The Leaf imprint have long since being propritetors of downtempo / organic electronica, and having been able to count on a variety of artists that trade in some of the subtlest, elegant, restrained and cerebral electronic music out there. The label obviously decided that they wanted some way of promoting the various artists on the label, and so selected label mainstay 'Susumu Yokota', to produce a 'Mix Album' of sorts that aptly demonstrates the diversity of the artists on the label. And with such a wide variety of material on offer, Susumu has had to pick 25 tracks from the broad selection of the labels back catalogue, to produce an eclectic mix running through the myriad of styles featured by the label.
And so "Rob Ellis' - Toward Dust Spiral Section" starts the proceedings, with a droning synth introduction cautiously opening the track, before quickly shifting into the more laid-back Jazz-inflected groove of "Snaith's - Anna and Nina", which bravely uses a bass-lick, with soft piano chords, and chiming gently against a decidedly downtempo mood, likened more to a great example of dinner-Jazz than electronica, before shifting up a gear for a more uptempo percussive mood. By track#5, Susumu drops his own track into the mix, the mournful "Gekkoh", with its funeral-organ sounding drones, providing a decidedly detached and stark sound, with a tick-tock-esque style of introspective ambience, at which point...."Faultline's - Awake" with it's scratchy bass-ladened sound interupts, and which also serves as a transitional piece, for the almost African drum rhythms of "Eardrum's" marvellous "Swarm". Which is all moody rhythmic drums and the occasional sampled wildlife screeches, and a surprising (and most welcome) departure.
The Sci-Fi bleeps of "Freeform's - Sceptic Optimist" move into an almost 'Autechre' styled minimal yet melodic ambient techno....precise, programmed synthentic bass, with swirling ambient flourishes, with added chopped up Sax. "Sons of Silence" has the honour of being the only vocal track here, and their track "Grain of Sand" manages to merge a sort of toe-tapping Trip-Hop & Vocals, to create a weird sort of kitchen sink vocally orientated dance-Jazz, which in stark contrast to "Ronnie & Clyde" dance rhythms with clanging piano, and an old "Nightmares on Wax" styled smooth blissed-out keyboard arrangement, marking a wonderful turn of pace, this sounds like a forgotten track from their 1993 "Smokers Delight" chill-out masterpiece. "Freeform" also feature again with the freewheeling and hypnotic sound of the track "Spandoe", which sound like it resembles a music-jewellery box, soothing melodies, sharp plinks & Plonks, with reverberating bass, cause an almost dreamlike experimental melody. With various sampled Wind-up toys (the sound of which you can hear being wound-up), it's perfectly in keeping with the wide cross-section of electronic genres included here, without making the mix sound disjointed or uneven. "Faultline" deliver harsh, scratchy-abrasive beats on "Control" and are probably more in common with "Aphex Twin" than anything usually associated with the leaf label......skittering beats and off-centre industrial sounds, collide with Tuba???, for a thrilling trip into experimental breaks, and arguably the most 'Out-there' track.
If you are new or an existing fan of the Leaf label, this is absolutely essential in either acquainting you with the label, or providing a new perspective of your favourite artists. It surely couldn't have been much fun for Susumu Yokota, piecing together these relatively disparate segments of various artists work, together to make a coherent mix. As some elements / artists work are so distinctly different from anothers and the selection so broad, that only short segments could be used. But this is arguably one of his finest accomplishments, as transitions from track to track are, by and large....very smooth. And kudos must also go to Susumu for deciding to go with such a downtempo minimalist framework, over which to base his mix. With most mix albums of recent years choosing to go the Dance, Rock/Eclectic mix-mash-up route....it's truly refreshing to hear a mix that scales back on the BPM, and chooses subtle mood over euphoric sounds. Possibly a little too niche market to become widely accepted, but those that do have it, certainly wont regret the purchase.