Kaho Matsui didn’t record and release music until three years ago, but the Portland artist’s discography has already grown to epic proportions. Her Bandcamp page averages one release per month, and her stylistic breadth is staggering, from ambient music based on field recordings to rave music with dizzying drum programming.
You’d be forgiven for seeing this prolificacy as a way to make up for lost time, but the 26-year-old sees all of her work as part of a continuous thread that reflects the events of her life at the time the music was created.
“I take it as a diary situation,” Matsui says. “I don’t spend more than a week on an album because I want it to be like, this is what’s happening right now.”
Among this thick cloud of albums, EPs, singles, collaborations and one-offs, her new album, No more losses, highlights. It’s her first album of 2023, which runs 45 minutes and is full of collaborations with other musicians in her circle of friends and beyond.
Although guest density may seem like a way to establish No more losses as something of a marquee release standing above the shorter, more jokey projects he’s come across on Bandcamp, there’s a reason for its collaboration-heavy approach that ties in with Matsui’s diary style.
“I’m trying to move out of Portland by the end of the summer,” Matsui says. “And then I think if I move and then something happens and I miss it. I’ve cut a lot of ties with people since I moved here. I would like to not lose more things – material objects or interpersonal relationships.
The idea then was to make a record with friends. Come and See features artists Kevlar Wedding Dress, Snairhead and Wyatt Murphy, all of whom are roommates of Matsui’s girlfriend.
“They’re all great musicians,” says Matsui. “If I move at the end of this year and I haven’t recorded music with them yet, it becomes like a situation of, hey, sometimes we have to record music and we’re all empty. So I wanted to make a basic memory, I guess.’
Among the album’s nine credited features, the name most people familiar with the world of experimental music will recognize is that of More Eaze, aka Mari Maurice Rubio, the Austin-based artist known for her eclectic catalog and use of violin, to create a one-person orchestra, as she does on lost“I want to leave now.”
“I looked at [Mari] for so many years, so it’s kind of surreal that she’s like, ‘Oh, I’ve been listening to your music, it’s amazing,'” Matsui says. “And I’m like, ‘No way.’ And then she says, “We have to collaborate.”
More Eaze’s music has been defined as “emo ambient”, after the style of rock music that emphasizes emotional expression. Matsui also feels a kinship with the term. Although Matsui says her music is more “emo in the way I present an idea, not directly referencing emo music”, her guitar playing is influenced by the thin style introduced by Midwestern emo bands such as American Football.
Yet to listen to Matsui’s music is to engage with almost everything that entered her ears during her 26 years on earth. Matsui was born in Japan into a musical family; her mother was a piano teacher and her brother is a “prodigy” with a jazz degree. Growing up, she enjoyed metal and electronic dance music, both of which still influence her work.
“Things like metal and EDM have a very cut and clear ‘here’s where it builds up, here’s where it falls off,'” she explains. “I love this, it’s one of my favorite things. I love a drop.
In elementary school, Matsui and her family moved to San Jose. When she turned 18, she moved to Portland and got a grueling job at Legacy Emanuel Hospital cleaning operating rooms and playing “raw noise music” shows whenever possible.
“Working at the hospital I made a lot of money and I was like, oh, this is great, I should be really happy with my life,” says Matsui. “And I was doing really bad.”
This routine defined Matsui’s early days in Portland: playing gigs, working long hours, shuttling back and forth between Oregon and the Bay Area. “I had no friends, I did nothing but work,” she said. She quit her job around the same time a group of friends from the Bay Area came over for a rave and stayed at her house.
“We talked a lot about making music, and a lot of the people who stayed at my house were in bands or recording projects,” she says.
Some of these friends were part of a label called Norm Corps, for which Matsui made several records – incl S/Ta tribute to Norm Corps co-founder Paris Alexander, aka Golden Boy, who died in 2021, and reveled in the kind of sped-up, polyrhythmic rave music that makes up most of the album.
With the support of his friends and plenty of time to create music, Matsui had a revelation: This is what I want to do. She still does, and by the time you read this, she’ll probably have two more albums out.
“I want people who listen to my music to understand that this is all that’s going on,” says Matsui. “And if I don’t play music for two months, nothing just happens.”