Susumu Yokota's name is still heavily associated with the wide-reaching success of Sakura. It must be both boon and bane. On the one hand, there must be the pride of having produced one of ambient and electronic music's most perfect crystallisations. On the other, it marks an exceptionally high-tide mark to measure his oeuvre by. It seemingly hasn't affected him all that much, though. After all, not only has he produced over 20 albums, but no one release sounds like another, ranging widely from last year's dark, female-dominated pop album Mother, through to house excursions and a host of unique ambient releases.
It's no surprise then to find that Kaleidoscope continues with Yokota's tradition of quality and invention. One reason for its appeal is its sense of unity and narrative. The 16 short tracks are all around four minutes in length, making them feel like chapters in a story, or perhaps the geometric shapes in a kaleidoscope that build and reduce when they move and overlap.
Kaleidoscope's storytelling theme is only enhanced by the inclusion of male and female voices in many tracks—each song feels populated. The play off between Asian and Western voices and real life sounds builds a credible and complicated setting for the story to unfold. The voices in "9 Petals" and the bells and bird sounds in "Painted Room Key" could be both Asian or European, whereas the choral singing in "Wave Drops" and "Blue Moon" suggest a more distinctly European place—until they're contrasted with Buddhist chanting drones and bamboo percussion, that is.
Many tracks also give the sense of motion, particularly trains, such as the chugging motion of "Lily Scent Jealousy" or the drum loop of "Stain on My Heart," whereas the reuse of particular "place" sounds, like the birds and church choirs adds to the feeling of return. It is perhaps only in the last two tracks where the album feels as though it strays from the narrative path. Taken in one sitting, though, Kaleidoscope is the aural equivalent of a Wong Kar Wai or Kim Ki-duk road movie with Asians and Westerners travelling in parallel in the reciprocal culture. Like much of Yokota's discography, it's a magnificent feat and a rewarding listen.
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Tracklist: Susumu Yokota - Kaleidoscope 01. Your Twinkling Eyes
02. Her Feminineness
03. 9 Petals
04. Sprouting Symphony
06. Stain on My Heart
07. Metalic Energy
08. Patinated Room Key
09. Wave Drops
10. Lily Scents Jealousy
11. Blue Moon
12. When I Shut My Eye
13. After Falling Twice
14. 2 Skys
15. A Pebble on the Verge of Breaking
16. Red Moon