Aoki Takamasa: RV8

Whether it's called glitch-funk or digi-funk, Aoki Takamasa's music is most definitely a scalpel-sharp brand of electronic dance music. A single listen confirms that RV8, the Osaka, Japan-based producer's second contribution to the Raster-Noton label (2009's Rn-Rhythm-Variations EP the first), is as meticulously constructed as the representative albums he released on Op.disc (2006's Parabolica) and Progressive Form (2004's Simply Funk).

The sound design of the opening cut “Rhythm Variation 01” is amazing, with Takamasa battering the listener with sweeping flurries of voices snippets and rolling out a hyperactive groove that's as intricate as it is fleet-footed. Worked in between the flurries are stabs, some metronomically sequenced and others syncopatedly, that give the swinging track a strong jazz feel—even if the tune's about as far removed from conventional jazz as could be imagined. “Rhythm Variation 04” sees Takamasa inching into Alva Noto territory with an insistent series of minimal, techno-funk gestures and spreading enough scratchy rhythm figures and glitchy smears throughout the track's ten minutes to keep any Raster-Noton die-hard happy.

The album's first noticeable left turn arrives three tracks in when Takamasa slows the tempo for a downtempo funk workout that's got as much snap as the others but dishes it out at a fraction of the speed. The stabs-driven fifth cut appears at first to be little more than a riff on the fourth until Takamasa adds a dryly intoned voiceover to give the tune an unexpected twist (and don't miss the drawn-out stab with which it ends), while the sixth flirts with an atmospheric brand of minimal techno that's so restrained it verges on sleepy.

If there's a potential problem with Takamasa's style of music, it has to do with the threat of diminishing returns. That is, the glitch-funk style is certainly palatable enough when ingested in a serving of one or two tracks, but becomes less effective when the number goes up to six or eight. But Takamasa, seemingly wise to that possibility, changes things up often enough on the hour-long RV8, such as by slowing the tempo (on the third track) or adding a voice element (as happens on the fifth), to hold the listener's attention.

June 2013