Kenichi Oka has had a long and fruitful career. Working under the name Yamaoka, the Japanese electronic artist has produced over 35 releases since 1991, mostly exploring combinations of techno and ambient music. The latest Yamaoka release, Systematic, continues this theme.
The opening track, “Medicine’ juxtaposes floating synth strings against persistent analogdrums and staccato arpeggios. It’s all rendered very minimally and floats along with neatly stacked – and eventually deconstructed – layers. There’s a far more restrained aesthetic going on here compared to other recent techno/ambient releases by MoirÃ© and Recondite.
“Prune’ and “Roof’ work in a similar vein to ‘Medicine’, but find their own space through the ringing overtones in the former and the more sophisticated percussion found in the latter. “Short Song’ is based around more staccato pulses. Yamaoka’s approach is effective, but it also leads to predictability between these tracks.
The standout for me was ‘Blue Moon’, a far more nuanced track with its overlapping layers and less rigid sense of pulse. The regenerative parts work in and out of phase with each other and ever so slowly build into a beautifully melancholy drone.
The final of the six tracks is a remix of ‘Medicine’, courtesy of Lefthand Soundsystem. It’s difficult to trace much of its original material, but the use of massive reverbs, ghostly vocal slices and crunchy blips takes ‘Medicine’ to a deeper, darker and ultimately more satisfying place than the first work.
Systematic is released by Chemical Tapes and is available on cassette and digital download.