September 8, 2023 | ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT | By Deck Harper
The previous music columnist, Jan Alfaro, graduated this past spring, leaving behind a record of musical musings and big shoes to fill.
My name is Deck – I’m a guitarist, composer, and rapper of dubious talent, if those credentials mean anything to you. I hope to create a new music column worthy of my predecessor.
Welcome to “Notes from the Flipside,” also known as “earjam the sequel.” Hopefully you’ll learn to tolerate my musical taste soon enough.
Many people live with a feeling that the music they like is “underrated” – unappreciated by the masses, who everybody finds some way to separate themselves from.
I’m skeptical of this approach – isn’t this praise heaped upon every artist who didn’t write a top hit? Yes, even music with millions of views on YouTube seems to acquire this reputation: underrated, undiscovered, etc.
Maybe that’s true, relatively speaking. But I always found it wrong to act as if a million or even a thousand are made lesser by the shadow of a billion. And that’s not even to mention how “underrated” is often used as a substitute for “unknown.”
But, sure. Musicians/music can be “under” in every which way. Underrated. Underpaid. Underdeveloped. Under the endless abyss, never to be seen again.
Few readers may know Kayasho as an artist, yet I don’t think they were “underrated.”
Kayasho was highly esteemed while they were an active artist.
Back in the mid-2010s, I stumbled across a music making app, Auxy, developed by a small team in Sweden, it fully eclipsed every other app I’d used.
Auxians–artists who used Auxy–were united by SoundCloud and a now-defunct forum called Auxy Disco. Auxy was ever-expanding, marking a period of hope for the app’s future. New artists pushed its limits daily, exploring every style of electronic music.
Emerging from Japan, Kayasho produced music that was dazzlingly melodic, energetic, and visceral – some of the most technically complex Auxy music to date in my opinion. It opened my eyes to new possibilities in this app I’d grown so comfortable with. I wasn’t the only one who respected Kayasho – they garnered a reputation as the best Auxy producer.
For Kayasho, this reputation proved to be a curse, not a blessing.
Kayasho spoke of the pressure it put on them and how the music-making process had lost its innocence. Eventually, Kayasho disappeared off the internet, deleting their SoundCloud page and most of their music with it except for a few surviving works on Spotify.
Something I’ve always felt set Kayasho’s work apart from similar music was its fanfare: it manages to have the flourish and demonstrative quality of big band music, without being similar sonically. Despite the passionate “solos” and animated drums, I always heard an underlying dark or even sad quality to Kayasho’s work: like a verdant garden floating on a piece of earth amid an empty void.
Listen to “198X” at around 1:43, for example. Despite its fervor, the melodic line rings somewhat melancholic. It’s filtered slightly out of focus and is continually being pulled down in pitch. These drooping notes are a sustained feature of this song, a kind of dying triumph.
A different melancholic atmosphere permeates “Sherforest.” Everything feels just a hair off. To me, it almost sounds like elevator music trying to escape itself. Like there is some elegant melody trying to burst out of the music it’s currently inhabiting, trying to show the world who it really is, though being held back just a touch.
My favorite of the surviving Kayasho works is “Projection Mapping.” It’s short and vivid, never falling victim to dullness or excess repetition. It manages to create the illusion that it is constantly building up; even when things drop off, there is a hint of lingering tension and potential, all the way to the end, when it cuts off. It’s not melancholic in the same way as “Sherforest” or “198X.” It feels like a real statement of the joy of the craft, and looking back, it feels like a kind of final reminder of the once thriving Auxy community that has dwindled down over the years.
I wouldn’t want to speculate too much about Kayasho, but I feel their music is emblematic of their story – a remarkably talented individual who continually tried to outdo themselves and was undone by this eternal outdoing. When I listen to Kayasho, I hear that spark of creativity and love of the craft. I hear that exhibitionism, I hear pride and insecurity and wistfulness, and echoes of hope. Maybe Kayasho would still be making music if they had been a little more underrated, a little more undiscovered. I don’t know.
- “198X” by Kayasho
- “Sherforest” by Kayasho
- “Projection Mapping” by Kayasho
- Other Auxians from that period: NotMiles, DeCruz, Mr. Anderson, anechoik