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Cuushe by Takao Hashimoto

Exclusive: Cuushe's Kyoto Dream-pop

We premiere the Japanese artist's beautifully intricate, animated video for Airy Me

Dream-pop songstress Cuushe has been combining electronic music with her unique layered vocals and atmospheric sonic landscapes since her first solo project album in 2009. Cuushe is the combined sonic output of multi-talented Mayuko Hitotsuyanagi who works with piano, guitar, synthesizers and vocals in her compositions. Originally from Kyoto, she now performs all over Europe and Asia, inviting listeners to join her in a surrender to hovering realties only accessed through a state of dreaming.

The song “Airy Me” featured on Cuushe’s debut album Red Rocket Telepathy has now been revisited with a delightful new animation video which also features ‘Steamy Mirror’ taken off her new album Butterfly Case. Animator Yoko Kuno has succeeded in synchronizing her own visual language to Cuushe’s music, a music that travels effortlessly inbetween what we feel and what we think we know, as the gossamer textures of “Airy Me” belie a sense of urgency in the music and the animation. 

Dazed Digital: "Airy Me" is taken from your 2009 album Red Rocket Telepathy. How did you go about revisiting this piece?

Cuushe: One and a half years ago, I received an email from Yoko Kuno, the artist who made the ‘Airy Me’ animation. She asked me if she could use the song "Airy Me" as the basis for her graduation work in animation at University. From here, Yoko created the video using 3000 individual hand-drawn illustrations. It is unbelievable and incredibly amazing.

DD: The animation utilises the highly stylised aesthetic of childhood drawings. Having grown up in Japan as a child, I instantly recognised those twinkly eyes! What made you choose these eyes for this piece, eyes which are so closely associated with childhood dreams?

Cuushe: Twinkle eyes are a really charming and important part of Yoko’s visual work. It represents a certain type of innocence.  I didn’t really know what to expect from the end result but I fell in love immediately after watching it!  I read many manga and watch lots of animations but I find that her drawings are so unique!

DD: Your new album released this month is titled Butterfly Case and there are many butterflies in this animation – what do butterflies symbolise for you?

Cuushe: Butterflies are creatures that connect dreams to reality for me. To see a butterfly in your dream can mean longevity, creativity, romance, joy, and spirituality. It can also mean a new way of thinking. I know of a story called "The Dream of the Butterfly” in which the lead character in the story was dreaming about a butterfly. Well, they thought they were dreaming. When they wake up, they are actually not sure if they are still dreaming about having a dream.

DD: What was the inspiration behind the colour palette used in "Airy Me"? Is it related to the tones within the music itself? Do you dream in colours?

Cuushe: The colours are subtle and hazy, just like in a dream. When I dream, the colours aren’t too bright, they appear soft and subdued, a wash with memories and visions of the future.  I have never dreamt in black and white.

The video was created by Yoko Kuno using 3000 individual hand-drawn illustrations. It is unbelievable and incredibly amazing

DD: What was the thinking behind the video’s elliptical narrative?

Cuushe: The prologue is set in the past.  In a hospital, a doctor is doing mysterious living-body experiments. A nurse runs to a tree and eats an apple from the tree, but when she opens the apple there is a worm inside.  Humans made the apple.  This represents the idea that the place is still under the control of the doctor who is carrying out these experiments. In the main part of the animation the patient is being given an injection everyday and when she receives her final dose, her nose turns into a switch. Upon pressing the button, the young girl turns in to a chimera. Even though she may be a chimera, she still has human heart. What’s going to happen to her? This is the main theme of the video. Is it a dream? Is it real? Where am I? Who am I? These are things I think about when I watch this animation.

DD: This video starts with a shattering of glass - an escape - what is the character running away from?

Cuushe: The animation is set in a hospital that carries out experiments on its patients. The nurse, who represents repression, is running away from the girl who has turned into a chimera after being given experimental drugs. The girl is fighting against the people that are doing this to her.

DD: You moved to Berlin a year ago, how has this affected your relationship to your own music? Is there a bit of Berlin in your new album Butterfly Case?

Cuushe: Yes. Almost all the songs for my new album were written in Berlin. I didn’t have much free time when I lived in Japan, but now that I’m in Berlin, I could spend more time making music and creating more experimental work.  I feel much closer to my music now.

Butterfly Case will be released on September 23rd by flau.