aus: After All

After All, Yasuhiko Fukuzono's sixth full-length release under the aus moniker, finds the Tokyo, Japan-based producer and flau head emphasizing vocals to a greater degree than ever before and doing so with a number of choice guests, including Sylvain Chauveau, Craig Tattersall (The Remote Viewer, The Boats), Lindsay Anderson (L'altra), Andreas Berger (glim), and Cokiyu (the release is also topped up with remixes by The World on Higher Downs, Motoro Faam, and Ametsub). Though Fukuzono garnered deserved acclaim for his 2005 Lang release (Preco) and its subsequent remix companion (featuring contributions from Ulrich Schnauss, Manual, Telefon Tel Aviv's Joshua Eustis, Kettel, Isan, etc.) and 2007's Curveland (Moteer), the new, hour-long release represents a significant step forward for his aus project.

If one didn't know better, one would assume it to be David Sylvain, not Sylvain Chauveau, wryly musing throughout the atmospheric “Water Paintings.” In contrast to that rather downtrodden opening, the tracks that follow are more in line with the uplifting electroacoustic style one associates with aus. In “Vertigo,” Cokiyu's delicate voice rides an animated wave of glitch-laden electronics and beat patterns that are both downtempo and rambunctious. Here and on the two songs that follow, Cokiyu's warm and humanizing presence proves to be the perfect complement to aus's intricate tone paintings. A soaring vocal melody, mirrored by equally appealing keyboard melodies, elevates “IHI,” while “Closed” opts for a softer ballad style in its vocal and melodic aspects and insistent propulsion in its beat programming. Memorable too, “Waltz” features Lindsay Anderson lending her serenading voice to the song's bluesy sparkle.

Though they naturally exude less immediate personality than the vocal pieces, the album's instrumentals are strong too, whether it's a paradisiacal ambient setting (“Autoland”) or an uptempo beat programming exercise in soul-jazz (“Fake Five”). With Tattersall participating, it's no huge surprise that “Lovers” slows the tempo considerably but the track's delicate weave of strings, music box, electric piano, and electronics is nevertheless lovely. On the remix front, piano and strings cartwheel through the oft-agitated Motoro Faam makeover of “Hero of the Paper Boy,” and strings and billowing atmosphere dominate The World On Higher Downs' ambient-styled “Urum” treatment. Fukuzono's sophisticated electronic pop has always been distinguished by its attention to detail and its exquisite sound design but After All pushes those qualities to a higher level, in large part due to the humanizing effect the vocal dimension brings to the material.

March 2009