There has been a so-called “netlabel” scene in Japan since the late 2000s as well as overseas. Maltine Records is one of the most famous netlabels in Japan, which was founded by two then high school students in 2005. Specializing in the contemporary dance and electronic music producers, they’ve released over 170 singles or eps including ones by dj newtown (a.k.a. tofubeats), TORIENA, Pa’s Lam System, パソコン音楽クラブ (Pasocom Ongaku Club) etc..
When Hakushi Hasegawa released his first ep アイフォーンシックスプラス (iPhone Six Plus) from Maltine Records, he was only 18 yrs old. Although every song from the ep had a very delicate and complicated tonal or rhythmic structure in it, his voice was so smooth, sweet, soft and soothing. Unlike the label’s previous releases, the ep was not particularly for a dance floor. But his kaleidoscopic groove inevitably invited listeners to dance, even if you couldn’t figure out its time signature. Since then, Hasegawa has been considered one of the latest talents from Maltine Records.
But he soon underwent the next breakthrough. In November 2018, he announced his second ep, 草木萌動 (So-moku Ho-do), would be released in December. The title was taken from the traditional Chinese calendar which had been also used by Japanese people, meaning “when trees and plants begin to bloom”.
This word properly explains Hasegawa’s music, I think. While his debut had sort of post-internet feeling in its title and artwork, the music was rather erotic, physical, and pseudo-organic. Influenced by contemporary classical music and jazz, he wove up complex harmonies, repeated key changes, and the polyrhythmic groove to make a rhizome-like structure under the ground. Then his voice soaked into it like rain watering plants and their roots. On the surface, plants were coming into buds, almost blooming, shaking themselves.
As he keeps on making songs and playing lots of shows, he’s studying composing at a university now. One can easily recognize his knowledge of the musical grammar particularly 20th century’s avant-garde in his songs. But his uniqueness is that he’s capable of writing pop songs with those idioms at the edge of the academic discipline. Along with his past works including 草木萌動, his recent collaboration with 入江陽 (Yo Irie) and BOMI is a very good example. I wish he would gain more attention and write some chart-topping tunes someday.