Henry Kawahara has been called “the Jon Hassell of Japan”, but upon closer inspection one finds that his work operates on very different terms. Like Hosono's forays into computerized Ryukyu folk “sightseeing music” or Tsutomu Ōhashi's Ecophony trilogy, Kawahara's world projected ancient musical traditions and notions of cultural identity onto the modern digital plane through a fusion of cybernetic thinking and pan-asian cultural introspection that makes Western attempts to do the same seem quaint in comparison. Kawahara's omnidirectional sound “illusions” were constructed not as albums but psychological experiences, billowing with a then-nascent notion of early 90s cybernetic spirituality that was proliferating on both sides of the Pacific as the hyperlinked state of global connectivity we know today was just beginning to crystalize. Through digital representations of folk instruments, shifting MIDI sequencing and custom binaural recording technology he aimed for psychoacoustic effect as much as artistic, all via a countercultural form of distribution untethered from the commercial expectations of post-bubble modes of artistic production.
This EM collection draws out the best of his fruitful early-mid 90s period into a revelatory sequence, generously opening Kawahara's world to all. —Spencer Doran (Visible Cloaks)