For anyone who missed 2017’s Venice Art Biennale, Studio Venezia was a gorgeous Xavier Veilhan installation that happened to house rare gear (everything from medieval horns and modular synths to a Cristal Baschet and Buchla) and the roaming studio of Radiohead’s sixth man, Nigel Godrich. Joakim was among a select group of experimental/electronic artists asked to make original music before a live gallery audience; others included Brian Eno, Sébastien Tellier, and composer Christophe Chassol.
Joakim didn’t head into the project with any demoes or loose compositions in mind. According to a press release for The Studio Venezia Sessions, his contribution was more about the process itself, asking onlookers “to pick a word, a letter (between A and G), tap a tempo and sometimes choose the instruments that he would play for each piece. The word was translated into a chord using a transcription table Joakim invented. Hence the song titles made of the given word plus the name and origin of the contributor. The music was then mostly improvised, based on those chords, scales and tempi. The recordings were then taken back to New York where Joakim made some light editing and mixed the pieces.”
In lesser hands, this could have resulted in pure chaos. Instead, we’re left with a lovely, cohesive album—a mostly ambient journey through modal jazz melodies, New Age nods, Krautrock keys, mood-altering Japanese minimalism, and deeply felt drones. Not to mention traces of the Tigersushi founder’s background as a classically trained pianist. If this is Joakim flying by the seat of his synths, we can only imagine what kind of left-field LPs he still has in him.