Rinzen ponders new worlds to help understand & appreciate our own with bewildering interplanetary voyage, ‘Exoplanet’ [EP Review + Interview]
Rinzen is traversing through the interplanetary realm at light-speed with his latest conceptual EP Exoplanet.
Rinzen’s undergone a most sudden awakening — seen through his continual creation of compelling sonic narratives — embodying the English translation of his Japanese moniker in the process. With a visceral pursuit of progressive house and compelling techno undulations, Rinzen’s music highlights the creative powers behind storytelling.
The LA-based, Mau5trap-backed artist’s passion is echoed by few in the Earth’s atmosphere. His fascination with expansive worlds began as a young child, with blockbuster fantasy films that have their own sets of laws such as “Lord of the Rings,” “Star Wars,” and even “Harry Potter.” Now, Rinzen’s using his music to manifest his own mythical universes.
“When it came time to launch Rinzen, I spent a long time thinking about what I wanted to do with the project. The more I reflected on it, the more it became clear to me that I wanted to channel that same level of narrative and experiential depth as my favorite authors and filmmakers,” he told us.
Similar to the stunning hero’s tale conveyed on his Forbidden City EP out late last year, which was Rinzen’s first outright step towards manifesting his artistic style, Exoplanet is too an integration of his love for storytelling and highlighting the world-building potential of music. The aural odyssey of an EP, which derives its name from the Earth-like planets beyond our solar system, voyages deep into the dueling depths of creativity and life’s wonders.
Rinzen contemplates life’s complexities on a universal scale in his newest concept release, out on mau5trap. He forays into mysterious new worlds through musical storytelling, while also diving into the feelings and uncertainties that constitute each individual’s creative universes.
Just as the Earth rotates around the sun, Exoplanet orbits the framework of the revered mythologist Joseph Campbell and his archetypal story pattern, the Hero’s Journey — a central element in ancient myths and modern-day adventures — outlined in further detail in his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Like Campbell’s timeless three-act structure, “the call to adventure,” “the trial,” and “the return,” Exoplanet implements a structured narrative. It kicks off with a grandiose invitation to the stars, embarks on a cosmic voyage, and ultimately, returns to Earth with a new understanding and appreciation of familiar surroundings.
“I was searching for a theme for the EP and happened to stumble upon an article from NASA detailing our discovery of seven Earth-like planets orbiting a nearby star. I became obsessed by the idea of what it would be like to visit one of these planets for the first time,” he explained, and as such, Exoplanet was born.
Beginning with its title track, which captures this yearning inherent sense of wonder in the creative pursuit through its melody and long pitch bends, Rinzen paints a picture of his exoplanetary vision. Perhaps, if what he imagined were to exist it would be void of vegetation like “Star Wars'” Tatooine, or a burnt-orange desert dystopia like the Las Vegas’ ruins of a Ridley Scott film. Ultimately, the producer’s addition of beguiling nuances transports listeners to wherever they imagine.
Exoplanet is eerily inviting, with its driving melodies and its themes of light vs dark. This emulates deep thought on the unknown itself — the inexplicable opportunities of the unknown are as equally terrifying as they are riveting and inspiring.
As the voyage continues, a descent into the exoplanet and “Search for Life” begins. Though the track does stand at face value as the collective search for intelligent life in the universe, Rinzen also explains that it can also be interpreted for its double meaning — “each individual’s search for meaning in their own life.”
There’s also some degree of Rinzen’s own “search” on the track. As he continues to flourish and develop artistically in the musical realm, his search for new worlds will present itself outwardly in the form of these conceptual journeys he forges. But, there is still much for him to explore musically and in his own hero’s journey.
Exoplanet is already the natural progression of Rinzen’s growth as an artist, and his refusal to follow trends or be boxed into a particular category. In terms of the textural approach, he’s subconsciously chosen to step away from the orchestral elements of Forbidden City. After having purchased a Moog synthesizer, it was only logical to write his new material directly on the new instrument.
“I do think it’s important however to be able to release a wide array of textures and styles, and so in that sense, I’m glad the EP ultimately took on a different sonic identity than Forbidden City,” he said.
The final installment in the story arc, “The Great Beyond,” reflects on the sheer sense of wonder when considering the universe and the beauty of larger cosmic events, but it also seems to equally explore the feelings that accompany large-scale creative pursuits.
“It was written right after the solar eclipse back in August of last year. I went out to Wyoming and was able to experience the eclipse in totality — which was simply awe-inspiring,” he tells us.
By looking to the stars on Exoplanet, Rinzen captures the blissful wonder that exists at the outer realms of creative pursuits. By leaving the new planet’s development and existing properties open to the interpretation of the listener, despite having admitted that he’s designed his own exoplanet in detail, Rinzen’s letting creativity run wild. Listeners have free range to imagine their own universes — whether it be iterations of Westworld, varieties of Vulcan, or beyond. Finally, he also communicates “that maddening drive within us to create art that is both bold and original.” Surely, it won’t be his last call to inspiration.
Could you give some background story on the inspiration behind each song on Exoplanet? We know you’re very specific about song names, and this seems to read incredibly true on this conceptual voyage in particular.
Yes! So I originally wrote the title track, “Exoplanet,” as an ode to creativity. The melody, with its long pitch bends, was meant to capture that sense of yearning inherent in the creative pursuit — that maddening drive within us to create art that is bold and original. When it came to the EP, I felt it captured a similar sense of yearning in our quest to uncover the answers of the universe.
The second track, “Search for Life,” refers to our collective search for intelligent life in the universe. It can also serve as a double meaning for each individual’s search for meaning in their own life.
Lastly, “The Great Beyond” was written right after the solar eclipse back in August of last year. I went out to Wyoming and was able to experience the eclipse in totality — which was simply awe-inspiring. I named it “The Great Beyond” to reflect that sense of wonder I feel when I think about the sheer size of the universe and the beauty of these larger cosmic events.
When we listen to the EP and consider it conceptually, scenes from the new Blade Runner & all of Tatooine on Star Wars come to mind. We’re wondering if there are there any specific works or experiences that had inspired you in your desire to build worlds, and then more specifically the one surrounding this EP?
Yes definitely. I think growing up in the time of blockbuster fantasy films like Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, even Harry Potter, left an indelible impression on my mind as a kid. The way these movies would create these expansive universes, with their own sets of laws and nuances… I was fascinated by them!
When it came time to launch Rinzen, I spent a long time thinking about what I wanted to do with the project. The more I reflected on it, the more it became clear to me that I wanted to channel that same level of narrative and experiential depth as my favorite authors and filmmakers.
How did the discovery of the exoplanets in February inform this work?
I was searching for a theme for the EP and happened to stumble upon an article from NASA detailing our discovery of seven Earth-like planets orbiting a nearby star. I became obsessed by the idea of what it would be like to visit one of these planets for the first time. I even went as far as designing my own solar system and writing out the physical properties of its planets. I find that level of specificity to be helpful when designing the concept of an EP, even if those specific details are never released.
Do you see your Exoplanet existing as a world out in a nearby solar system, and then the listener exploring what this means, or is this more so surrounding the wonder of an interplanetary voyage and the possibility of an Exoplanet?
Good question. It’s a little of both actually. On a larger sense, the EP is meant to encapsulate our collective sense of wonder at the grand scale of the universe. On a more specific level, it’s meant to capture the feeling of discovering an Earth-like planet in a nearby solar system — one that could potentially be hosting intelligent life.
What’s the evolution of the EP mean to you?
I tend to build my EPs around the framework of Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey.” It’s basically the idea that there is a universal narrative running through all our myths and stories. It’s the timeless three-act structure of “the call to adventure,” “the trial,” and “the return.”
When it came to Exoplanet, I wanted the progression of the EP to echo this structure . . . to begin with this grandiose invitation to the stars, to then embark on some sort of cosmic voyage, and ultimately return with this new understanding and appreciation of our universe.
The artwork behind each of your works also seems incredibly in sync with the concept. Is this true for Exoplanet?
Yes. I believe the artwork is nearly as important as the music itself. It’s an inherent part of the way we experience music, and I think great artwork can really take a concept or theme to the next level.
With this EP, I was fortunate to work with a talented visual artist named David Gao here in Los Angeles. He shares a similar fascination for otherworldly textures and did a spectacular job capturing the visual theme of the EP.
You dropped the orchestral elements on this EP vs Forbidden City? Was there any specific reasoning as to why? Or was this just what you felt to be the most conducive to a building this specific work?
That’s a very cogent observation! It wasn’t so much a conscious decision as it was a direct result of me purchasing a Moog synthesizer and consequently writing a bunch of songs with it.
I do think it’s important however to be able to release a wide array of textures and styles, and so in that sense, I’m glad the EP ultimately took on a different sonic identity than Forbidden City.
With my new work, however, I’ve found myself fusing these two sides of my production — combining my love of orchestral sound design with my newfound love of analog synths. Stay tuned for that…
EP Artwork Credit: David Gao
Photo Credit: Michael Drummond