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On the surface this is impenetrable and difficult to get into, but there's a lot of brilliance to be found once you're there. Yokota's previous album "Grinning Cat" was based on samples of acoustic instruments, twisted and looped to create a surreal collage of classical refinement and futuristic electronics. On "The Boy and the Tree" the loops are still mostly built from real instruments, but manipulated even more to sound dark, eerie and less immediately accessible.
Stringed instruments are a bigger feature here, with various guitars, harps, and zithers sequenced and and interwoven with the texture, for example on the glittering "Fairy Link". "Grass, Tree and Stone" is a mellower ambient piece built on the drone of a sitar. Throughout the album there is an insistent pulsating of various exotic percussion sounds, always imaginatively aligned off the beat. Often there's also distant, ethnic sounding vocals - "Plateau On Plateau" features a singer who sounds exactly like Liz Fraser from the Cocteau Twins.
The soundscapes are hypnotic and other-worldly, but there's so much going on here that it seems inappropriate to call it ambient. It's wasted as mere throwaway background music, it's so much more rewarding than that.
November 20, 2003