Yamaneko - Spirals Heaven Wide

  • Intense, emotive soundscapes that go beyond ambient tropes.
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  • You can't fault Yamaneko's commitment to his aesthetic. In recent years, plenty of producers have adopted the sounds of Japanese new age and environmental music, often with off-the-peg signifiers like sampled koto plucks or shakuhachi flutes. But his love of immersion has taken him as far as making music for health spas, as collected on his last album, 2017's Spa Commissions, and his Japanophilia is total enough for him to have relocated to Tokyo this year. This album, made in the months before leaving London, is his biggest and fullest-sounding by some way. It is, broadly, ambient, but it doesn't hang in the air around you and caress the senses like Spa Commissions. Neither does it trace skeletal diagrams of grime, dubstep, two-step and other club music styles like the albums before that, Project Nautilus (Keygen Loops) and Pixel Wave Embrace. Instead, Spirals Heaven Wide is dense and intense. "Like The Rain Only Gentle," for example, sounds superficially like new age, with its birdsong and other ambient atmospherics, but its relentless church organ chords, much like on Ryuichi Sakamoto's async album, speak of bodily, earthly concerns as much as transcendence. If this was playing in a spa, you'd have a hard time clearing your mind—it's thought-provoking rather than gently cleansing. You could say the same for the cello drones of "This Spring Of Love," the Steve Hillage-style infinite sustain guitar of "Fading Embers" or the barely tonal spirals of "Kalimotxo." Each is surrounded by glimmers of subliminal magic, but the core sounds tend to provoke—depending on your inclination in the moment—introspection or claustrophobia. "Haunts" does exactly what the title suggests as it drags a Plaid-go-grime synth tone through dark, dusty spaces. "Fall Control," the album's climax, builds from a soundscape as rarefied as anything in Yamaneko's catalogue to chords of piercing intensity. It's the clearest illustration of how the producer could quite easily be making soundtracks for big movies or games, or even playing on the kind of arena stages you find Amon Tobin on. But this sound is still recognisably Yamaneko's. If Project Nautilus (Keygen Loops) was about isolation and fragility, then Spirals Heaven Wide, while still in that solitary space, is about being unafraid to confront scary thoughts. It's not easy listening, and there's so much detail on Spirals Heaven Wide that it will only make sense on decent speakers or headphones. But if the album catches you at the right moment, the sense of experiencing one person's vision and feelings, both on a broad vista and in microscopic detail, is overwhelming.
  • Tracklist
      01. Spirals Heaven Wide 02. Hikikomori 03. Kalimotxo 04. Fading Embers 05. Haunts 06. This Spring Of Love 07. Balstonia 08. Fall Control 09. Like The Rain Only Gentle 10. You Envied The Stars Their Height 11. (True Ending)