The Japanese house master and Soichi Terada collaborator gets an overdue retrospective.
In fact, one of Yokota's most popular tracks, the luxuriously groovy "Do It Again," became an anomalous YouTube hit around the same time—but, annoyingly for him, the video wrongly credited it to Terada. Along with his continuing commitments at the auto shop, this small mishap was another obstacle preventing Yokota from gaining proper international recognition. Now, though, another Amsterdam label has stepped up to compile the best tracks from his two-decade career in a single package. Released by Sound Of Vast, a label run by the Tokyo-born Knock, Ultimate Yokota 1991-2019 is a career-spanning compilation spread over four sides of vinyl, though the 12 tracks are in fact drawn from Yokota's two albums, both of which have previously been available only on CD.
His ear for melody and a snappy sample provides endless variety, but the basic recipe tends to combine the bossy, velvet-lined grooves of classic New York house with a certain Japanese accent—playful earworms and plasticky organs straight from an arcade game, or notes of laidback electro-boogie that make you want to start your engine and cruise through the neon-lit bustle of south Tokyo. It's fair to wonder if you'd notice this stuff if you weren't aware of the record's provenance—is it just my naff, hopelessly Western-eared interpretation of a deeply personal sound palette, a kind of contextual prejudice? But there's no denying that Sega Mega Drive crunching through the radiant piano-house of "Gaming Man," and if you can't imagine drifting through the streets of Shibuya soundtracked by "Night Drive" then you're not trying hard enough. Also, compare Larry Levan's remix of Soichi Terada's "Sunshower" (the two were mutual admirers) to the chirpy original—it's rougher and darker, virtually perspiring: a gritty mood you'd never hear on a Far East Recordings production.
The first disc of Ultimate Yokota 1991-2019 contains six of the best cuts from Do It Again And Again, Yokota's first full-length from 2016, including the irrepressibly chirpy "Bells" and the haunting "Machibouke," which comes off like a Balearic spin on the Fairlights, Mallets and Bamboo sound. (Also worth listening out for is his sensual, worldy remix of "Sora Sky Magic" by Manabu Nagayama & Masakazu Uehata, not available on the Spotify album version.) Many of these tracks stretch back to the beginning of Yokota's career, while some have been reworked in recent years. Either way, it's hard to put an age on any single cut—Yokota has remained loyal to his upbeat, faux-naive style for two decades. The second disc continues with six cuts from this year's I Know You Like It LP, a set of newer productions including the beachy "Time Traveling," with its notes of Italian dream house, and the Crystal Waters-infused "Take Yours." This chunk isn't quite as memorable, but it's all impeccably produced and arranged, polished to a mirror-like shine.
Regardless of age, Ultimate Yokota 1991-2019 is the first vinyl outing for all of these tracks, and alongside the Rush Hour compilation it should be a much-deserved boost to Yokota's international profile. The producer recently revealed that he'd turned down a gig at Panorama Bar because he was too busy customising cars—hopefully this belated burst of attention will be enough for him to down tools and finally take up that offer.
Tue / 29 Oct 2019
01. Shinichiro Yokota - Bells
02. Shinichiro Yokota - Night Drive
03. Shinichiro Yokota - Gaming Man
04. Shinichiro Yokota - Right Here! Right Now!
05. Shinichiro Yokota - Machibouke
06. Manabu Nagayama & Masakazu Uehata - Sora Sky Magic (Shinichiro Yokota Remix)
07. Shinichiro Yokota - Timeless
08. Shinichiro Yokota - This Moment
09. Shinichiro Yokota - Time Traveling
10. Shinichiro Yokota - I Know You Like It
11. Shinichiro Yokota - Take Yours
12. Shinichiro Yokota & Soichi Terada - Tokyo 018 (Watashiwa Tokyo Suki) (Ultimate Version)