Artist Profile: Powder – house music halfway between the workplace and the stars

Meet Powder, the Tokyo-based DJ and producer who splits time between an office job and creating dazzling house music.
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Powder / DJ Mag

Moko Shibata leads two lives. By day, she’s a clerical worker for a tech company in Shibuya, Tokyo. At night, she crafts intricate layered electronic music as Powder.

Balancing music, work, and sleep would certainly be a tricky task for anyone. But Shibata makes the most of a complicated situation—and as proof, you need only listen to the music she creates. Most of that creation takes place in the personal mini-studio in Shibata’s home. It’s equipped with two synthesizers, two drum machines, a laptop, a turntable, and a stack of vinyl records.

Shibata started generating buzz with her debut 12-inch Spray in 2015, released on Stockholm-based imprint Born Free. Packed with plenty of lean beats and peculiar samples, Spray announced the arrival of an exciting, versatile new voice. Three more 12-inches followed over the next two years. The first of these, Highly (2015), focused on more ambient sounds. Afrorgan (2016) showcased the prog/shoegaze portion of her wheelhouse, while H (2017) trafficked in intense industrial psych-disco. Currently, she continues to appear at bookings across the globe and craft DJ sets for electronica-themed radio programs.

Powder in Space

Earlier this month, Shibata released her first full-length DJ mix, Powder in Space. It serves as the inaugural installment of the Beats in Space mix series, curated by WNYU radio DJ Tim Sweeney.

Powder in Space is a monumental piece of work. Shibata unleashes a chilled-out, idiosyncratic mix of glitch, ambient, psychedelia, acid house, Balearic beat, avant-garde classical, and more. She coats this amalgam in a lovely dreamlike haze, making for a listening experience that’s equal parts soothing and thrilling. The beats shift seamlessly between styles and tempos, with special attention paid to layering and texture. There’s not a moment in the entire 74-minute set that isn’t fully immersive and enormously entertaining. It’s miraculous to watch–and hear–her vision unfold.

In addition to a total of 16 remixes, Shibata sneaks two of her own tracks into the mix. The second, “New Tribe,” could easily double as Powder’s mission statement. Pulsating and ethereal, controlled yet relentlessly upbeat, the track embodies the free-spirited joy of Shibata’s compositions.

This joy ties over into the trippy, anime-influenced video for “New Tribe,” produced by the Tokyo animation studio AC Club. In the video, a depressed office drone quits her job as disgruntled workers and their corporate overlords duke it out in the streets. She transforms into a peach-headed DJing superhero whose divine grooves brings the conflict to a halt. The clip speaks to Shibata’s aforementioned “double life” as a worker and musician and illustrates the clash of her two worlds.

The love and care Shibata puts into constructing her musical universes shines through all across Powder in Space. Powder’s continuing ascent in the electronic world is more than worth watching, and it’ll be thrilling to see what cosmic adventures she embarks on next.

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