to the reaction he felt while poring over the ink paintings in his grandmother’s house. “The decayed earthen walls and faded tatami mats gave me an emotional impression,” he says. “And the cosmic flow of time drifting in the small room. I decided to put my impression of this into music.”
In 'Akira Kurosawa', an appropriately thunderous track, Meitei finds deep resonance in his vast filmography, which drew equally from Japan’s rich heritage and troubled circumstances post-WWII.
'Kofū II' is not a leftovers album, nor is it a straightforward companion piece. In this album, Meitei has his biggest reckoning with the Japanese identity yet. Over the years, he has attempted to peel back what he believes has defined Japan and its people. After seeking answers with three full-length albums, his fourth poses more questions.
If his first three albums inspired a sense of longing – or, perhaps inevitably, fed an irreparable nostalgia doomed to history – 'Kofū II' compels us to reassess our relationship with the past. By constantly looking back, are we ever afforded a clearer present? After capturing the “lost Japanese mood”, where does that leave its country in the modern world? Meitei offers no immediate answers with 'Kofū II'. It forces you to sit with its disparate moods, to meditate amidst the textured fragments.
'Kofū II' will be released on 180g LP, CD and digital format on December 10, 2021 (LP expected to land January 28, 2022) via KITCHEN. LABEL. Both LP and CD format are presented in a debossed sleeve with obi strip and include a 16-page insert with words in Japanese and English from Meitei, printed on premium paper stock with design by KITCHEN. LABEL founder Ricks Ang, and is mastered by Chihei Hatakeyama in Tokyo, Japan.