Coming from Japan, Korea, China and Singapore, four musicians, under the introduction of Otomo Yoshihide, met for the first time in Marseilles to be part of the MIMI music festival. After many hours of eating and chatting, we did some sound checks, and played an improv concert. All that while, no one of us discussed anything remotely related to music, nor deliberated about the direction with which our music performance should be taking. From then till now, the instruments we use, and our sound, individually and collectively, had changed numerous times, but still we had never discoursed nor talked about music.
This is our first release. And it is a live recording taken from FEN’s first and only visit to America in May 2016, under the invitation of the Japan Society (New York). The actual performance was divided into two segments – the first part of the performance, we were each spaced separately around the first and second floors of the Japan Society’s main foyer; the second part of the performance, we played in the main auditorium together. This recording is of the second part of the performance.
It was in FEN’s Oct 2015 Japan Tour, that Chee Wai first started including the electric guitar into his repertoire with electronics, Yan Jun simplified his setup by using just a simple feedback chain, and Otomo using just his guitar, for performance. It was also at that same period that Hankil begun using Max/MSP, by typing improvisational sentences in through his patch to create sound. This concoction of a mix between the rock/jazz dual guitars, electronics and computer noise, resulted in a form that vacillates between traditional melodies to blues chords, where “one possibly takes leads / or without leads”, became the recent iteration of FEN’s sound.
When FEN was formed, Chee Wai used to process sounds he rubbed off the table through the laptop which added to a kind of serendipitous quietude of electronic sound; Yan Jun used a set of complex feedback system and at times, voice; Otomo, in addition to his guitar, had a drum set up, turntables and some electronics; Hankil used a few sets of old grandfather’s clocks, playing with their internal mechanisms. We are undeniably unsure when the next time we meet, what further changes any one of us will make.
In the past 10 years, FEN has on many occasions toured Asia and Europe, and also played a few times in China (in Beijing – Iberia Center for Contemporary Art and 2KOLEGAS, in Shanghai – YuYinTang and Rockbund Art Museum). We are not only musicians. We each individually curate and organise countless events and festivals, all in part to create a wider stage and acceptance for new music in Asia. We had, in the past, managed to receive countless support from friends and institutions, also exhausted a lot of our own energies writing hundreds of letters and documents just to make a concert tour – in addition to an insurmountable process of travel visa applications and possible political pressure – to come face to face with intensive tours and lurking thieves. The path is wrought with difficulties, but it invariably makes making music more meaningful. So this time, in the event of four musicians from Japan, China, Singapore and Korea, meeting in America, performing in a private institution promoting Japanese culture (which also happens to be diagonally opposite the United Nations building in New York), and eventually having a Chinese label releasing the recording, sounds interesting. Or, maybe not, but that is our reality.
As early as 1992, in the liner notes of Otomo’s first ever solo release “We Insist?”, he questioned if there could be a possibility for an Asian music network to be formed – one which transcends national borders against the transnational capitalist greed. Presently, FEN, as well as Asian Meeting Festival / Asian Music Network, are trying to make this network true, by galvanizing and joining up the people and the occurrences of music scenes. We do not need to use music as a tool to convey political thought, but hope that music can eventually be independent of any ideology.
Alluding back to 1992, or before, to postulate a notion that to even have something like this happening, is already a political statement, regardless of how a small, fleeting, contagious, subjectless organism it may be. We hope music lovers can take a little time to know one another, create some noise and listen to each other. Please continue to do what you love.
早在1992年，大友良英就在他的第一张个人专辑“We Insist?”的内页中谈到，是否有可能建立一个跨越国界的，以反抗高度发达的跨国资本主义为目的的亚洲音乐网络。现在，FEN，还有亚洲聚会音乐节／亚洲音乐网络（Asian Meeting Festival/Asian Music Network），正在以人和人的相遇、音乐现场的发生，来尝试这样的网络。我们不需要用音乐来传达政治思想，事实上，我们希望音乐自身是独立于任何意识形态的。要对1992年，或者更早、更广泛的思考做一个回答的话，那么，这种相遇和发生，已经足够去形成一种政治语言，它是许多小型的、临时的交流，也是蔓延的、无主题的有机体。我们希望喜欢音乐的人可以有机会去互相认识，发出一些噪音并且互相聆听，希望每个人都坚持去做自己喜欢的事情。
released December 12, 2018
Otomo Yoshihide > Guitar
Ryu Hankil > Laptop
Yan Jun > Electronics
Yuen Chee Wai > Guitar, electronics
Recorded live at Japan Society New York, 14 May 2016
Concert organized by Yoko Shioya (Japan Society)
Concert production managed by Futoshi Miyai (Japan Society) Recorded by Soichiro Migita
Mixed down and mastered by Yoshiaki Kondo, GOK Sound, Tokyo Photographs by Peter Gannushkin
Illustrations by Ryu Hankil
Designed by Yuen Chee Wai