Album Reviews

Susumu Yokota – Mother

(Lo) UK release date: 16 February 2009

It must be difficult to write good chillout music and be prolific. Surely if the music you write casts its spell effectively, you’ll be so relaxed you can’t be bothered to follow it up?

Maybe so, but that problem doesn’t seem to have befallen Susumu Yokota. He has good practice in the area, but manages to keep his finger on several pulses at once, successfully keeping up with deep house while venturing as far afield as melodic trance. On Mother he turns the volume and the tempo down for the most part, with a small gaggle of guest vocalists helping him realise his vision.

He manages to walk the fine line between chillout music that keeps you listening and washed-out textures that send you to sleep. The ethereal vocals of Nancy Elizabeth in A Flower White may split opinion, and certainly bring back echoes of Felt Mountain-era Goldfrapp, but for the much of this record Yokota keeps the electronics turning over nicely.

The Natural Process and Reflect Mind are especially good, adding edgier synths and beats to add a tension lacking elsewhere, while Breeze, one of four tracks to feature the pure tones of Elizabeth, combines a softly pulsing rhythm with gorgeous string tones.

Yokota’s practice of using several different vocalists works well, as it means the ear doesn’t become attuned to a single texture. His widescreen scoring means the subtle electronic ‘whooshes’ around the edge add real depth, casting the listener afloat as if on a slow moving boat across a lake.

At times the word ‘twee’ inevitably comes into the reckoning, particularly when Yokota uses more than one female voice or occasionally overdoes the electric piano sounds. Thankfully Efterklang vocalist Casper Clausen is on hand to add a bit of depth in the soft musing of Love Tendrilises, and the hymn-like sonorities of Suture. This is an extraordinary track, where time seems to stand still as the melody arches upward. It’s like watching the Northern Lights.

The intimacy of Yokota’s writing is ideal for late night or early morning moments, introspective but not too navel gazing, and varying the sonic picture just enough. You might not hang on to the singers’ every word, but their soft intonations hit the right emotional spot. This means that even within his prolific output, Mother makes an extremely solid addition.

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Susumu Yokota – Mother