Review: Ken Ishii – Malfunction Manipulation

Ken Ishii is back with Malfunction Manipulation, a release to prove that accidents happen but that they can be turned into something remarkable. The Waveform Transmitter’s Léa Ben Saïd takes a listen.

Ken Ishii is undeniably one of the most innovative and experimental composers of his time, but came on the scene at a time when Japan was not quite ready for his unique signature yet. He started putting music out on great labels such as R&S since 1993, but the Japanese producer took the world by storm when he was asked to compose the official theme song of the 1998 winter Olympics in Nagano, gaining the title of being a symbol of modern Japanese culture. To this day, he has released a total of 68 records and ‘Malfunction Manipulation’ is his most recent one, and completes his collection perfectly.

This release is born from Ishii‘s idea that ‘interesting musical pieces derive from malfunctions of machines or musician’s irregular deeds. It’s usually not controllable, but if you can control it you would be able to rule this music world’. Interestingly enough, his work showcases once more his mastery over his instruments. It sounds like nothing is left to the uncertain, but that everything is measured precisely to create a very detailed and precise piece of music.

The title track, ‘Malfunction Manipulation’, is slow-building and flirts with electro. The beat is ominous and the distortion appears to be stretching the track to the max, with sounds almost getting to the breaking point, before being pulled back into the tight pattern of the track. 

The remix by Funk D’Void follows up and is fairly similar to the original in principle, while not actually being so, so much. Indeed, the London-based producer chose to highlight the more melodic and ambient side of Malfunction Manipulation’, in order to create a completely different atmosphere. Although this interpretation could be questioned after listening to the original, it works so well that there is nothing left to do other than enjoy. 

Finally, Greencross’ remix is closing the 3-track EP. The version presented then is once again very different from the original, and the previous remix for that matter, but stays true to it nonetheless. The Venezuelan producer created a harder track with some acid tonalities, a harder edge, and topped it up with some game-like, 8-bit, sounds for the nostalgia. A great way to finish off the release.

A remix release is already in the works, set to hit the stores in summer 2018. Remixes of remixes? Interesting, we will see. In the meantime, you can check the EP out below.

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