Track By Track: Calm – By Your Side


Since embarking on the musical career he now finds himself 21 years deep into, Kiyotaka Fukagawa, or Calm, has championed an ultra-slick brand of synthesiser-led ambient pop; the sort which sifts and twists its way to the top of the mound of digital detritus, like panning for gold, and often finds virality and acclaim many years after release. His mastery of this Japanese musical aesthetic which has found such popularity on the internet is illustrated in the effortlessly evocative new LP, By Your Side. His eighth, no less. 

Today, we talk intention, as he retravels the various meanders his psyche navigated whilst writing, recording and producing this new collection of tracks. The way he thinks and talks about music is as poetic and floral as his music itself. 

Space is My Place

This song is the first song on the record, and also the first in the making of this album. My concept on this album was to keep each song under six minutes in length. This song, however, I could not shorten, because it needs two parts: the first part has beauty, the second has sentimental feelings. I recorded many vocal harmonies by myself and recorded many guitar tracks by myself. The key to this song is the reverb effect. 'Space' means outside of the earth and inside yourself.

Afterglow and First Star

This song is the main image of this album. When I found the organ melody, I believed this album would be bound to succeed. And now – my favourite thing is to DJ during sunset. Sunset time is amazing but also moments of afterglow are wonderful. This song is a soundtrack for those moments.

Ending of Summer, Beginning of Autumn

I can see many trees and lots of nature from my studio window. I can listen to many cicada singing – so loud. At the end of August last year, before sunset, I suddenly confused the season. I like vagueness on the boundary line of things. The main point of sound is an analogue synth: a Sequential Circuits Six Trak. The melody from this synth has many harmonics. This sound is like insects of summer.

Sky, Color, Passing

This song is also sunset-themed. When I DJ during sunset, the spectacle is different every time. But every time I can see the colour of the sky is changing moment by moment. Most people enjoy the moment of sunset, but before and after that moment is also beautiful and sometimes sentimental. This song will show you these feelings.

Shadows and Lights

This song is the sub-main track of this album. I love taking pictures. Nice pictures need shadows and lights, and our human life has shadows and lights. We have good times and sometimes bad happenings. Both are important. The last part of this song is going to open the door of heaven. 

Mellow Mellow Sadness

This title is inspired from Quincy Jones' classic 'Mellow Mellow Madness'. Groove is important. The basslines are simple but strong, the drums are also simple and groovy. I recorded a wooden trash can as a rim shot. This trash can rim shot is very important. I could put impressive reverb on this trash can rim. Conversion from digital to analogue is important for me.

Shade of Tree

Like 'Ending of Summer, Beginning of Autumn', this is inspired by the view from my studio. There are many trees around my house. In the afternoon, I can see the sunlight filtering through the trees and shadow. My studio has a view. When you walk in the summer, the shade of trees makes you cool down and you can take a rest. Before listening to this album, please take a rest.

Before Landing

You can draw many images from the phrase “Before Landing”. I ran a party called 'Bound for Everywhere' for 12 years. I would DJ from open to the end. Before ending the party, I would feel sentimental and tired. Make it last forever. I love this Japanese sentence: 'Syogyo Mujyo' – Everything has an ending, not forever, so you have to do your best and enjoy yourself. This slow dance groove gives you the sign (chime) that the plane will make its landing.

My Home Town

Most people have a hometown, myself included. My hometown is very very rural – no buildings, lots of nature. Every time I walk to my home from the station, many thoughts come and go; past, future, fiction, dreams, etc. These thoughts are different from when I am in Tokyo. My highlight here is my guitar – dub many times – dubbing many times is important for me. This melody is very bluesy I think. At the ending, you can listen to full instrumentation – especially drum and bluesy guitar. Sentimentality and positivity is the message here.

You Can See the Sunrise Again

I said everything has an ending – not forever, but when you are alive, you can challenge as many endings as you can. The message here is morning will always come. I used many major chords and a few minor chords. The main melody is positive and poppy. This song is the end of this album, but the beginning of a new life for you and me.

By Your Side is out now on Hell Yea Records. Stream and buy HERE.