ARTIST: SUSUMU YOKOTA
LABEL (YEAR): SKINTONE/THE LEAF LABEL (1999/2000)
FOR FANS OF: BRIAN ENO, BOARDS OF CANADA, APHEX TWIN
Words by Aidan Daly
Sakura is an strange album. I can’t tell if I only think this because I found it around the same time I was reading Murakami’s Kafka On The Shore, and the subtle absurdity of the book leaked into my listening. It could well have been the other way round.
Either way, like much of Murakami, Sakura appears completely familiar and disembodied at the same time. Swells of serene loops make up the album’s meandering fifty-one minutes, yet each track remains rooted by a pulse, be it a rhythmic one or a repeating musical motif, which provides a framework for other elements to unfold around. Much of the music is disturbingly affectionate, a sensation made even more immediate through the sustained repetition that structures the album.
Appropriately, ‘Gekkoh’ makes use of Steve Reich’s ‘Pulses’ from Music for 18 Musicians, tastefully recycling it alongside strings and impatient, metronomic percussion. ‘Saku’ opens the album as dreamy ambient smog, until the track’s layers ebb away leaving only a reiterating, twitching hook – perversely mechanical given the rest of the track. ‘Hisen’ sluggishly morphs into a contemplative chord sequence, aided by violin samples, while ‘Azukiiro No Kaori’ sees a crescendo of knotted vocals gradually come to fill the mix, both touching and distancing simultaneously.
I always come back to Sakura. It’s accessible, and pleasant, but there’s an alienating undercurrent to it. It’s precisely this duality that makes the album so enticing – a sweet spot only Yokota knew how to exploit.