Susumu Yokota may not be a household name, but in certain circles he is certainly a recognized benchmark. For over a decade, Yokota has been quietly making quiet music whose quality speaks much louder volumes. True, his catalogue also includes some exceptional house albums, but his main output has been focused on the kind of ambient electronic albums that anyone outside of Eno, Budd and Aphex Twin would kill to make one of. Records like Sakura, The Grinning Cat, The Boy and The Tree, and Laputa all feature Yokota's signature touches—merging patterns of traditional and ethnic music from around the world with gorgeous synth pads, gently loping rhythms and ear-catching found sounds. What has always saved him from merely making background music is the way he can subtly anchor his pieces with a kind of sonic narration. It's hard to explain in any way other than to say that his records go places—all while remaining quite still.
Kaleidoscope, while representing no real quantum shift in his approach, is another solid addition to Yokota's body of work. Like the best albums of this genre, it takes on dramatically different forms depending on the volume used by and the attentiveness of the listener. The music works in layers, and what appears translucent and hazy from a distance is sketched with surprising detail up close. The tortoise-paced evolution of colours on "Lily Scent Jealousy" is pulse-calming, but underneath voices calling for "The mothership..." hint at great unrest.
Yokota's years of being a house producer also make a few appearances, albeit in atypical ways. "Pebble On The Verge Of Breaking" plays its title out, as Yokota uses the classic dance floor trick of a reverse whoosh after a long keyboard build up to signal the throbbing bass-heavy beat...except, in this case, the beat never comes. It plays with our Pavlovian sense of anticipation skillfully, keeping our senses riveted to what is essentially quite static music.
In the end, just another day in the workshop by a master craftsman. Beautiful stuff.