With the rise in popularity of electronic music, the demand for innovative labels that continue to develop their sound according to a vision increases. Kizen, founded by Romi, has been such a label since it’s inception in 2017. Over the years, the label has captured the hearts of many passionate ambient and deep techno enthusiasts with the extremely consistent quality in releases. We are thrilled to share a mix by the man behind the label; Romi, consisting solely of (unreleased) Kizen music, as well as the very first label interview conducted with the Hong Kong-based artist. Enjoy.
1. Hi Romi, thank you for preparing a Kizen label mix for us, as well as taking some time for a chat about the label. How are you?
I am well, thank you for the honour.
2. Can you tell us what led up to your decision to start a label? Was there something that inspired you to create a label?
It was in Saigon in 2017 when Javier Marimon and I met and became friends. At the time he hadn’t released any music and I came across some of the tracks that he was working on. We had a few jams together and I was very impressed by his style, sound and his incredible abilities with the octatrack. He has this ingenious way of coming up with compositions that have a groovy rhythm, and a good balance of anticipation and unpredictability. It is something special.
A lot of the inspiration came from discovering Javier’s music, and sketchbook filled with doodles. The concept for the label arrived. His designs were playfully simple and cartoonish and they really spoke to me. The music and the art merged together and it felt like the vision for the label was found. The ghost logo was designed by Javier.. According to him, It symbolises a three eyed inexpressive, psychedelic chameleon shaman who broadcasts music through meditation and saturates on colours when doing it. Chameleons are fascinating to me as creatures. The first EP Hoy from Javier included a remix from Fernando Carvalho, another very talented ambient music producer from Spain. ‘Smog’ was a prelude single to the first 12” EP Hoy.
3. The label was created in 2017, how do you feel about the development of the label in the past 3 years, and where do you see it heading in the coming years?
I’m quite happy with how it’s grown organically so far without much planning. I never really went out with a preconceived idea, but just allowed things to develop at their own pace. Javier’s release was followed by that of another good friend, Unjin from Seoul. I was fortunate enough to play at Mystik, one of my favourite clubs in Seoul at the time. I was enamoured with Unjin’s mixing style. His control of the room spoke volumes about his experience with music.. He’d previously produced music for his own project ECI, Korea’s foundational techno label. Upon my request to grace Kizen with a piece, he came up with Hui Gui. This EP contained remixes from Hydrangea and Hypnus records founder Ntogn. The label’s audience began to expand after these initial releases. I started receiving more demos and have just continued creating space for the right music to flow in and out.
I’d like to keep the label’s future open yet allow the essential style, laid down in the first releases, to build momentum.
4. Can you share a bit about the concept of the label and how does the artwork tie into this? And is there a story behind the label name?
Being passionate about nature photography, I wanted the initial artwork to reflect the organic movement of the music within the label’s space and at the same time pay homage to the natural world. Javier has designed the first several artwork series of plants. Now, like an organism, the art is evolving. In the recent two releases, artist Dima Rabik from St Petersburg uses ink and recycled paper to create incredibly detailed hand-drawn works of primal abstraction. His works combine ancient artefacts with Modernist techniques and deliver symbolic ideas which play on various psychic levels. I don’t know where the artwork is heading but it will always remain faithful to nature.
The inspiration for the name Kizen came from Kenya Hara’s book ‘WHITE.’
Kizen is an ancient Japanese word that describes the latent possibilities that exist prior to an event taking place. It indicates a condition which will likely be filled with content in the future. A simple thing, such as a blank sheet of paper, opens up a whole world of possibilities if looked at with the right state of mind.
‘An empty space possesses a chance of becoming by virtue of its receptive nature. The mechanism of communication is activated when we look at an empty vessel, not as a negative state, but in terms of its capability to be filled with something.’- Hara
5. The artists that released on the label are really global, from Forest on Stasys from Latin America, Javier Marimon from Spain and Unjin from South Korea, is this intentional? Do you try to cover artists from all over the world? And what’s your relationship with most of the artists?
The nature of the music and its resonance with the label’s sound is the most important aspect to consider when I decide on a new release. Personal connection and a sense of tribe matter too. I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with some incredible individuals and collaborations have been spontaneous and natural – true Kizen style.
6. You’ve hosted Kizen label showcases all over Asia, could you bring us back to your favourite Kizen label showcase, and tell us a bit about it? And what can we expect in terms of showcases in the near future?
The first Kizen showcase happened in Hong Kong at Ping Pong Bar which is a Gintonería and the spot for stylish sipsmiths and cocktail casualistas alike, making it a great venue for an ambient showcase. The event featured Chris SSG and Ario, founder of Astral Industries, the well loved ethereal and immersive ambient label. It was a successful first event for the label. I was pleasantly surprised by the full house, the vibe created by the artists and the general response of the audience.
The following showcase featured Claudio PRC and Unjin and was held at one of my favourite venues in Asia: Vurt, Seoul. It was an honour for me to play with Claudio, whom I’ve always admired as a DJ and artist. He very kindly contributed a remix to the third Kizen release, Dance of the Kachinas by Winter In June & Vâyu. The third event was organized by Kizen but was actually a collaborative showcase between Astral Industries and Mysteries of the Deep and featured label founders Ario and Grant Aaron. This was held at Ping Pong again and attended by those who truly appreciate ambient and experimental music. We hired a very good sound system for the night and the attendance was encouraging. Both artists delivered exceptional quality, selecting and weaving rare pieces into unique and nuanced sets
The last Kizen showcase was held in a secret dance venue in Hong Kong. This time we raised the tempo and explored the deeper corridors of techno. Ario (Astral Industries) joined us again. As both DJ and curator, Ario shared some fearlessly inquisitive music. Dijilogue, the mastermind behind Korea’s most renowned techno club, Vurt delivered his own quality electronic and Dutch-Vietnamese artist, Van Anh, founder of Isotoop – a moving concept added greater dimension to the proceedings with her own dynamic and energetic choices. Kizen has been blessed to showcase some truly remarkable talents since its inception.
At present, It’s hard to pinpoint when and where the next event will take place but I hope to build on the quality that has been showcased so far.
7. Many labels have been expanding in some way through sub-labels, also to release different styles of music. Would you consider ever starting a sub-label, and if so what kind of style of music would you like to release?
I never really thought about starting a sub-label, however I ‘never say never…’
8. Can you tell us a bit about the mix you have prepared for us?
This mix contains only Kizen releases, and unreleased tracks in no particular order.
9. Finally, any news to share, regarding upcoming releases on Kizen perhaps?
I have received a few interesting demos from various artists in the last few months. I can promise an upcoming ambient album from Adam O’Hara aka The Vision Reels, which is a beautifully produced piece of work containing mesmerising melodies, mysterious ambiences and hints of enchanting voices. It will be followed by Launaea, founder of ‘From a Lost Place’, Colombia, and a remix from Javier Marimon will also be included.