ESP are the LA-based trio of Aska (Keyboards/Vocals) & Meiya Matsumiya (Keyboards/Electronics) and Bobby Evans (Drums/Electronics). They’ve released only two EPs so far; the 627 EP, a mix of their track 627 and three remixes of it; and their latest self-titled EP, which marks a definitive exploration of their talents for the first time.
Listening to the seven-minute wandering ballad, 627 (which appears on both EPs), delivers an insight to their sound. However, this is their idea of an accessible pop-infused tangent where most of their other ideas escape towards obscure impulses, strange synths and layered magnetic imagery. Pop-infused, in the ESP sense, is just a way of explaining the use of hooks in an atmosphere which doesn’t necessarily compliment vocal use at all, but Aska Matsumiya conquers this magnificently. Even though 627 is a complex dynamic of infinite electronic nuances and disparaging rhythm changes, the beautiful vocal manages to soar in compliment of these aspects and in many ways binds the array of sound.
I put it to vocalist Aska that having a first release that’s so long was quite a bold statement: “I guess it is irrelevant if we are putting a seven minute long song out as our first song. But I don't really know what we are "supposed" to do in that sense. [It was] just what felt good to us.” And really it’s quite evident that their music is organically formed. Sounds appear as though they are escaping rather than being forced into the atmosphere; taking intriguing and fantastical whims that emerge and disappear instinctively. Speaking of the track, ESP, she said: “We believe in letting the song lead us where it needs to go and we've experienced that when we try to force something out of it, it seems to fail.”
ESP, meaning Extra-Sensory-Perception, is the perfect explanation of their sound. That said, there are yet many intricacies of their character to explore. Their roles within the band seem clearly defined, yet the sound manages to remain unrestricted. Their impulses are vastly creative, but what each member tends to create in his/her own way is clearly definable: “I think we each offer what we lack on our own. Both Seiya and I come from a classical music background but he also studied programming at Berkeley so he does lots of sound designs and programming; electronic stuff that I have no idea how to do. Bobby Evans comes up with all the beats and also lots of soundscapes and I come up with lots of melodies and harmonies.”
ESP becomes an encompassing experience. Their expansive music is one dynamic but they also explore ideas of visual performance. I asked her about the importance of visual performance with their music and the production of their video for ‘Serenade’ and Dublab series: “It’s done by Alexandra Pelly, who is pretty much the fourth member of ESP. I see lots of sound visually so it is important for me to fulfil both visual and audial experience for myself, and to share that with everyone else. ESP visuals are not necessarily what I visualize for the sounds that I come up with alone but collectively that is the visual we share as a band. Bobby Evans is also a visual artist and he designs all of the ESP flyers and our merchandise.”
Their latest EP was recorded live, something which seems less of a decision and more of an occurrence. The energy that is subsequently portrayed through the speakers grabs the attention and wishes you to participate. When asked about her own emotional experience of the music Aska replied: “It sways depending on what I am going through at the time. But I am always seeking to express as purely and directly as I can through music every day,” an intent which is gloriously fulfilled. There is no emotional or social filter to the songs of ESP. It is effectively a direct expulsion of the mind into sound, and that’s the experience they wish you to have in return.
Discussing whether they ever had any intention to place their music in a genre or group, she responded: “I don't think that is our intention but we do hope to make people dance more with our album.” The vagaries of such an answer are actually quite an adept insight. The intentions are rarely, if ever, to consider other people’s relationship with their music. They clearly want you to be involved but the creation of it has only to do with their emotions and experiences at the time. I questioned whether she had an idea of what she wanted the band to sound like before they began: “ESP birthed like a love child. It just happened. Oops…” And also how their ideas came to form: “When we are having fun and jamming together. For me, lots of ideas come when I take a walk,” and it may seem a tenuous connection to how such creativity generates but these are honest expressions of people who embrace their art. Aska Matsumiya summed their inspiration up perfectly: “It forms from different experiences; LOTS of different feelings and visions, sometimes undefinable they just choose to come to you.”
In many ways this could be described as some kind of fate for a person, after all she admits: “That's all I have ever wanted to do was to play music since I was 3,” and sure, we’ve all heard that before from some talentless and deluded soul on the X Factor, but here’s the difference - beyond talent or any other facet of ability – it’s the connection in an undetectable but profound emotional sense. Aska remembers: “I played a Chopin piece with an orchestra when I was eleven. I practised the piece for hours and hours every day and that was the first time I felt different emotions take over me and I tried to express as much as an eleven year old girl could.” She continued: “I don't really have anything else… besides music. On a selfish level it fulfils me more than anything and I can deal with heartbreaks because every heartbreak gives me a great song… at least that's what I tell myself to feel better.”
ESP are a multi-faceted experience rather than just a band. Their music happens to graze upon genres but never confine itself to any simple description. While being gracefully artistic in nature they also happen to be experts at conveying what they feel through their music. They don’t rely upon any one individual to define their sound and, rather, it’s their willingness to submit themselves to their collective instinct which defines them. Without necessarily conforming to any ideals of musicianship you feel theirs is a journey of discovery to explore their strange impulses and embrace the individuality of their sound.
ESP Recommend: YMO, Lee Scratch Perry, Die Antwoord, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Brian Eno, SBTRKT, Nina Simone, Snoop Dog, Rachmaninov, Buraka Som Sistema, Panda Bear, LUCKY DRAGONS.
ESP’s self-titled EP is available from their Bandcamp page:29 September, 2012 - 10:12 — Matt Bevington