Ryuhei Asano, or “Lee”, is a Japanese artist who is damn ungoogleable. Attempts at searching for his new album, “( u _ u )”, either send me to HTML tips or, when including Lee’s name, Chinese restaurants.
Lee’s new album, if nothing else, showcases the young artist’s abundance of personality. Listening to the album feels like reaching into a part of Lee, especially thanks to added touches like individual drawings for each of the tracks by Lee himself.
Of the 23 short, erratic tracks on the album, “0.00” is a good example of Lee’s ability to deliver a metamorphic groove. It is everchanging, constantly morphing and producing alien clicks, bloops, or distant snare hits. Vast, sampled flutes (flutes?) become the backbone of the track, sprinkled intermittently with choppy clips from Japanese film. Each measure bends and contorts, almost as if to break free from the last.
We have perhaps been over-saturated with “instrumental hip hop”, and just one look through the tag on Bandcamp or Soundcloud will tell you just how many people are doing it. Although Lee may tag his music rather modestly with words like “beat tape” or “chill hiphop”, it’s hard to compare his music with other artists using the same Bandcamp tags. While much of the genre may be filled with lifeless samples and looped audio, Lee’s music consists of complex textures and cut-and-paste samples that display much of Lee’s personality. No two measures are exactly the same in “0.00”, and it feels like it’s able to worm in and out of the confines of traditional hip-hop.
“( u _ u )” is a promising work, and in a style of music that is often so stagnated and devoid of character, Lee manages to make instrumental hip hop both charming and personal.
Buy his new album, “( u _ u )” on bandcamp.