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This review is from: Sakura (Audio CD)
There is a tranquillity in Yokota's 'Sakura' that in the hands of others would become sterility. With each track, Yokota seamlessly transports the listener through his idyllic paradise, presumably the isle much of this work is inspired by. From the opening, unadorned bass pulse of 'Saku', string-like synths arrive from what seems like miles away, wrapping themselves into a cocoon of dreamy, otherworldy music. The method will not blow you away, as there are barely any dramatic shifts in Yokota's armoury here, but like with the curtain of distant rainfall ever-present through 'Taku', this artist works through steady accumulation that is mostly just as satisfying and effective: you sense the artist revels in crystallizing a momentary wonder into a flowing, unravelling experience.
Unlike Aphex Twin's Ambient Works, there is little disparity of mood in this album. Whereas Aphex's work can shift from mesmeric beauty to the paranoid and nightmarish, Yokota's work presents a smoother listening experience, taking some of the aforementioned artist's stellar beauty and mixing it with the synth-rich warmth and playfulness of Air. Indeed, where Aphex's melodies would drift for the best part of ten minutes, Yokota involves livelier and more vivified arrangements that are in a constant process of evolution, gradually filtering in and out beautiful sounds, continuing others; for instance, the end of 'Tobiume' sees a mellifluous, reverbed guitar cleanly picking in the background: the effect is similar to Air's 'Walkie Talkie' album, yet in the hands of a master like Yokota, you are barely aware of the addition. As a result, 'Sakura' consistently represents an organic, natural experience, pleasingly removed from the austere, esoteric atmosphere of Ambient Works Volume II.
Other songs try and test the parameters of ambient to its limits. 'Uchu Tanjyo' brings some clattering, tribal beats to the sonic table, hatching a bubbling, tremeloed bass to their rhythm as a voice rambles over it all: the effect is interesting, but it is one of the lesser lights on this bright album, although in the context of the sonic landscape, you do feel as though this is just another of the surprises on Yokota's island - signs of life perhaps.
'Genshi' begins with a sinuous, burbling bass that threatens to at any point lift of into the realms of one of Yokota's house excursions; however, despite the insistent pace, a slow organ melody and backing strings are imposed on the rhythm, engendering the sense of watching the world go by from the train, that feeling of stasis and movement combined. It demonstrates the feeling of adventure in this work, even more so Yokota's dexterity in marrying disparate tempos to form a cohesive texture.
The end to this album is slightly disappointing, however. ‘Kirakiraboshi’ features some lovely twinkling melodies but ultimately lacks the strength of composition that is found in earlier tracks such as ‘Hisen’, as after a couple of minutes it fizzles out. Yokota could also involve more chord progression switches in his music a little more often, as it is the shift from the choral, classical instrumentation in ’Hisen’ to the soothing organ coda on ’Hysen’ that is the albums highlight. Although the steady process of weaving sounds in and out of set basslines does work on songs such as ‘Saku’, on others such as ‘Hagoromo’ the effect feels tedious and underwhelming.
Overall, however, a magnificent ambient album, and one that promises much for the future.