NHK - Program

LINE_069 | CD + Digital | Edition of 400 | February 2015

Rough stripped-down rhythmic interactions and noise form NHK’s distinctive work. Minimal yet jarring, unexpected, and rich, Program is post-post-techno-machine sound. Strictly artificial.

Program is NHK’s first full album and first release on CD.

NHK is a collaborative project initiated in 2006 by Japanese artists yx koyxen (Kouhei Matsunaga) and fm™ (Toshio Munehiro). Both artists live and work in Osaka, Japan.

Mainly as a side project of prolific producer Kouhei Matsunaga (who is working under many different aliases such as NHK’Koyxen, NHKyx, Internet Magic, Koyxen), they started making experimental dub techno with a more raw and harsh edge to it. He has collaborated with artists including Merzbow, Jungle Brothers’ Sensational, Autechre’s Sean Booth, Mika Vainio, Conrad Schnitzler, Asmus Tietchens, Ralf ‘RLW’ Wehowsky, and more. His own label Flying Swimming was founded in 2002 with the main purpose being to publish and curate events of experimental contemporary music and art.

As a duo NHK they have released the NHK EP on Raster-Noton (Germany) in 2008, the Special EP on Important Records (USA) in 2009, and a split 12″ with SND on PAN Records (Germany) in 2012.

nhkweb.info

REVIEWS

A collaboration between Kouhei Matsunaga (who has worked with everyone from Sensational to Autechre and Asmus Tietchens) and the less prolific Toshio Munehiro, NHK’s ultra minimalist approach to techno may conjure memories of the late 90s/early 2000s glitch and microsound scenes, but their combination of erratic beats and digital expanses feels anything but dated, sounding entirely unique and fresh in 2015.

I have always had a soft spot for that short lived era that was often full of derided laptop musicians and a style that was akin IDM taken to an even further point of abstraction. So when the glitch claps and broken AM radio house synth stabs of "Ch. 2" locked into a tight groove I was pretty thrilled. On "Ch. 6" the duo works with similar components but into a more microscopic click beat framework. Made up of a series of interlocking loops, it has the essential repetition of dance music while still building and evolving the whole time to be anything but monochromatic.

Those two make for perhaps the most conventional rhythms and sounds that NHK put together here. Beats show up in other places as well, such as the wet gymnasium basketball thud of "Ch. 1" or the simple analog synth-like thump of "Ch. 3". An unconventional bit of rhythm underscores the skittering noises and simple melodies on "Ch. 5", resulting for an exceptionally strong combination.

The beat oriented pieces may be the most memorable in a conventional music sense, but when the duo abandon that and go completely into experimental sounds it is no less fascinating. Shrill noises and weird open ambient moments in "Ch. 4" are offset by speaker decimating low end drones that are as easily felt as heard. On "Ch. 8" the two string together a series of electronic hums and the occasional bit of jarring digital interference noise with a backing of what could pass for a rhythm, but is made up of a bizarre collection of tiny sounds that could just as easily be extracted from field recordings as they could be the product of extreme digital signal modeling.

One of the thing that makes Program succeed so well is Matsunaga and Munehiro’s diversity in composition. Minimalist robotic techno, ambient space and electro-acoustic compositional vibes all appear throughout, keeping the song to song progression diverse and varied, but while still sounding consistently and thematically linked to one another. The genre that is most befitting this album may not be as prominent anymore, but Program is as strong as any of those albums ever were.
(brainwashed.com)

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Music is unconscious of the world. Even pop music, even in experimental music, it does not change. Music that can be a art, I say only by this one point. In this early part of 2015, two works have been published from Sound Art label LINE of Richard Chartier are Sound Art albums to reaffirm strongly that: Koenraad Ecker's "Sleepwalkers in a Cold Circus" and NHK's "Program."

The track names of this work are unified as all "Ch.", highlights the anonymity... Bare glitch noise and beat abstracted herein is to achieve 100% of the electro-acoustic sound purity. How to take bursts and silence is wonderful, treble noise that was the poultry is addict to ear. Also, beat / rhythm feel even tame like somewhere funk music to (recall the music of Aoki Takamasa). So to speak digital noise funk, such as a fluorescent lamp flashing. But at the same time, and he has won the unstable noise / sound image fluctuations of as contact of a faulty outlet. Sounds like a spark of electricity explodes and its crackled is exciting, a sense that all of the ground is shaking like an earthquake. Here I felt a strong modernity. Sound, composition, rhythm, noise, and fluctuation, vibration. And this is the sound of modern digital music... This work is also a "post-punk" modern.(else-king.net)

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If you have ever asked yourself what could be beyond the so-called post-techno, you could find one of possible answers in the sonic rocky ridges that NHK... explores on this interesting release on Chartier's LINE. Both the names of the release - "Program" - and the titles of the ten tracks - all of them have been titled by means of the shortening of channel ("Ch"), followed by their ranking on the tracklist expect of the ninth "channel" which got named "Ch10" - mirrors the fact that NHK is also the name of the notorious publicly owned Japanese national broadcasting organization. Most of tracks seem to crack simple house structures up by short-circuit currents which bring its building blocks to their embryonic stage, but there are some moments when a sort of anticlimax of these primordial electric entities surprisingly spring out such as the agonizing engine that resounds from the deep emptiness of "Ch4", the noisy wart that rises from the ticking time bomb of "Ch5", the entrancing vent-like floating noise on the mechanical pulsations of "Ch6", the vacuum-packed low-frequencies and the clipped infiltrations on "Ch8" or the cryogenic abstract-dub of the final "Ch10". NHK's entity could maybe occupy some recess of the post-post-techno zone, but I think you could encounter life-forms even beyond this seemingly inaccessible place.
(chaindlk.com)

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NHK probes the outer limits of techno with the structural tests and stressed tones of 'Program' for Line. Located farther out than his recent dancefloor assault for Diagonal, this album gives room for the Japanese artist to really home in and dissect biting frequencies and minimalist patterns for the more insatiable, exploratory listeners. The result is nine scratchy and buckled techno misshapes hingeing on cracked syncopations and processed with canny electro-acoustic techniques recalling the spacious dynamics of his former collaborator, Pan Sonic's Mika Vainio, and the meter-wrecking spatter of Russell Haswell, coupled with the visceral computer tones of CoH. Wicked, in all senses of the word.
(boomkat.com)

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Formas sintéticas en trayectos esquematizados, fragmentos de ruido esparcidos en un plano extenso, puntos aislados conectados por medio de una rítmica compleja. NHK, dualidad sonora que estructura organizaciones auditivas en desintegración. Durante los últimos años han aparecido unas cuantas piezas de esta formación esporádica de electrónica artificial, registros esparcidos en trabajos breves. Ahora, luego de varios años es publicado su primera obra más dilatada, colección de sonidos formales que comparten una misma apariencia disgregada. “Program? es un álbum en el cual formas abruptas se insertan en una dinámica ordenada, rastros agudos de ruido cortante... Nueve tracks, ritmos marcados y fragmentos ínfimos que se inmiscuyen entre las hendiduras eléctricas, “Program? son ecos digitales que forman estructuras sincronizadas, un conjunto heterogéneo de patrones regulares y trozos aguzados que se intercalan en las superficies desiguales. yx koyxen/ Kouhei Matsunaga y fm™/ Toshio Munehiro construyen una serie de composiciones en las que parece que eventos aleatorios se despliegan dentro de una mecánica precisa, figuras geométricas que constituyen sonidos complejos. Ruido y patrones exactos, distorsión y cadencias perfectas, colisiones constantes que generan piezas de electrónica discrepante. NHK lanzando objetos sobre un suelo pedregoso, materiales minúsculos que se enfrentan entre sí provocando detonaciones acústicas. “Program? es un cúmulo de polución mineral que se arrastra por la superficie sintética, trozos de sonido arrojados en la métrica incesante, desde las frecuencias y los golpes de energía disonante de “ch.1? a las ondas destructivas de “ch.10?, pasando por el techno fabricado a partir de elementos que emigran de su centro en “ch.2? o las texturas rugosas de “ch.6?. Habitando en un terreno abierto, Kouhei Matsunaga y Toshio Munehiro diseñan sistemas de sonido en los que confluyen miles de objetos y detalles irrepetibles, fisuras auditivas sobre un paisaje confuso. “Program?, fracturas acústicas generadas digitalmente por NHK, formas matemáticas imprecisas y electrónica fragmentada.
(hawai.wordpress.com)

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NHK is the duo of Kouhei Matsunaga (whose Dance Classics trilogy as NHK’Koyxen on the inimitable PAN imprint is to die for) and Toshio Munehiro. Program is their first full-length, following a smattering of EPs and a split 12-inch with SND on PAN. That Matsunaga has collaborated with Mika Vainio in the past is of no surprise, as the sounds on this release are eerily reminiscent of those of Pan Sonic, the Finnish electronicist’s former duo with Ilpo Väisänen. Matsunaga and Munehiro play Victor Frankenstein in a sonic laboratory, creating a virtual monster of machine music with just a hint of human soul to keep the proceedings from venturing too far down the cerebral rabbit hole. Shards of razor sharp noise assert themselves between barely existent beats and hollowed out waveforms, which serve to blunt the edge of the digital extremism. The music is both attention-grabbing and listenable.
(Decoder Magazine, secretdecoder.net)

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After Roden & Bretschneider’s slightly too abstracted Suite Nuit, another release with just Ch. 1-10 as the tracklist (no Ch. 9…) got my madness radar bleeping. It only took the second minute of NHK’s Program for it to be bleeping completely in sync with said alarm, glitchy cracked repetition and all. It doesn’t surprise me that they’ve released on Raster Noton and done a split with SND, that’s their scene right there.

NHK is a duo of Japanese noisers Kouhei Matsunaga & Toshio Munehiro and, as the title suggests, Program is unashamedly digital music. It’s staccato, sharp loops of isolated noise spectres, pushed so far into sterility that it becomes another world of (a)tonality. These two are saying ‘let the world of analog be warm and organically nuanced. See if digital cares’, and they’ve got a point. The resurgence in classic synth music revival is perhaps more Jarreing and eventually nauseating when compared to the breadth of texture available to the digital music, where artists can easily build custom instruments to suit their needs and completely break apart what it means to make music.

Apparently they are distant nephews of the dub techno godfathers, and it shows through in their soundscapes. Usually the experimental electronic lot do away with reverb, because simulating natural spaces is like SO lame. But these guys have embraced it as part of their heritage, dub delaying their way through 6/7 minute loop epics such as ‘Ch. 6’. What an underwhelming way to refer to tracks. “WOW CHECK OUT CHANNEL 3 MAN?.

Tracklist aside, this is a great expose of the possibility of machine music and its place in the 2015 music scene and beyond, and proof that you don’t have to do away with meter to make weird shit.
(normanrecords.com)

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killer excellent work!!!
(mediations.jp)

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Comme toujours on ne sait pas vraiment à quoi s’attendre lorsque qu’on clique sur le bouton triangulaire mais on se doute que ça va être bon. Le suspense ne dure pas longtemps et les impacts ultra-réverbérés servis en entrée laissent présager la suite des évènements dans un martellement étrange et accidenté. L’album installe rapidement un tempo déstabilisant dans des cycles d’environ 8 minutes constitués par des travaux bruitistes entrecoupés de courtes sessions rythmiques. L’ensemble passe très vite et se révèle redoutablement efficace. Le développement des morceaux se dessine sous des airs d’improvisations parfaitement maîtrisées sans pour autant fixer de direction précise. Sentiment particulièrement présent dans une deuxième pistes troublante qui ne donne pas l’impression d’avancer, parfois même de reculer avant de nous perdre dans une temporalité autre. Voici sans doute le point le plus marquant de cet album, NHK parvient à nous dérouter avant même qu’il soit possible de le remarquer grâce à une finesse d’écriture subtilement cachée sous des matériaux pourvus d’une rugosité digitale qui les place à l’exacte frontière entre trop propre et trop sale. NHK écrit le temps, NHK écrit l’espace et trompe notre audition à de nombreuses reprises, lorsque qu’après seulement 30 secondes de lecture nos oreilles se prennent un premier saut dans la face ou encore tout au long de « ch.6″ dont les mouvements aspirant l’oreille forment le coeur. L’album se finit sur une track dubissime, lourde, lente et grasse., l’histoire de ravir les amateurs de gros subs qui tâchent. Tout le monde est content ? Parfait, la lecture est déjà terminée. Que cela ne tienne, c’est peut-être mieux ainsi. J’aurais apprécié un quart d’heure de rab mais cette durée lui convient bien, elle lui donne ce goût des bonnes choses un peu trop brèves que l’on se plait à retrouver aussi souvent que possible.

Program est une véritable réussite qui paraît inépuisable, réécoutable à maintes reprises avant qu’il s’en dégage une forme de lassitude. Sorti chez Line, c’est aussi l’occasion de s’attarder sur un label regorgeant de petites pépites – Koenraad Ecker, Frank Bretschneider + Steven Roden pour les dernières en date. Merci Les gars!
(just-experiment.fr)

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Kouhei Matsunaga works under several aliases (mostly variations/combinations of the names NHK and Koyxen), but NHK proper is actually a duo project, and this is their first full-length album. It continues Matsunaga’s explorations of abstract dub, hip-hop and electronic rhythms, as well as harsh noise. The tracks here typically have a minimal, repetitive beat laced with harsh feedback, being pushed far into the red and embracing clipping and distortion (especially at sudden moments). Many of the tracks have constant tempos, but on “Ch.4″ it’s slow and spaced out, so when beats sporadically arrive they feel like attacks. The skipping dub rhythm of “Ch.6″ is less abrasive, but still coated in static. “Ch.8″ goes down a long tunnel of a simple repetitive click which changes tempo a few times and harshly jabs noise bursts into the speakers. “Ch.10″ has the most coherent hip-hop-influnced rhythm here, recalling Matsunaga’s work on labels such as Wordsound. The album offers a fresh perspective on combining minimal rhythms and noise, in even different ways than previous work by the artist.
(theanswerisinthebeat.net)

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Une post-techno expérimentale extrêmement escarpée, minimaliste et à géométrie variable, qui a le mérite de détonner dès la première écoute. Pourtant, et c’est peut-être la véritable plus-value de Program, on se rend vite compte que ce disque est en réalité entièrement articulé sur un mode de composition électro-acoustique. Il nous semblait bien qu'un disque hébergé sur l'excellent label Line de Richard Chartier se devait de réserver son escarmouche. Un travail rugueux sur le matériau digital, qui en modifie le grain selon la force de l’attaque, qui peut autant faire péter les infrabasses sur un kick fonctionnant à l’inertie qu’alterner les silences et les drones signalétiques pour mieux enchaîner sur de la grosse rupture noisy. Un disque court (trente-cinq minutes) mais labyrinthique, qui change en permanence son angle d’attaque pour varier sans cesse les hauteurs, en s’assurant de boucler ci et là des séquences hypnotiques qui tournent ad nauseam. On pense souvent aux travaux de Gescom, de Ryoji Ikeda, de Frank Bretschneider, de Russel Haswell ou d’Autechre (version Untilted), habiles dans leur manière d’amener de la percussion à un ensemble déconstruit quoique vivant, d’altérer les formes et de provoquer une réaction épidermique, tout le temps. Un vrai grand disque d’electronica signalétique bien perchée. Un disque de japonais, donc.
(goutemesdisques.com)



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