Yamaneko builds his tracks around elegant arpeggios that unfurl methodically, much like the video game compositions he's referencing. Many of them barely have rhythms. The gorgeous "Primrose Island," which lifts its melody from Final Fantasy VIII's "Balamb Garden," feels stationary, while "Greeen Hillz" throws in snippets of grime sounds (a cocking gun here, a gruff bass note there) without much in the way of added momentum. Those ingredients are carefully ratcheted up in "Slew Wave," but even there the kick drum hesitantly drops in and out, as if Yamaneko was afraid to disturb his delicate structure too much. It's a nice touch, but it undermines his attempt at beefier rhythmic tracks: the acidic "Accela Rush" peters out halfway through and doesn't really recover.
Yamaneko is at his best when he keeps things calm. The rest of Pixel Wave Embrace teases out that New Age influence, offering a slightly different take on the weightless aesthetic of producers like Rabit and Logos. Where those artists make beatless music full of heaving sounds and blackened bass frequencies, Yamaneko's is vibrant and peaceful, even keeping the percussion relatively quiet. "Noises In The Wave Wires Like Kissing On The Sea" has a baritone vocal that sounds like it's trying to lull you to sleep, and the music that surrounds it is equally listless and fragmented. Listening through the back half, it's as if the album were dozing off intermittently before snapping back to consciousness—a pleasantly dazed effect.
Yamaneko's debut is probably the most off-piste release on Local Action yet—it's less interested in clubs than it is in its own insular world. It's part of the ever-evolving London grime scene but also completely separate from it, as if Yamaneko were paying closer attention to his inspirations than his peers. Even when it falters, Pixel Wave Embrace is a fascinating record because it points to new routes grime could go down in the future. Sometimes it just takes a new set of eyes and ears to figure out the best way to get there.
Fri / 9 Jan 2015
01. Fragrance Transmission
02. Greeen Hillz
03. Slew Wave
06. Accela Rush
07. Primrose Island
08. Seabrooke Rise
10. Calotype Process
12. Noises In The Wave Wires Like The Kissing Of The Sea feat. Rimplton