Meet Lionmilk; Jazz Pianist, Producer & World-Builder / by Noor Kalouti


In one sense, Lionmilk is Moki Kawaguchi: a producer based out of L.A who doubles as the jazz-pianist in the band Breathing Effect. But in a more meaningful sense, Lionmilk is a portal to a magical place — an enchanting sound experience that was born in the mind of Moki Kawaguchi.

Moki’s fourth album, Visions Of Paraíso drops today, on September 24th.  Before this record, Moki was signed to Paxico Records but switched to Leaving Records after fellow beatmaker, Mndsgn, introduced him to Matthewdavid. The lead singles of the 18-track album dropped earlier in the month, listen to Arched Feet From Now On and Chuva de Verão here

Before delving into this new project, however, I’d like to take a step backward— before the days of Spotify profiles and label promotions— when Moki didn’t have Instagram and lived in New York City. 

Throwback to 2016, I met Moki in an Ambient Music seminar at The New School— an appropriate place to meet the likes of Moki. He outshined everyone in the class but barely seemed to notice. An intriguing presence to say the least, so I decided that I had to be his friend if only to glimpse at the mind behind the music. 

At this point, Moki had just dropped YUMS— his first solo project, recorded and mastered independently. “I was in a good place” Moki reflects “ studying at New School, being constantly inspired by other musicians, YUMS came out of that state of mind”. 

I was personally immersed in YUMS for months; tracks like HeaVyDreamr went straight into my ‘Great Finds’ playlist and still blow me away. 

After sharing the record, rigorously, it was clear that Moki’s ‘state of mind’ translated into a sound that could draw in a loyal following. But at that point, Moki’s social media presence was inexistent; I remember us discussing the perversion of social media promotion— that it somehow corrupted the artform. 

Moki’s art is extremely authentic; his emotions are inseparable from the creative process. “I write honest music” Moki claims, “making music for me is like writing in a diary, except it’s audible and everyone can listen. Most people have no idea what I’m singing about, but I think that’s a good thing. They can make of it what they need”.

Indeed, Moki creates what he feels at that moment, and the outcome is, to a degree, out of his hands. Despite having released only four albums, Moki’s repertoire of unreleased music seems bottomless— pointing to his emotional and creative depth.

In an effort to find out who Moki’s inspirations were, I learned that he identifies as a beat-maker—producers like Flying Lotus, Karriem Riggins or Mndsgn. But I’m reluctant to box him in a genre since his work fuses so many aesthetics. 

I visualize most of Moki’s’ music as a shimmering lake through lens of a trippy Instagram filter. 

His second project, however, A Rain Will Come (2017) was more like a time-lapse of a New York City subway station in winter— repetitive, beautiful, and very human.

“A Rain Will Come came together during tough times” Moki admits, “it was going downhill after YUMS— struggling to balance multiple jobs, personal life, family turbulence, creating music and playing shows took a toll on my mental health. So, I didn’t want to sing as much and relied on the keys, where I felt safer, to work through my shit.”

Objectively, I was in the same place as Moki when he dropped A Rain Will Come — and they say misery needs company, so I was grateful for his music. 

Tracks like 20mg of melatonin or help me were the soundtracks of my quiet New York winter— a time that most of us fall into introspective states. A Rain Will Come opened the door for Moki to travel and put the NYC stage behind him— he describes this in the album’s bio: 

couldn't sleep, time to change that 
gonna go to Brazil tomorrow, 1/10/18, see u in a month 
thank you, friends and family, for being good to me, u keep me alive and away from the madness of it all

L.A is home to many iridescent musicians like Moki and Mndsgn—and it wouldn't be far-reaching to describe it as a hub for beat-music. L.A has been a good thing for both Lionmilk and Moki’s state of mind, so to speak. He’s become known for his performances at BackBeat LA events at the Grand Star Jazz Club.

His moving back helped birth Depth Of Madness, which dropped in May, 2018 (listen to my favorite track Tend to Madness)

Moki’s discography keeps evolving in ways that are loyal to his feelings,, and I have no doubt that Visions Of Paraíso will surprise me— I, for one, can’t wait to glimpse at another facet to Lionmilk’s beguiling world.