Despite being a relatively prolific artist it is something of a surprise to find that “Sinkai” is Yui Onodera’s first solo album in eight years, since the tryptic of albums “Rhizome”, “Substrate” and “Suisei” that came out in 2007 on a handful of different labels. Since then there have been numerous collaborations including two albums with the Beautiful Schizophonic, an album with Celer and remixes for Pjusk and Stephen Vitiello. More recently there was also the breathless hyper IDM mash up of the “Decon” album released by Reshaft, a duo with fellow Japanese artist Mulllr (Mizukami Ryuta), and the more meditative pairing with the violins and cello of Russian artist Vadim Bondarenko that came out as the acclaimed “Cloudscapes” album on Serein. “Sinkai” is thus an excellent opportunity to reacquaint ourselves with who Onodera is on an individual level.
One of the defining features of all Onodera’s work has always been an impeccably honed and carefully crafted sound design. It is clear from the outset that “Sinkai” has lost none of this, but listening over the course of an album it is also apparent that there is a greater sense of scope to the ideas and even a sense of risk to the structures and compositional approach. Yui’s previous solo albums were all intricately crafted and immersive affairs where a single idea was carefully focussed and teased out and then the results reimagined in a new direction until the original question was answered from all sides. “Sinkai” fascinates as it somehow feels more outward-bound, perhaps because it draws in more dispersive elements together and proposes unexpected connections and directions while still providing an immersive backdrop to sink inside.
The opening sequence of tracks is particularly impressive, with opener “Sigure” feeling both broody and hopeful and mixing pure, digital melodies with organic samples to create a strange biomechanical hybrid. This sets the scene for the album which seems to play off the contrast between man and machine, flow and structure, darkness and light. “Syakkei” for example contrasts bubbling, treated shoegaze guitar with brooding synth sweeps and nervous beats to create an uneasy peace.
There are a lot more beats underpinning “Sinkai”, most notably on “Matou” that is out and out dub techno reminiscent of the Prologue label albeit not necessarily with the club in mind. “Akatsuki” contrasts the slow beat with a pulse of choral voices, stabs of piano and synths to create a staccato effect, whereas the slow and irregular beats of “Mon” and the almost industrial feel bring it to sounding close to the Stroboscopic Artefacts Monad series.
If there was one criticism of “Sinkai” it is perhaps that it does not quite resolve at the end, lacking a defined climax and conclusion to what is otherwise a sublime and intriguing album.