Kaito Special Life

[Kompakt; 2002]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: deep house, techno, trance, ambient
Others: Yagya, Ulrich Schnauss, Orbital

When I think back to my twenties, I recall the wonderful days of going out to nightclubs with my roommates until the early hours of the morning.  I was already working late hours in the restaurant business, so it was nothing for me to hit the town near midnight and stay out until three or four the next morning.  One of my favorite spots was a nightclub that was situated in a trendy part of our now mainly defunct downtown.  This club seemed to attract only certain types of people in the city - those who were really into the underground.  This was a great place to dance because the music was incredible every night.  Well, certain nights were better than others, but for the sake of argument, we’ll say it was good every night.  It was also a great place to let go and get wild as a young, hormone-driven man with the world at his fingertips.  For me, this is when I started to become familiar with all the various sub-genres electronic music had to offer. 

Hiroshi Watanabe, the man behind the sounds of Kaito, is creating soundscapes that go hand-in-hand with nightlife.  Special Life, Kaito’s first full-length release from Kompakt Records, is a record that documents minimalist sensibilities and fuses heart-pounding excitement all into one beautiful little package.  Emotionally, Special Life takes me back to those nights of being younger and out on the town.  With its precise style and warm serenity, Special Life is an album meant to get you out on the town and moving your ass.  Equally, it’s an album that can keep you at home under a nice warm blanket with headphones.  I guess you could say that makes this an incredibly diverse piece of work. 

Although Kaito has spun for some of New York’s most premier venues, it’s evident upon first listen that he is not an American-born composer.  Kaito’s sound is more reminiscent of German composers like Ulrich Schnauss and Christian Kleine.  “Release Your Body” starts the album with a nice balance of textures and trance-like beats.  As with all the songs, pristine-sounding keyboards tie the components of this song together.  “Inside River” changes the pace of the album with a beat that seems to borrow from many different genres while claiming its own individuality simultaneously.  For the duration of the eight and a half minute song, the beat does not change for even a second.  This is where I find myself getting “trance” and “overly repetitious” confused.  However, I don’t generally find myself focusing on the drumbeats here as much as I do picking apart the individual layers underneath. 

Most of the tracks on Special Life are similar on the surface, but once broken down completely are actually quite different in scope.  The last track is titled “Awakening (beatlessinstrumental).”  As the title suggests, there is no beat in this song.  It’s as if Watanabe is gently restoring your mind after the long and intense road you’ve traveled while listening to his creations.  It could also be his way of sending you back into the world with a final “thank you” for your time.  If you’re ever like me and find yourself sitting alone in a room at three o’clock in the morning with a music review to write, be sure to listen to this album.  You may not physically be out on the town, but for the time you spend with Kaito, you’ll be wishing you were.

1. Release Your Body
2. Air Rider
3. Inside River
4. Intension
5. Saturday and Sunday
6. Breaking the Star
7. Everlasting
8. Scene
9. Respect to the Distance
10. Awakening