Plugged into older sounds today... I question my continuity...
Rothko and Susumu Yokota's 2005 collaboration "Distant Sounds of Summer"... is one of those albums that just keeps popping it's head up every so often. As if to tell me that I have not yet really appreciated all that there is to hear.
There has been a few of these albums popping up lately, namely, Tin Hat Trio's "The Rodeo Eroded" which constantly seems to lose it's grip on me after the perfect opening track "Bill".... maybe it's too perfect?
However today the iPod decided that those sounds I have been drilling into my skull everyday for the last 20years can take a step back, a day off, a mid-term break, and let the less shiny sparkly corners of my deep dark hole of an iPod have their time in the Sun. And so Yokota and Rothko took their chance to remind me why I should listen to them more often.
"Distant Sounds of Summer" is essentially an album of vast experimentation and noise, controlled expertly by the artists' differing yet wholly complementary styles... if you like the meditative and pulsing rhythms of Susumu Yokota's "Sakura" you will enjoy this album. While still exploring the ambient sounds he mastered on that album and more like it after 2000, the Japanese Dance legend leans towards a slightly heavier use of drum here, which reflects just a little of his earlier 90's house roots. While the use of clean drum tracks over deep and flowing textures seems at times a little strong, and disruptive to the relatively peaceful and meditative quality of the album, it seems to be a response to the dominant bass lines layed down by Rothko which rise out of the waves of noise and harmony.
The album opens with a Yokota drum line, strong and brazen, suggesting an album filled with anything but the soothing and exploratory, ambient sheets of sound that fill every inch of space within the ear of the listener. "Paths Fade into Forest" is where this mix of bass/drum/texture is best achieved, with a rolling bass line gradually matched by an up-tempo and non-intrusive rhythm, enticing the listener to want to hear more of the same. Indeed it is after this point that the album descends into a flurry of deep aural treats, culminating in a excellent 10minutes and 20seconds with "Reflections and Shadows" (involving a slow pulsing, powerful meditation, aided by the soothing voice of Caroline Ross who provides vocals throughout the album) and the title track which features an excellent collage of guitar and bass lines, held in place by the ever-present, effervescent textures of Yokota.
This is no masterpiece. There are moments when the seemingly unrellenting harmony between these two artists is lost, yet there is always a sense that there is something ultimately perfect to hear only 20 or 30 seconds down the line. This is an excellent example of what happens whenn artists who should collaborate together do, and do it right. There is no struggle for supremacy or dominance in any way, one is always left guessing which element is attributed to which artist, save for the obvious qualities of bass and dance music.
Get this album if you really want to hear something new.... something that is not just one thing...or....well... anything in particular.