Enjoy Our New 5-song EP FREE! + Our Next Steps

It’s definitely an 80/20 kind of release, where we just scraped together enough time & effort to get these songs to the 80% point for the sake of quick turn-around.  But the flip side is, we managed to record & release 5 previously unrecorded songs in 3 months.  That’s not bad.

And this release is FREE!  We will not begrudge you a single bit if you don’t even tip us.  Why?

  • At this point in the game, we’re more concerned with having as many people enjoying our music as possible than making money off of our work.  Don’t get us wrong, we do value our work and we intend to make this financially sustainable — but we have our priorities set for now.
  • This is a warts-and-all recording, done quickly by ourselves.  (It didn’t cost us money to produce this)
  • It is perhaps the gentlest and most accessible batch of songs in our catalog.  It should appeal to a broader range of tastes than our more challenging stuff.

So, having released World of No Errors, here are the next steps on our plate:

  • Lyric videos: we will make a lyric video similar to what we did with Bleeding Redwood and The Must-Save List, to at least some of the songs from World of No Errors. August Moon and Ice Burns are likely candidates.
  • Coffeehouse gigs: we will use this EP as an example of our sound and look to book small, casual coffeehouse gigs in the summer.  We’re not quite at a point where we’re ready to put a band together and start playing rock gigs, plus playing acoustic gigs will be great chop-builders for us.  Our priority right now is on building our recording catalog so it’s not like we’ll go on tour or anything, but we hope to line up a gig or two in Mineapolis/St. Paul area simply to get back into gig-ready shape.
  • Next release: Having stuck to acoustic guitars for the last two releases, we’re going to bring back electric and rock harder next time.  It’ll still be an EP but we’ll include darker & more twisty stuff next time.  We’re hoping to release in June-July time frame.  The work is already under way.

We promise to post more updates here on Minnasia.com between releases moving forward!  Thanks for your support, and enjoy World of No Errors :)

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Promised Land Is Here!

We started working on this project back in February 2013.  It’s finally out at the end of December.  We are proud of the music we put together.

First and foremost, we must thank the State of Minnesota for giving us funds to put together this recording.  Bob is the recipient of 2012 Artist Initiative grant and the funds allowed us to work with a fabulous team, a luxury we don’t have yet have on our other projects.

And speaking of the team, here’s the credit listing:

Produced, arranged & mixed by Ari Koinuma
Mastered by Greg Reierson @ Rare Form Mastering

Band recording engineered by Eric Blomquist @ Waterbury Studios, Minneapolis, MN
Vocal & guitar engineered by Ari Koinuma

Bob Yang: vocal
Tetsuya Takeno: drums & percussion
Aaron Fabrini: bass
Daniel Zamzow: cello
Melissa Stoudt: flute
Ari Koinuma: acoustic guitar

Cover photo by Judd Sather @ Studio J Photo, Stillwater, MN

Now, we realize this collection is night-and-day different from the first two singles we released.  But while this wasn’t entirely planned, it is worth noting that Bleeding Redwood and the songs in Promised Land serve as the two extremes of our range, former being the heaviest and darkest and the latter being most serene and classical.  So, the good news is that if you happen to like both material, everything else will fall within these two extremes.  It is our vision that we’ll pursue further fusion of classical and ambitious rock/folk music, and hopefully in the near future we can put together recordings that have those elements all incorporated, instead of leaning one way or another.

We hope you enjoy these songs.

 

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A Donation Was Made from Our November Sales

First of all, thank you to all who donated!

The amount we raised were small — less than $20 — which is understandable considering our online presence is in its infancy.  But we still wanted to report back that we did make a donation of $20 to Doctors without Borders Emergency Fund, which will go to support relief effort in Philippines, or elsewhere if that effort is already fully funded.

To those who downloaded, enjoy!  To everyone else, you can still donate to Doctors without Borders,  and download our music at our BandCamp store.

Donation
Donation
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Get Minnasia Singles in November & All Proceeds to Philippines Typhoon Aid

For the month of November we will donate all proceeds from our two singles to aid the victims of the typhoon in Philippines.  Please spread the word!  You can get them below:

If we are not your cup of tea, you can get this Jars of Clay song and donate, too.

Or you can go directly to Red Cross or Doctors Without Borders.

Please pass the word!

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What We Mean by “Impressionistic” Lyrics

Ari Koinuma here.  As the primary lyricist, I like to refer to my style as “impressionistic.”  But that’s not a word often used to describe lyrics, so let me explain what I mean by that.

Impressionist music, which followed the impressionistic art movement, was a particular approach in classical music where you rely more on the tonal color of chord voicings, timbre of instruments, and more suggestive/atmospheric gestures, to convey emotions, instead of relying on more traditional explicit melodies and chord structures.  Here’s a great description of impressionistic painting technique I found on Wikipedia: “Short, thick strokes of paint quickly capture the essence of the subject, rather than its details.”  Of course, that’s talking about art, but with music, too, the same principle applies — instead of worrying about details and formal structures, you more intuitively splash notes and chords to paint a picture by creating a collage of various impressions.

A great example of this style of writing is the Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus.”

I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.
See how they run like pigs from a gun, see how they fly.
I’m crying.

Sitting on a cornflake, waiting for the van to come.
Corporation tee-shirt, stupid bloody tuesday.
Man, you been a naughty boy, you let your face grow long.
I am the eggman, they are the eggmen.
I am the walrus

On the surface, it’s a just a silly word-play, and the music is equally tongue-in-cheek, too. Unless you stop to really think about what’s being said. They run like pigs from a gun. I’m crying. Sitting on a cornflake. Waiting for the van. Stupid bloody Tuesday. Sure, it’s nonsense. But there may be something else here, too.

My lyrics writing and ideal follow a similar path: I try to create a vivid emotional expression by choosing words that give me relevant impressions, instead of telling more concrete stories.  In fact, I like lyrics with at least some sense of mystery to them — if I understood everything being said the first time I heard the song, that’s one less incentive to go back to listen to it again.

So I choose words based on their sounds (rhyming schemes) and also their connotations.  Taking care to make sure things don’t make too much sense or aren’t too obvious, I keep editing until each line sounds right.  It’s a very intuitive decision, but I usually know when lyrics are good enough to be done — I don’t obsess until every line is perfect.  The ideal is to be rich in imageries that evoke strong and clear emotions, but also leaves a huge room for interpretations and new discoveries.  As a writer, part of the fun is that I am also part of that discovery — I do form an opinion of what the core emotion is, but what each line and word can mean and how they contribute to the whole, I discover new twists and previously unconsidered possibilities long after I finish writing them.

Here is an example, this is one of the oldest songs in my stable that I still pull out regularly:

I see you in the dark room
Painting your own mirrors
I see me in the dim light
In the world of no errors
Sometimes, you feel the need
Come talk to me, come talk to me

I see you in the water
Wondering why you can’t walk on it
All alone in the dark room
You can’t see when you see it
All my nights, all my love, all my drowning seeds
Come talk to me, come talk to me

I see you with the flowers
You touch, but no feel
I see me in the dark room
On the way to the seal
Then you run, you run from me
Can you talk to me? Can you talk to me?

– “The Dark Room”

 

The Dark Room is a wispy folk song, no big drama in this one but looking at the words alone, I sense a lot of longing and growing unease, where the distance between the “I” and “you” seem to widen. The funny thing is that when I wrote the song I didn’t think about what the phrase “dark room” mean to most people — it’s where you develop films! How does that concept play into this picture? I don’t yet know myself.

And here’s a brand new one I wrote this year (2013) — not recorded yet:

Five long years, or eighty more
Can you last a sigh?
Seventeen years of underground
For a month in sky?

Look upon a boiling pot
Can you see a change?
Bit by bit, the water fades
Choking on my range

Significance
Question the worth
Magnificence
Aborts the birth
Will anyone bear me?

Staring down the endless whirlpools
Drown the silence of it all
Is there end to draining of this life?
Stand below the edge of misrules
Soak the strainer of the fall
Did we miscue the call of her midwife?

– “Chrysalis”

This one sprinkles words associated with birth — yet there is a lot of anxiety here, not a joyful, expecting tone.  It probably has to more to do with someone hoping for a rebirth, but in the process, there’s a sense of decay, almost like falling into a quicksand.

With my writing style 95% of songs start with music — my guitar — so it begins with my listening to the gestures and moods of the music and then picking out words that seem to go with it, eventually finding an emotional focal point that can stand being the chorus or the bridge, then filling out the rest of the words.  It is a process and sometimes it takes time and effort, but it’s a joyful craft (even when the piece itself isn’t), as the discoveries and journeys are mine as well.

And it’s terrific to write for a singer like Bob, as he is an excellent editor of lyrics — he can pick up all the places where I’m forcing too many syllables or inconsistent imageries.  It’s a true collaboration, between a writer and a singer (probably not unlike that of a playwright and an actor), trading ideas of how to make a song as good as it can be.  It’s truly thrilling.  Love of meaningful lyrics is one of the bonds that put us together and we’re excited to share the fruits of our work with you.

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Two Recording Projects in Progress

Just a quick note to let you know that we are preparing two very different recording projects right now.  They are different from one another, and also different from the first two songs we released.

The first one is Bob’s one-man mini-musical “Promised Land” which features four original songs.  We received Minnesota State Arts Board grant to create this recording, and while the original musical is in Hmong, the English version of the songs will be released under the Minnasia moniker, as Ari is the producer/arranger/mixer for the project, and he contributed the English lyrics to Bob’s original songs in Hmong.

This recording features a drummer/percussionist, a stand-up bassist, a cellist and a flutist, in addition to Ari on acoustic guitar.  The all-acoustic recording has a serene, classical-like production.  If you’re curious Ari’s Sound Cloud has the rough mixes of the Hmong versions up for a limited time.  We’re in the midst of recording the English vocals and after that, all that’s left is to finalize the mix and get it mastered.

The other project is called “Raw Sessions” and these will again feature acoustic guitar with a small drum kit and an electric bass.  This stripped-down production is meant to serve as quick capturing of our songs, mainly for intimate acoustic/coffeehouse settings.  (though this being Minnasia — it’s still going to rock in its own ways)

Ari’s prepping the instrumental parts right now, we have about 5 songs in progress but many more songs are in the can.  We are excited about these Raw Session recordings, as they are so much quicker to put together than full-production recordings,  yet they will still serve as blueprints for these songs — the character of our songs will shine through.  Oh, and we plan to record an astonishingly different version of Bleeding Redwood in one of these sessions also.

Can’t wait to release these recordings and share our music with you!  To learn when these songs will become available, please connect to us via Twitter, Facebook or YouTube.

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Kicking off Minnasia.com with two music videos

Hello internets,

We are thrilled to launch Minnasia.com with a launch of our two music videos:

Bleeding Redwood is a 11+ minute modern prog rock opus, something of a statement piece for us.

The Must-Save List is a track featured on Ari’s solo album that Bob re-recorded the vocals on.  Be sure to check out the climactic ending.

Both songs are available for download/sale at Bandcamp.

Bob and Ari have been collaborating on and off since 2011, but with these songs are are launching the official moniker for our unit, Minnasia.

In addition to these, we are 2-3 months away from releasing a Hmong/English one-man mini musical “Promised Land” written by Bob.  We will post previews of these songs when they are ready.  These are perfect stylistic contrast from the above two tracks, as they are all-acoustic recordings with cello and flute, very stark and classically influenced.

We have more things cooking in our kitchen — we’ll be excited to share them with you as they become ready.  So be sure to follow us on Twitter, YouTube, et al (Facebook is forthcoming)

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