Yuta Inoue: Homemade Dust Collector

Yokotsuka Yuuya: Return to Nature

Homemade Dust Collector would appear to be an apt choice of title for this first solo album from Japanese beatmaker Yuta Inoue, given the dusty instrumental hip-hop that is its primary focus. Echoes of J Dilla emerge in the set's fourteen tracks, whose broken beats and kick drums Inoue typically likes to have lag behind the beat in classic Dilla fashion (see “Kougai Circusdan” for one example). Like many a bedroom producer, Inoue packs ample detail into his constructions, with many a track loaded up with clipped female vocals, handclaps, fluttering synth textures, and ambient noise treatments. Most of the titles will mean little to anyone not fluent in Japanese, but, being instrumentals, the music communicates directly regardless.

Representative of the music's style, “Mugen Maigo Center” weds warm Rhodes patterns to a crisp head-nodding pulse, sparkling synth touches, and phase-treated guitar effects—the mood uplifting and the forecast sunny. A hint of G-funk emerges during “Parking Dance Club” when wiry synth flares appear alongside flurries of wordless vocal accents and chattering snares. Though the track shows Inoue to be an especially skilled sound designer, it's hardly the recording's only example of such. The way he sequences chopped vocal edits into a sweetly singing melody in “Verandafujin Ha Yume Wo Mita” also catches one's ear.

At times Inoue opts for a largely stripped-down approach, as “Ameotoko Kinshikuiki,” a skeletal melange of loping beats, acid and arcade synths, and vocal murmurs, demonstrates. He's also not averse to exploring a more ambient-styled presentation, as he does within the dream-like “Chika Koukokugai.” There's a carefree and oft-serene spirit to the release that enhances its appeal, despite its generally derivative character, and consequently Homemade Dust Collector, at the very least, offers a refreshing, forty-eight-minute respite from current ailments, whether they be global or personal in nature.

Also issued on the Kaico label, Yokotsuka Yuuya's Return to Nature ties itself less to the instrumental hip-hop genre as Inoue's does and more to a general electronic style that encompasses a number of genres. The title of Yuuya's sophomore effort might suggest a disavowal of electronic technologies and instruments for a purely acoustic approach, but that's hardly the case. Instead, the young Japanese producer uses all the electronic means at his disposal to craft thirteen settings designed to evoke earth's landscapes. The crisp beat work indicates that Yuuya's as much of a beatmaker as Inoue though one less beholden to hip-hop.

Offsetting the pronouncedly electronic sound design is Yuuya's acoustic piano playing, which often emerges as the central melodic element within a given track. That's true of “Desert,” for instance, where dancing piano patterns gradually surface amidst a dense array of swooning funk-styled rhythms and flickering synthetics, and the album-closing “0000,” where piano sprinkles contribute to a thick textural backdrop for emotionally expressive female singing. By comparison, the keyboard takes a back seat during the frenetic “Grace (Alight),” whose arrangement is given over to light-streaming synth effects, charging beats, and dizzying overlays of speaking voices.

One of the fifty-eight-minute album's stronger tracks is the soaring “Foehn,” whose swirling keyboard sparkle, pizzicato strings, and flute-like textures make for one of the album's most captivating moments. As memorable is “Phantom,” which opts for a slightly more restrained presentation but stands out for a graceful piano line that appears alongside a swinging beat pattern and squirrely electronics. Such tracks are full-scale, multi-layered constructions whose kaleidoscopic sound design provides no shortage of stimulation to the senses, and one comes away from the recording impressed by Yuuya's abilities as a composer, instrumentalist, and arranger. Both Homemade Dust Collector and Return to Nature suggest that Japan is well-stocked for bedroom electronic producers with advanced skill-sets.

October 2014