It has been an eventful year for Takahide Higuchi, the artist who records sparse experimental music under the name Foodman (or, in his native Japanese, Shokuhin Matsuri). He’s just returned home after his first ever European tour, though he’ll be back on the road before the year ends, with several stops in North America. This past summer, he released a song via the Mad Decent sub-label Good Enuff, which usually dabbles in multi-layered EDM and trap. Foodman’s “Thicket,” though, threw a curveball at the Diplo devotees, with its copious use of blank space and its samples of snapped twigs. “This isn’t music…” is the phrase that best captures half of the comments responding to the song. The rest of them loved it.
Higuchi credits his success to his work with the New York/Ohio label Orange Milk Records. “After releasing my first album through Orange Milk in 2012, I got various release offers from various labels,” he says. “And the media started to write about me. Orange Milk was the trigger.”
Started in late 2010 by Seth Graham and Keith Rankin, Orange Milk Records was created so that the duo would have a way to release contemporary music that caught their attention. That meant “scouring the internet,” according to Rankin. “When you are just looking through different pages, you’re oblivious to any background information.” Orange Milk never intended to become one of the best American labels outside documenting the Japanese underground scene—but then they stumbled across Foodman.
“We put out his first album when we were getting our bearings as a label,” Rankin says. “We were figuring out what we wanted to do, where we wanted to go. He was part of that.” Foodman’s Orange Milk debut, 2012’s Shokuhin, was a topsy-turvy merger of left-field experimentation and beat music inspired by Chicago juke. “After that,” says Rankin, “we started to get more submissions from similar artists, especially Japanese artists.”
Rankin says the label doesn’t specifically seek out Japanese music, but the two founders do have personal ties to the country. Graham lived in Japan for a large chunk of his childhood and is fluent in Japanese, which made it easy for him to talk to Higuchi about the release. Rankin, meanwhile, came to the country’s cultural output a different way.