Ambient electronic music is a genre open for abuse. Seemingly any hack with a laptop, a synthesizer, and the right software can accumulate some samples of leaves rustling and pages turning, edit them together, and tell the world that they are the next Eno. However, it is with great confidence that I tell you to cast any such fears or misgivings aside for a true master of ambient electronic in the 21st century -- Susumu Yokota. For those already familiar with his work on such releases as Sakura and Grinning Cat, this statement will come as no surprise, and his latest release, Symbol, finds him adding another fine achievement to his growing list.
For this album, Yokota has expertly selected some stunning selections of classical music to interweave with his drum programming in order to create a rich texturing of primarily romantic, but also more modern expressionistic and avant-garde musics. Most tracks feature multiple sound sources, yet they fit together so seamlessly. "Flaming love and destiny" motors along with a persistent rhythm underlying a piano sample taken from Beethoven's "Piano sonata no. 14," and punctuated by strings taken from Saint Saens's "Carnival of the Animals: Aquarium." For the finishing touch, the drama of Mussorgsky's "A Night on Bare Mountain" slides in to give it a sense of completion. And even within that one track, more sounds are invoked. With that said, the mix is so cleanly constructed that no one piece ever becomes overwhelming.
Of course, while this is nowhere near the pulsing beat of the dance music that Yokota has done in the past, it is neither as subdued as his more ambient work. This middle ground works well enough but may not appeal to those who have been drawn to the restraint of Sakura. However, the presence of so many great composers through the samples used may draw some curious classical listeners willing to dip a toe into the electronic swimming pool. My guess is that at least a few will find the water quite pleasing.
1. Long Long Silk Bridge
2. Purple Rose Minuet
3. Traveller In The Wonderland
4. Song Of The Sleeping Forest
5. The Plateau Which The Zephyr Of Flora Occupies
6. Fairy Dance Of Twinkle And Shadow
7. Flaming Love And Destiny
8. The Dying Black Swan
9. Blue Sky And Yellow Sunflower
10. Capriccio And The Innovative Composer
11. I Close The Door Upon Myself
12. Symbol Of Life, Love And Aesthetics
13. Music From The Lake Surface