Until Spike Jonze called, the Japanese-born, L.A.-based musician Aska Matsumiya (she goes by ASKA) wasn't trying to become a singer-songwriter. On a lark, she'd recorded "There Are Many of Us," a fragile, Nico-esque dirge, and sent it to a few close friends. One was Jonze, who wanted it tao accompany I'm Here, a short film he was making with Andrew Garfield.
Though she's played in several local groups, ASKA says, "I had never written songs by myself before. He inspired me to play music on my own."
So she got to work on her debut EP in her Beachwood Canyon apartment—the same 1920s duplex where a young Linda Ronstadt lived while recording her first album. The result is a haunting collection of languid, electronics-tinged pop songs with an unmistakable "Smooth Operator" vibe (ASKA had just discovered Sade) and high-profile guests like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Nick Zinner and the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Flea.
And as buzz around her has grown, the 27-year-old has become increasingly sought-after, collaborating with everyone from choral groups and Mongolian contortionists to the fashion lines Alexander McQueen and 3.1 Phillip Lim, which both used her songs to score promo films last fall. All this before she's even made a proper solo album. But her first full-length release is expected later this year or early next. Imagine who'll be calling then.
—By Christopher Ross