October 30, 2009

Yokota - Psychic Dance (2009, Harthouse)

I have been a fan of Susumu Yokota's techno and ambient records since I heard the widely-acclaimed "Sakura" and its follow-up "Grinning Cat", two fantastic psychedelic ambient albums in the vein of Brian Eno's classic works, and featured on many album-of-the-year lists at the time. As I further explored Yokota's prolific catalog, I realized that he alternated between lush ambient abstraction and straight-ahead deep house/techno, with several amazing albums and 12"s deconstructing disco samples and soulful house grooves, my personal favorite being the '02 full-length "Sound Of Sky". Since then, Yokota has released roughly one album each year, with each one exploring a different genre or variation of techno or ambient. In '06 he released the brain-bending "Triple Time Techno", which applied the waltz meter of 3-beats per bar to techno, followed by the more-abstract, melodic "Love Or Die", moving back into ambient/experimental territory. Back in the mid-'90s, Susumu released two albums and a couple 12"s on the seminal German techno label Harthouse, and 12 years later he has returned to his "Yokota" alias with a full-length digital download-only release called "Psychic Dance". The album is a strong return to Yokota's oldschool, acid and minimal techno roots, eschewing strange time-signatures and melodic textures in general for heavy, intricate drum machine programming with lots of weird spatial effects and filter tweaks. Occasionally some harmonic chord stabs enter the mix, but for the most part these are purely rhythmic explorations, with each track named after a different neurochemical/drug like "Ritalin", "Paxil", "Betanamin", etc. The vibe is high-energy and pounding, slightly industrial-edged and very dance-able, referencing modern minimal, progressive and Detroit styles. Yokota's masterful programming and sound library are showcased in a new techno format, with many intricate layers of rhythmic elements constantly shifting in and out of the mix, keeping things interesting and engaging. At 76 minutes long, its worth the 8 bucks!