Why I Love: Passepartout Duo on Environmental Japanese Music

Passepartout Duo have recently released their debut full length album, Vis-à-Vis. The album is a truly wonderful piece of art, on many levels. The music is stunningly hypnotic and the physical LP version was designed by artists involved in the 798 Art District in Beijing.

In a first for our Why I Love column, Passepartout Duo have chosen to share their love of a genre; Environmental Japanese Music. This article serves as an introduction to this genre and its influence on Passepartout Duo.

Haruomi Hosono Reissue Series Announced | Pitchfork
Haruomi Hosono

Ambient Japanese music from the ‘80s, sometimes called Environmental Music, has faced an unprecedented revival over the last few years thanks to a resurgence on YouTube and to labels like WRWTFWW and Light In The Attic. This alongside the work of Visible Cloaks’ Spencer Doran has brought this music to the attention of so many more people – including us.

We were about to embark on our first tour in Asia and preparing for an upcoming collaboration in Japan when we first encountered the music of Midori Takada and Haruomi Hosono. We immediately fell in love with their albums, MUJI original background music and Through the Looking Glass.

Coming from a contemporary classical background, trained to play minimalist music for percussion, and often valuing a sacred sense of nostalgia that some music can evoke, this music spoke to us with such clarity. Once we arrived in Japan, these pieces instantly became the backdrop for our own experiences in Nakanojo, the small onset town in the mountains where we stayed for two weeks.

Recently, we’ve come back to this music, trying as an exercise to transcribe and perform some of these old works that perhaps were never meant as performance pieces. In the process, we’ve learned so much about controlling synthesizer timbres, and about how these pieces may have been created in the studio. These works really seem to influence our ideas in our own music about a sense of space and a choice of sounds.

One of our favourite sets of pieces are the work’s that MUJI commissioned from Haruomi Hosono when their stores were first being opened. Those pieces especially embody what, at the time, was a radical vision of MUJI to create “no brand” products. MUJI proposed objects for the home that would make people feel “this is fine”, rather than something branded or competing with all the space around it. We feel the music does the exact same thing: it doesn’t ask for anything, and it moves at the same pace as everyday life.

Too much music asks too much of us: to feel things we don’t feel, or to dance when we don’t want to. We don’t think this music asks anything of anyone – it is “fine”, and that is what is so special about it.

After discovering Hosono and Takada, we moved on to dig into the work of other artists from the same period. Inoyama Land is our obsession of the moment – they are also a duo and perform their music live on synths, still now, which we find very inspiring. Besides this, their album Danzindan-Pojidon has some gorgeous artwork and packaging, giving a full picture of this beautiful Land that you should really take a voyage through yourself!

Many thanks go to Nicoletta Favari and Christopher Salvito, Passepartout Duo, for their thoughts and words on Environmental Japanese Music. Every time we feature an artist or band on Why I Love they throw up something new or unexpected; this article is no exception.

Be sure to listen to Passepartout Duo’s Vis-à-Vis below. You can support the artist via their Bandcamp page.

Passepartout Duo: Official Website / Facebook / Instagram / YouTube

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