The music of ambient/abstract electronica producer Susumu Yokota spans a handful of genres and moods, and so it figures that his musical selections should not be comfortably confined to the relatively brief single disc format. Seemingly mindful of this, Lo Recordings have released this, a double disc set, with each containing a different mix by Yokota. It’s a good thing, too, as we’re granted satisfactorily large slices of both the downtempo and upbeat facets of Yokota.
Well, downtempo isn’t quite the correct term – though the black CD is paced slower than its red counterpart, it still comprises a lively collection of sounds sourced from across the abstract electro spectrum (The Chap, Luke Vibert, Motohiro Nakashima) and beyond (Rothko, Europa 51). This first disc never quite settles into the dream state that one might expect of its custodian, perhaps with the exception of the (relatively short) Rothko piece, ‘Open’, which sits smack-bang at the centre of the hit parade. ‘Edinorog’, by Alexandroid, is a highlight – moving from upbeat post-Portishead organ chords and synthetic drums into something altogether more gentle and, well, cute. Likewise, Europa 51 contribute two gorgeous, sunny instrumental pop songs from their fantastic album Abstractions. They don’t really fit in, but they’re so good that few will complain.
By the time we’ve reached the closing track of disc one – ‘Clear Space’, a Yokota collaboration with bass (guitar) heavy post-rockers Rothko – we’ve heard electro-pop, abstract electronica, Kompakt-esque fuzzy ambience, a touch of instrumental hip-hop, contemporary exotica, and even some banjo-driven post-rock. It’s an educational listen, but to be honest, it feels a touch incongruous.
Disc two – the red CD – is where Yokota tries his hand at rousing the dancefloor. Strangely, a lot of his selections in this mix seem to have left their drum machines submerged underwater. This watery drum sound eventually works its way up to ‘frustrating’ status, particularly on smaller (ie. home stereo) speakers, with a sonic quality akin to the washy high end of a poorly encoded mp3 file. Musically there’s a fair balance between glitch- and electro-centric factions of the techno genre, and plenty of what could comfortably be called abstract techno. Milky Globe’s ‘The Warp & The Woof (Secondo mix)’ is the record’s most engaging tune, a Clicks’n’Cuts-style track that adds little to that genre beyond exemplifying its catchiness when done well. The red disc ends on the memorable note of ‘Rivers Become Oceans’, a collaboration between Four Tet and Rothko which previously appeared on another (better) Lo compilation, Constant Friction: Collaborations 2.
Overall, this package is interesting. It provides a glimpse into the musical tastes of an experienced and acclaimed producer and DJ, but somehow lacks a much-needed dose of heart. Yokota’s picks on disc two seem a touch lacklustre, while the first disc struggles to maintain cohesion. Viewed as a handful of songs, there are a fair number that catch the ear. As mixes? I’m not so convinced.