s a k i 夢 – 夢の中で失われました
Saki the Fish is the aquatic friend of Kai Beckman and the namesake of the s a k i 夢1 project, which seeks to evoke the dreams and experiences of a betta fish. According to an e-mail exchange with Smirk Sounds – through which タンクの装飾 was released – Beckman’s inspiration comes from watching Saki twirl about in his tank. He and Saki “dig through tunes online for several hours”, and then Beckman “chart[s] down how he reacts to each song”. Beckman only includes the tracks and samples that Saki specific responses, such as “moving towards/away from the speaker or dancing rhythmically”. He then adds “basic pitch-shift, phaser, delay, reverb, [and] chopping […] occasionally I’ll add in my own beats and layers”. Since Saki’s full name is the Japanese name Misaki, Beckman stresses that the usage of Japanese letters is not for the sake of aesthetics but for a better representation of Saki’s thoughts.
In Beckman’s own words, s a k i 夢 is “kind of a weird project”. However, its eclecticism has certainly had an influence on vaporwave culture. s a k i 夢 found more than a few homes on several distinctive labels, and many of these labels have gone on to release other albums that are at the very least inspired by the ideas of aquatic soundscapes. There’s the aforementioned Smirk Sounds, but there’s also Pizza Beast, Neetspeak, Sea of Clouds, and Bedlam Tapes. The concept of “fishdream” (Beckman’s tag for the early s a k i 夢 albums) influenced the creation of Tetra Systems – of which Saki is stated as being the label owner. These albums often feature aquatic imagery with heavy layers of reverb and phasing over classic-style production, as if the songs are being played underwater and muffled as a result.2 Additionally, there’s the Aquatic Airlines 1 compilation of fishdream that featured contributions by khoven, PowerPCME, Korean Air, TDS, and Hantasi – not to mention s a k i 夢.
夢の中で失われました3 is the debut of the s a k i 夢 project. Released in March 2016, it underwent several reissues on physical media: cassette and CD in September 2016 through Bedlam Tapes, and an edition of 100 vinyl in March 2017 through Tetra Systems to celebrate the album’s one-year anniversary. The vinyl (which is also available as a digital download) removes two tracks from the Bedlam Tapes release. “4夢: タワー” was removed due to copyright issues, and the nigh-sixteen minute “6夢: 免れる” was removed due to length. “4夢: タワー” is also unavailable on the Bedlam Tapes release; it can only be found on the official web site of the s a k i 夢 project. The Tetra Systems version also renumbers and retitles the tracks to make the numbering of each of Saki’s “dreams” consistent. Finally, the Bedlam Tapes version features an additional five-minute bonus track titled “ボーナス：フローティング”.4
Saki’s debut is best described as a mixture of vaporwave, downtempo, and breakbeat. The foundations of 夢の中で失われました are certainly in the first genre by way of Beckman’s sampling techniques, but the result of the editing process makes them sound more like dreampunk via their soft tones and warm melodies that give the impression of light shimmering through water. Each track has a languid but lively quality to it, with tracks such as “1夢: 日の出” inspiring activity without being busy. Several tracks make use of some complex, repetitive percussion, akin to trip-hop music. Notable examples are “2夢: 青い山脈” and the semi-lo-fi nature of “6夢: 免れる”, with the former living up to the breakbeat influence. The short interlude “（…目覚め）” is a drifting ambient track that floats along to “アウトロ: 魚のフレーク”, which is the most obviously sampled track with its acoustic bossa nova guitar. Finally, a bit of IDM pops up on the Bedlam Tapes bonus track “ボーナス：フローティング”, which recalls early Autechre works like Incunabula.
The s a k i 夢 project is highly recommended for anyone interested in experimental music where the difference is in the concept. How many other albums out there can say that they were partially composed by a fish? Despite being released by human hands, 夢の中で失われました is an album that evokes aquatic ambiance, and Beckman has the musical wherewithal to accomplish such a task in an intriguing and delightful manner.
1. イントロ: 新しい家 – (2:20)5
2. 1夢: 日の出 – (5:42)6
3. 2夢: 青い山脈 – (8:13)7
4. 3夢: シティ – (9:15)8
5. 5夢: 見通し – (6:13)9
6. 6夢: 免れる – (15:47)10
7. （…目覚め） – (1:2911)
8. アウトロ: 魚のフレーク – (2:30)12
9. ボーナス：フローティング – (5:00)13
4. 4夢: タワー (5:54)14 [exclusive to self-released version]
1Japanese translation: “saki dream”
2The best place to start with fishdream (other than 夢の中で失われました) is with forgotten time by 被遗忘的时光.
3Japanese translation: “I was lost in my dream”
4Between the three versions, I recommend going for the Bedlam Tapes release simply because it has the most tracks. You can also download “4夢: タワー” from the s a k i 夢 website and merge it with the Bedlam Tapes edition. All of the physical editions are sold out as of this writing.
5Japanese translation: “Intro: New house”
6Japanese translation: “Dream 1: Sunrise”
7Japanese translation: “Dream 2: Blue Mountains”
8Japanese translation: “Dream 3: City”
9Japanese translation: “Dream 5: Outlook”
10Japanese translation: “Dream 6: Escape”
11Japanese translation: “(Awakening)
12Japanese translation: “Outro: Fish flakes”
13Japanese translation: “Bonus: Floating”
14Japanese translation: “Dream 4: Tower”