- An exemplary house and techno LP from the reclusive Japanese artist.
- Shinichi Atobe is one of techno's enduring enigmas. His first EP, Ship-Scope, was a late-era dub techno masterpiece. It was so good that some thought it was the work of René Löwe, AKA Vainqueur, or some other Chain Reaction associate. Then, for reasons that remain unclear, Atobe released nothing further for 13 years. His absence only enhanced the intrigue among dub techno enthusiasts. There are countless producers who, after one or two EPs, are never heard from again. But few have done so after turning in a record as accomplished as Atobe's debut. With 2014's Butterfly Effect, an album released by Demdike Stare—themselves obsessed with Ship-Scope—the Japanese artist made an improbable comeback. (He did so with no fanfare, and still hasn't given a single interview.) Unlike many other dub techno producers, who can be formalist to a fault, Atobe vividly reimagined the style. His was an irradiated realm where ticking Geiger-counter percussion and thin, desolate atmospheres offset a faded narcotic glow.
The contents of Atobe's subsequent records have suggested a finite pool of material. World's six tracks were moreish (and sometimes brief) loop sketches. The same was true of 2016's Rebuild Mix 1 2 3 EP. From The Heart, It's A Start, A Work Of Art, released last year, drew from pre-Ship-Scope material that had only been pressed on a few acetates. It would've been fair to assume another LP might've been a collection of scraps. As it turns out, Heat is not only Atobe's most satisfying LP yet, but a fresh perspective on the reclusive artist's signature sound.
Take the opener, "So Good So Right," whose warm, minimal crunch echoes late '90s Trelik. Its sun-baked synths ease you into a cloudless poolside scene. Over time, the mood seems resigned and bittersweet, like someone trying to put a brave face on a setback. The late-arriving piano reciprocates with sympathetic, consoling figures. "So Good So Right" is far removed from the "waste lands" and "free access zones" of Butterfly Effect, but its peculiarly sharp percussion and self-contained emotional register are unmistakable.
Similarly, you might think of "Heat 1" as DJ Sprinkles in high-definition. Hand drums and bright electric organs roll in familiar patterns, but their clarity helps bring other sounds to the surface. The midrange sputters like a forcibly squeezed shampoo bottle. The shakers, claps and snares are incredibly crisp. This emphasis on tactile sound is notable by itself, but especially so on a house track. The LP is no less enjoyable in classic, piano-supported Atobe modes. "Bonus" hammers out a short, blocky loop. Cheery chords splash amid muddy low-end on "Heat 2." The twilight shimmer of "So Good So Right 2" is a kind of companion piece for "Regret."
Despite the LP's title, a chill runs through a few tracks here. "Heat 3"'s toms and hi-hats, sprinting amid eerie atmospheres, might evoke a chase through the woods. If "Heat 3" is panic, then "Heat 4" is paranoia. Under prickly percussion, understated melodies bubble away. The air feels heavy. Some pads rise, then melt, in the distance. The spindly melody that ties all this together, rather than giving relief (as Atobe's piano riffs usually do), only intensifies the sense of mystery. Though the bassline beckons you forward, "Heat 4" somehow keeps you at arm's length. It's close enough.
01. So Good So Right
02. Heat 2
03. Heat 4
04. Heat 1
06. Heat 3
07. So Good So Right 2