The Voyage to The Higher Self
Pre-order for FC membership: 26th Jan 2022 General on-sale date: 26th Feb 2022
SUGIZO’s collaborated work with a modular synthesizer player HATAKEN.
The duo's first original album, The Voyage to The Higher Self, was completed with a total of seven tracks inspired by the seven colors of the system of seven chakras, the energy that regulates the mind and body.
Using modular synths to the limit, the modulated guitars dance through space in all directions, creating a supreme ambient music.
The "Fripp & Eno" of the 2020s will start in full swing.
SUGIZO has kicked off full-scale collaboration activities with an international modular synth player HATAKEN, and released the duo's first original album The Voyage to The Higher Self as "SUGIZO×HATAKEN". The motif is "chakras," the energy that regulates the mind and body, originating from Indian philosophy, and the seven tracks are synchronized with the colors of the seven chakras, from the first to the seventh. In terms of ambient, healing, and meditation music, this album is a continuation of his previous album LOVE & TRANQUILITY released in 2020, but the production approach is completely different and SUGIZO is moving into a new phase.
Their first collaboration dated back to 2017 which SUGIZO's original album ONENESS M released.
HATAKEN, who was invited as a guest player in the first collaboration on the 20th anniversary of SUGIZO's solo work, next worked on a remix of "The Voyage Home" (which is an important track as if praying for the coming of peace on the last track of the album "Oto" filled with noise like an outrage against the society) for the remix album Switched-on OTO released in 2018, submitting multiple ideas.
Although the track was released as "The Eternity Voyage Remix by HATAKEN," SUGIZO felt that other various versions that were not selected were also very engaging, and he wished to compile them into work.
At the same time, they appeared at many events. They became more active in live performances as a duo.
In 2019, they performed together on stage at the HALF CENTURY ANNIVERSARY FES. celebrating SUGIZO's 50th birthday. "Multiverse Traveler from HALF CENTURY FES." was included in the bonus disc of LOVE & TRANQUILITY deluxe edition and became the first official sound for the two. Starting of this project, SUGIZO envisioned Fripp & Eno. This could be the 2020s version of the legendary ambient duo that Brian Eno teamed up with Robert Fripp almost 50 years ago. For SUGIZO, HATAKEN is a person with whom he can mutually respect not only his musicality but also his spirituality. The album title was chosen in reference to the two HATAKEN-related tracks mentioned above, and the words were associated with travel.
The seven tracks were all based on existing ones by SUGIZO.
First of all, HATAKEN dismantled them into pieces, and boldly rebuilt them by processing and modulating almost all the sounds with modular synths.
SUGIZO, the creator of the tracks, added more melodies and harmonies to the rebuilt version, and the tracks were completed by recording and layering new sounds. The approach is similar to sampling music developed by DJs and track-makers in the 90' but the materials cited are only his own. SUGIZO says that it is as if his DNA is being reused. Such a process has resulted in an album with very unique origins, neither a mere remix nor a complete original.
SUGIZO's guitar sound actually accounts for 70% of the sound material, but surprisingly, it doesn't sound like that when played through modular synths. The sound changes its shape freely- it can sometimes be like the sound of marine creatures, wind, and streams. Phrases from existing songs that can be heard in fragments bring a sense of nostalgia, like the face of someone you met in a previous life, while the chemistry created by the modular synths creates a new impression. It all has been sublimated into a soundscape that is cosmic, grand, and full of mystery. It is also important to note that the analog guitar synthesizer that is currently used in LUNA SEA's concerts is also active in this album, creating a nostalgic yet unknown sound.
To reveal the tracks a bit more specifically, the first track, "Muladhara," is titled to represent the red-colored first chakra at the base of the spinal cord, which is connected to the ground. Ambient but fleshy, this is the most modernized song in the shape of dance music. The second track "Svadhisthana", which represents the second chakra with sexual meaning, projects sensual images. The vibrations of the synchronized music rose as well as the third and fourth chakras rose, and as if shedding the body, the contours of the sound became vague, and the sound approach became more metaphysical. The interesting thing is that all the sounds are electronically modulated, but when they come together, they are not mechanical, but rather give off a truly organic aroma. This album is definitely suitable for meditation, but hopefully it will reach everyone who is looking for healing without being too difficult or lofty.
As a duo, SUGIZO is very ambitious about their further activities.
It will definitely be highly improvised performance, not only recreating the spiritual and ambient worldview created in the album, but also spinning new stories that both haven't seen yet, constantly inspired by the sounds we hear on the spot. The album is scheduled to be released on January 16, 2022 through FC pre-order and on February 16, 2022 on general on-sale. Please immerse yourself in a new musical experience created by a unique process.
Text by Tae OMAE
A member of Japanese renowned bands “LUNA SEA” and “X JAPAN”.
At the same time, pursuing his own unique style of electronic music as a solo artist, he has worked on numerous soundtracks for film and stage. In 2021, restarted the psychedelic jam band SHAG for the first time in 12 years.
He is also known as an activist doing in peace activities, human rights and refugee support activities, renewable energy and environmental activities, and volunteer activities in disaster areas.
Modular synth live performer / Electronic music producer
Exploring new expressions of electro music using modular synthesizers. He receives attention of module makers/artists/fans from all over the world.
Since the 90's he has been performing live at festivals and clubs throughout North America, Europe and Asia, and his duo with Greg Hunter, Wåveshåper, has been highly acclaimed and their work’s been re-released as a boxed CD. Currently he is researching "the value that sound cultivates in the environment".
- 1. Muladtara
- 2. Svadtisthana
- 3. Manipura
- 4. Anahata
- 5. Visuddta
- 6. Ajna
- 7. Sahasrara
Artists show us the way. They are able to keenly perceive things occurring in society that most people are not aware of, and to sense where the world is heading in the future. This does not mean they are prophets, nor can they predict what the weather will be like tomorrow. Rather, they take note of slight changes in the direction of the wind or the course of the river. They thoroughly comprehend what these signify, or reflexively react to them and incorporate them into their own art. Therefore, their artworks come into their true meaning not at the moment when they are created, but when someone views them, listens to them, and discovers their value. In this way, artists create expressions of the contemporary era.
SUGIZO’s album LOVE & TRANQUILITY, based on the concept of a “sound of salvation,” was released in 2020 during the suffering and distress of the COVID-19 pandemic. This ambient healing album has a loving spirit like a gentle remedy for the anger and hatred of that time. Looking back today, many people will likely recognize just how much relief they owe to that album.
In 2022, SUGIZO has started a new, full-scale collaboration with HATAKEN, a modular synthesizer performer he met in 2017. The Voyage to The Higher Self is the first original album from the duo named “SUGIZO×HATAKEN.”
SUGIZO said, “I really enjoyed collaborating with HATAKEN on the album ONENESS M, then I asked him to mix ‘The Voyage Home’ for my remix album SWITCHED-ON OTO (2018). He actually gave me four different versions, all of which were fantastic. I ended up selecting one for the album, but I wanted to share his other remixes with the world someday. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to have HATAKEN remix all of my songs. I ended up focusing on creating a whole album with him.”
These two men certainly did not meet by chance. Many modular synthesizer performers use their equipment as “noise machines” that make use of unpredictable qualities. In contrast, SUGIZO praises HATAKEN for having “a clear sense of the tones wants to create, and working to express these as music.” SUGIZO longed to collaborate with HATAKEN, imagining a contemporary version of Fripp & Eno, the legendary ambient duo formed by Brian Eno and Robert Fripp in 1973.
Since then SUGIZO and HATAKEN have worked together on multiple occasions, including many improvisational live performances. HATAKEN has also provided support for SUGIZO’s solo work. Finally, they embarked on their album as SUGIZO×HATAKEN according to a highly unique compositional process.
First, SUGIZO chooses one of his original compositions, then HATAKEN fully dismantles and reconstructs it. The process is like remixing up until this point, but the most important part is yet to come. Drawing inspiration from the rebuilt song, SUGIZO layers on new melodies and chords. By repeating these steps, the two musicians create a song that is entirely new—something that is not a pure remix, and one that is totally different from the original composition. Yet it is adorned with qualities that unmistakably come from SUGIZO and HATAKEN.
This resembles the DJs and producers in the 1990s who sampled famous recordings from the past to write new songs. SUGIZO and HATAKEN seem to have used an approach that modifies this idea for the contemporary era. In other words, it’s like they’re channeling a spirit—a new musical composition is reincarnated while still retaining memories of its past life (the original song). SUGIZO and HATAKEN did most of this work remotely, without getting together in person.
HATAKEN said, “The first thing I imagine is how to further expand the ‘aura’ from the sounds of the original song. I take it apart, both temporally and in terms of musical qualities, to complete the track in the initial stage, which I pass on to SUGIZO.”
SUGIZO was thrilled by the first song produced by HATAKEN. It led him to a miraculous epiphany: the concept of chakras, the Indian system of physical and spiritual energy points. This became the framework for the album.
“Let’s say the original song is a body. HATAKEN peels away the flesh, leaving only the spirit behind. To put it even more simply, think of the sounds I played on the original composition as a broth. HATAKEN takes that broth and transforms it into a superb soup. I add new ingredients as finishing touches, then HATAKEN simmers the whole thing together. When I listened to the first seven songs from HATAKEN, I hit on the idea of having them symbolize the seven chakras. On the album they are mostly presented in the order he completed them. There was no concept that guided the production of this album—the sounds led us to the theme,” SUGIZO stated.
SUGIZO said he set out on this project to create an album with ambient and healing elements, one that would soothe listeners and inspire spiritual resonance. In that way it is adjacent to LOVE & TRANQUILITY, his previous album. But by linking The Voyage to The Higher Self with the chakra philosophy, a line is drawn between the two, creating a distinctive identity for the duo of SUGIZO×HATAKEN.
Listeners should pay particular attention to the colors of these sounds. SUGIZO’s guitar may call up images of sharp sounds that seemingly rend the air, or that gently drift throughout space. When you imagine HATAKEN’s modular synthesizer, you may think of more traditionally electronic sounds. However, these types of sounds are mostly absent from The Voyage to The Higher Self.
The sounds that compose the seven chakras meld naturally and seamlessly, with no boundary lines between scales and tones, or between natural and electronic sounds. The intervals are outside the framework of twelve-tone music. It is an organic type of electronic music with synthesizer-like guitar sounds. The sounds simply exist; they do not force implications on the listener, but have significance exactly because they do exist.
For this reason, it is likely that individual listeners will feel different emotions while hearing the same soundscapes. They may also have entirely different impressions depending on when they are listening. It seems The Voyage to The Higher Self teaches us that nature and human emotions are this way.
SUGIZO commented, “The majority of sounds on this album were actually played on the guitar. By inputting most of them into his modular synthesizer, HATAKEN transformed them into something you wouldn’t usually expect from a guitar. They may sound like a synthesizer at first, but most of them are guitar. And because we utilized binaural audio on all of the songs, I think you’ll feel enwrapped in sound when you listen on headphones or earphones in particular. This isn’t just to surprise the listener or to try something different; we did it deliberately.”
“I think the finished songs don’t evoke the modular synthesizer. My goal wasn’t to surprise the listener. I wanted to imbue the listener’s heart with sounds that naturally inspire them to open their heart. At the same time, I do think this album may surprise you because it was made using a modular synthesizer via an astonishing process,” said HATAKEN with a laugh.
The Voyage to The Higher Self was finished at the end of 2021 and released at the start of 2022. SUGIZO stated, “Truthfully, I believe this is the music I genuinely wanted to create.”
He concluded, “I have a range of musical approaches, such as the improvisational skills I am perpetually exploring, performances with bands like SHAG, and ways that I embody my ideals as a member of a rock band like LUNA SEA. But I believe this album contains music that was truly born from my spirituality. Of course, while it’s not pop music that will climb the charts, I’m overjoyed that I’ve given concrete form to what I wanted to express for the first time.”
This marks the end of the voyage taken by the artists SUGIZO and HATAKEN to create this album and give voice to our current era. At the same time, we can also say it is the beginning of a new voyage by the listeners, who will explore the meanings of these songs and find answers to them. When a listener discovers the personal significance of these songs, they will likely be able to understand just how SUGIZO and HATAKEN viewed the epoch we are living in.
Text by Yuichiro FUSE