In creating his debut single for Cantaloupe Music, artist and producer Rohan Chander drew early inspiration from a documentary about young shut-ins in Japan. The Tragedy of Hikikomori Loveless, recorded under his AIYYER alias with Bang on a Can All-Stars pianist Vicky Chow, expands on themes of isolation into a robust science fiction narrative, contemplating the composer's experiences of body dysmorphia, synthetic identity, and fascination with biotechnology.
Part of a larger work entitled FINAL SKIN, the single merges hyperspeed MIDI sequences and sampled elements with electronic keyboard washes and textures, fully engaging Chow’s performative physicality to create a sound environment with roots in hyperpop, classical, avant-garde improvisation and video game scores, all with references to artists ranging from John Cage to Space Afrika.
The fusion of fantasy and the autobiographical at the heart of AIYYER’s vision gives life to a sprawling lore, with this opening chapter characterizing the “Architect Prince” as a reclusive youth who comes to possess an ancient artifact (in the form of a keyboard) imbued with collective memory and the promise to bionically augment his body. Chow, taking on the role of the Architect Prince, performs gesturally as a kind of archaeological act; she moves to the sides of the keyboard as if trying to rip it open, to uncover “some deeper truth within the relic.”
“Vicky is the Architect Prince trying to build a bio-suit. When she sits down to play, she’s in her castle, playing as this character, this synthesized virtual identity,” Chander clarifies. “There is a lot of self confidence derived from being able to synthesize my own kind of body in a way where I was in control of what I could be, and what I could look like.”