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2018 Jul 30     
2 Bit Thugs

Some 20 years into his career, the Japanese purveyor of all things mellow and Balearic says his drive to make music is stronger then ever

If you dig dreamy downtempo cuts, picturesque ambience and sun-kissed soundscapes, there's a fair chance that your music collection contains at least one album or EP by Fukagawa Kiyotaka, better known as Calm.

The Japanese producer has kept up a prolific release schedule since making his debut way back in 1997 with a 12-inch single that joined the dots between nu-jazz, breakbeat and leisurely deep house.

"Music is my way of living," Kiyotaka explains via email. "Sometimes life is hard, but sometimes I get surprise gifts from music. Music is a mirror of what I am now. I cannot tell lies to music - I have to do my best for music and be a man of principle."

The 48-year-old's continued desire to compose and produce stunningly beautiful music is inspirational, as is his zen-like approach to life. "I believe in spiritual things, emotional things, instinctive things," he says. "I have to cherish the first touch of making music. Nothing has changed [since I started] - the drive for good music is always the same. Maybe in some aspects it's even deeper than it was 20 years ago."

This continued drive and desire has resulted in the producer delivering a dizzying number of inspired albums over the last two decades, mostly on his own Music Corporation imprint. This month, Kiyotaka returns to action with another full-length excursion, By Your Side. This time around, he's operating out of Hell Yeah! Recordings, a decidedly eclectic Italian imprint that has released some of the best Balearica of recent times.

"I loved the label long before I met Marco, who runs it," Kiyotaka explains. "I love his attitude to music. I feel my music is now ready to be spread worldwide. I think this is one of the main reasons that brought me to Hell Yeah!"

By Your Side is, naturally, another triumph for the talented Japanese producer. With Kiyotaka's trademark positive chord progressions providing a constant throughout, the set slowly sashays between sparkling hip-hop-influenced soundscapes, ambient explorations reminiscent of Young Marco, Jonny Nash and Gigi Masin's Gaussian Curve project, jazz-flecked workouts and slightly more uptempo tracks that bristle with glassy-eyed intent. Above all else, though, it's stunningly beautiful - a reflection, Kiyotaka says, of the inspiration provided by his current surroundings.

"I moved to a new place two years ago, which is surrounded by beautiful nature and lots of sun shining into it," he says. "I made the album feeling the movement of the sun and the change of nature."

Such natural inspirations echo the words of many Balearic DJs and producers, who live to find the perfect record to soundtrack leisurely Mediterranean sunsets. Predictably, many of the Balearic scene's leading DJs - Phil Mison and Chris Coco included - have been championing the album.

"The concept of Balearic is still abstract to me," Kiyotaka admits. "There are so many things I do not understand, so I am still collecting records and absorbing information about it like a sponge. I have never been to Ibiza, so I hope to go over and DJ there soon."

Words: Matt Anniss

By Your Side is out now on Hell Yeah! Recordings






Tags: Calm, Fukgawa Kiyotaka, Hell Yeah! Recordings, Music Corporation, Balearic, downtempo, chill-out, Phil Mison, Chris Coco