Sunday, July 10, 2016

Risaikuru - combining music and photography

An evolving photography and music project.

In 2013 I visited the town of Onagawa in Miyagi prefecture Japan which had been badly damaged by the earthquake and tsunami of 2011. While there I also took a trip to the small Island of Enoshima and made a brief visit to the city of Ishinomaki . I took a lot of photographs, a few video clips and some audio recordings, I wrote a lot more about my visit in older posts on this blog. 
After returning home I wanted to combine the photographs I had taken with a Longstone music project and the Risaikuru album was the end result. Initially I had wanted to produce a photobook with an accompanying CD soundtrack even producing a few copies of a dummy photobook.  However the project evolved and became a musical interpretation of two specific photographs and was eventually released as a limited edition vinyl LP package including prints of the images and a CD. Many more photos were included in a PDF booklet available as a download when the album was purchased.
After the album was released we performed the music live at several concerts in the U.K. and the London performance was recorded and later mastered for CD release. In addition a selection of artists including ourselves were invited to remix and rework tracks from Risaikuru and produce a complete new album project. In 2015 I was able to make a return visit to Onagawa and see how the town was being rebuilt and during this visit took a trip to the island of Kinka-zan. This became the title of the remix project and photographs from this 2015 visit were incorporated into the artwork and booklet for the new release. 
Please click on the links below to listen to the music, see more of my photographs and read the booklets that came with the releases. 
All photos on this blog can be clicked once or twice to view in full quality.

Onagawa manhole cover photographed in 2013 cast with an image of Umineko seagull the cries of which I recorded and added to the music on the LP.

Enoshima Island seen from the ferry returning to Onagawa in 2013
A recording of the ferry's engine during this journey was incorporated into the music on the LP.

Risaikuru has been  an ongoing project mixing photography from my two visits to Onagawa in Miyagi prefecture Japan in 2013 and 2015 with the music I produce and perform with my friends in the group Longstone.

An extensive PDF booklet with photographs from Onagawa and Enoshima plus essays explaining the original Risaikuru project can be downloaded here 

The cover art for the original Risaikuru LP and digital album designed by Steve Moody. 
The  background photograph taken in 2013 in Onagawa shows detail of soil created by the recycling  of tsunami rubble. It is one of the two photographs included in the LP package which were interpreted by the musicians contributing to the recordings.

You can listen to the album or download it free of charge at this link, the vinyl LP is still available to purchase here as well.

To create the music for the Risaikuru album each musician was given two photographs, one from Onagawa and one from Enoshima then asked to independently produce some music or sound inspired by the photographs. These recordings were collected together and edited into the final music.

Chris Cundy who was one of the members of Longstone contributing to Risaikuru has made his demo recordings available as a mini album. To listen to or download his interpretations of the photographs please check this link

This is the Onagawa nuclear power station photographed on the ferry to Kinka-zan island in 2015 I also passed and photographed the power station on the way to Enoshima in 2013. 
When the Risaikuru remix project was first proposed we created this track which uses some pieces of dialogue from a news report discussing why the Onagawa power station was not damaged by the huge tsunami as happened at  Fukushima.

In November 2015 we performed the tracks from the Risaikuru album live in London and the show was recorded for CD release. It was decided not to use photographs for the artwork of this CD and instead the sleeve was designed entirely by our friend Steve Moody 

The original Risaikuru album was released on London record label Linear Obsessional run by Richard Sanderson. Because of the themes of recycling and reworking explored by the project and the way in which the music on the LP had been constructed Richard suggested inviting other artists from his label to remix or rework the tracks to create a new album, in addition Longstone would also produce some new remixes to add to the project. 
As the tracks started to be delivered to the label I visited Onagawa again and was able to see how the town was recovering two years after my initial photographs were taken. 
The town was being rebuilt , re-imagined and redesigned by the people who chose to stay on after the tsunami . I also visited the island of Kinka-zan to see a rare festival take place and it was this peaceful mountain like place with it's shrine surrounded by trees that inspired the title and imagery used for the new CD which once again was accompanied by a PDF booklet containing photographs and essays.

The CD was packaged with the live album and three photographic prints of Onagawa and kinka-zan for a very limited edition release.
You can listen to or download the music with the booklet at this link

Police , Shinto Priests and festival participants gather for the opening ceremony of the antler cutting festival on the grassy slopes of Kinka-zan Island, October 2015.

The view from the observation deck of the newly opened Onagawa railway station looking along the nearly complete shopping street that runs towards the harbour, October 2015 .

By contrast a similar view in 2013 taken a little further back just behind where the new station stands today 

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