- Another excellent LP from the genius of melodic deep house and techno.
- Each weekday, 3.5 million people pass through Shinjuku Railway Station in Tokyo, the busiest station on the busiest line in the world. Foreigners riding the rails through Tokyo's dense commercial districts are often struck by the order and calm amidst the crush. Trains arrive exactly on schedule. The country's engrained work culture means many riders sleep in their chairs. Commuters move assiduously through the station, the prevailing calmness and order known as gaman.
The stately, melodic techno and deep house made by Shinichi Atobe—a resident of Saitama City, just north of Tokyo—puts me in mind of his country's devotion to orderly calm. One of two non-European artists to appear on Basic Channel's legendary Chain Reaction imprint, Atobe took 13 years off before the archival Butterfly Effect album arrived via DDS in 2014. His re-emergence into the dance music world has been one of the decade's most welcome surprises.
Yes is his fifth album for DDS. Demdike Stare states their communication with Atobe is limited to a CD that arrives in the post every so often, "no words except for the track titles." The first circulated photo of Atobe was included with the Yes CD-R, perhaps to quell rumors Shinichi Atobe is an alias of another Chain Reaction artist. He's never granted an interview.
He doesn't need to. Each Atobe album feels like the latest installment in a serial novel, a body of work mysterious in its ability to mix calm rhythms and atmospheres with achingly beautiful melodies. As usual, Yes will sate the small group of obsessives that smash the pre-order on each new Atobe album. He's nearly always in top form. The title track's hopeful mix of synth and house-y piano stand up to Atobe's other melodic classics "Heat 1" and "The Butterfly Effect." "Lake 3" contains Atobe's most boisterous synth theme to date, the '90s Carl Craig-esque figure mixing with Atobe's signature sad piano and, in a novel twist, hand drums.
The progression in Atobe's work is incremental. Beyond the title-track, Yes mostly does away with the classy, tech house-style snap prevalent on 2018's Heat. For an artist that emerged as a model of consistency, Atobe takes a surprising amount of left turns. The closing cut "Ocean 1" is Atobe's placid take on a synth-funk jam. The opener "Ocean 7" is beatless, with hectic arpeggios. In the background of that track, there's a peaceful drone that runs throughout. A similar tone runs in the background on the entirety of "Lake 3." These touches imbue Atobe's sonic world with its own concept of gaman, enveloping the listener in an eerie sense of calm.
01. Ocean 7
02. Lake 2
04. Lake 3
05. Rain 3
06. Loop 1
07. Ocean 1