Foodman: Uchigawa Tankentai EP

Before Takahide Higuchi tried his hand at music, he dreamed of working as a game designer and bringing to life the fantasy worlds in his imagination. Though his initial experiments with RPG Maker software proved frustrating enough to put those ambitions aside, the Japanese producer’s abstract beatcraft under the name Foodman can often resemble the intricate worldbuilding of classic titles like Chrono Trigger and EarthBound. Inspired by the cut-and-pasted bricolage of footwork and juke, his songs are built out of tiny, chirping samples that skitter like 16-bit sprites ambling across the screen. Earlier works like 2021’s Yasuragi Land remained tethered to the conventions of club music, occasionally locking into bouncy four-on-the-floor grooves, but his new Uchigawa Tankentai EP is a detour into greater fragmentation.

True to its title, which translates to “inner journey,” the record is guided by a loose, instinctual sensibility, evolving organically rather than following a linear progression. “Hajimari,” for example, develops like a screen-recorded playthrough of Pikmin. While you can distinguish the vague outline of a rhythm beneath the track’s chaotically deployed samples, it’s more interesting to observe it from a distant point of view, as a self-contained ecosystem. Insectoid synths warble and coo as if in conversation while tom drums, reversed hi-hats, and visceral squelching noises illustrate the collective efforts of a hive foraging for food and constructing shelter. In the album’s introspective focus, it’s as if Higuchi’s soul-searching had distilled emotion down to a cartoon symbiosis between neurons and gut flora.

Elsewhere, Higuchi inserts his own voice into the soundscape, turning splintered pieces into warped folk songs. On social media and in interviews, Higuchi often cites private moments like cold baths or lunches eaten alone as sources of inspiration, and on opener “Pichi Pichi,” he imitates the strained croak of an old man, waxing nostalgic about the texture of perfectly crisp potatoes and warm summer days as metallic synths clatter in the distance. The blend of sounds can be disjointed and sour, but that imperfection is by design. These sound like the tuneless songs you might sing to yourself while doing chores: snippets of naive expression that lend human intimacy to Foodman’s digital songcraft.

Covering five tracks in just 10 minutes, Uchigawa Tankentai is one of Foodman’s shortest releases. There’s charm in its diminutive scale, though a track like the 90-second “Hoso Michi” would benefit from further development. The interplay between its dissonant chords and MIDI choral arrangement is fascinating—like Anthony Braxton composing on a Dreamcast’s sound chip—but the song explodes into a whirlwind of drums and screams before the atmosphere can take hold. Despite its brevity, the EP succeeds as an opportunity for Foodman to steer his already eccentric artistry in a number of new directions without disrupting the flow of more conceptual LPs. Embracing the post-structural freedom evident in his earlier releases, it’s some of his most expressive—and challenging—work yet.