Japanese techno artist Ken Ishii is among the most innovative, experimental composers in contemporary techno.
Although working in and drawing from a decidedly dancefloor-oriented, Detroit-derived framework, Ishii's exploration of avant-garde compositional techniques like chromaticism and the prominent influence of digital synthesis figures him as strongly deviant from Motor City aesthetic tradition. A Tokyo native, Ishii's work is most resonant in feel perhaps to the work of Derrick May, though the influence of more artful electronic experimentalists like Yellow Magic Orchestra and Haruomi Hosono also figure prominently. Although Ishii has only been releasing music since the early '90s -- recording under his own name for the R&S label, as well as Rising Sun (for ESP), Utu (Plus 8), Flare (Sublime), and Yoga (ESP) -- his 1993 and 1994 R&S works, as well as his Sublime CD Reference to Difference are all benchmarks of techno futurism. Incorporating elements of British bleep and breakbeat techno, as well as elements of the 20th century avant-garde, Ishii's finest work expands on techno's rigid rhythmic structure, wedging in elements of chaos and disruption. Like the Black Dog, B12, and other armchair experimentalists, Ishii's music is often praised by DJs who nonetheless refuse to give his often challenging records much play. Although until only recently unknown in Japan and just a step above obscure on the global techno scene, Ishii's 1995 release Jelly Tones opened his work out onto a larger audience, prompting a world tour and growing repute as compsoser and DJ. In addition to a continuous performance and DJing schedule, Ishii also remixed tracks for Keiichi Suzuki, Tokyo Skaparadise Orchestra, Cova, and Masatoshi Nagase. Sleeping Madness, his first album for R&S in four years, dropped in 1999, and Flatspin followed a year later. ~ Sean Cooper, Rovi