Ytamo album makes the case for 2016 being the year of optimistic music

Cindy Hernandez/Staff Writer

Ytamo’s album “MI WO” is an ambitious album for what it blatantly attempts and succeeds at beautifully. By turning electronic music into a venue for the organic, the natural, and seasonal, Japanese musician Ytamo propels the sounds of the fake as living cohesively, like clockwork, but without unnecessary optimism.

In short, the normalcy of the samples used elevates Ytamo’s approach to plunderphonics as the natural order of the world, not the kind of interesting juxtaposition we originally attempt to ascribe to it.

We begin on Ytamo’s journey with ‘Hamon,’ beginning with the sounds of lullabies played by toy instruments and the distant high notes of an opera singer as water drops against a Edo-period Japanese percussion style. Trumpets come in, perhaps announcing the arrival of something greater. Kind of like Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ that mimics through jazz the insanity of industrial sounds against a bustling city, the second track “Autopoiesis,” employs the sounds of machinery, car alarms, and printers failing into a harmonious byproduct of the sounds around us everyday.

A dreamy, emotional saxophone and Ytamo’s ethereal singing, reminiscent of early Grimes from her first album, “Geidi Primes,” along with a strong percussion that sounds like deep house, dancehall than plunderphonics mess firmly sets Ytamo’s inspirations as reflective, yet highly enjoyable.

On ‘Colorful Waves,’ we have a playfulness reminiscent to Japanese pop origins. The listener gets a vibe like Shibuya-kei and city pop, especially with its mid-century lounge aesthetic. The cutesy synth keyboard makes a position for the optimism this album so greatly champions.

That cuteness extends itself into the more Moog synth heavy ‘Human Ocean,’ the lead single off of “MI WO.” On this central track, synth and classical piano battle against the sounds of nature and Ytamo’s adorable vocal stylings and cement a playful rivalry in the instruments used on this album, almost becoming a metafictional look at what it means to make an album so multifaceted in 2016.

On ‘Hen,’ soft meows and little bleeps and bloops glitch together against maracas for a harmonious view of domesticity with a pet, like the official soundtrack to “Nintendogs+Cats.” It’s insane that something this vaguely chiptunes related can sound so mature, but it shows the extent that Ytamo has used these sounds to fabricate optimism into elegance, not joyous manic laughter. On ‘You Me,’ we find Ytamo singing, welcoming us into the comfort of her constructed universe by her ethereal, sing songy repetition of “hajimemashite,” which is a phrase to welcome newcomers in Japanese.

My favorite track is ‘100 Birds.’ It uses one of the most universal symbols of the natural world as a place that perhaps isn’t so chaotic after all; birds replicating their flight and pitter patter of webbed talons through an electric wind chime and a playful drumming that sounds like patty cake. It’s the perfect soundtrack to watch 100 birds fly overhead on Mt.Fuji perhaps.  On the final track, ‘Sensational Area,’ we get a full scope of Ytamo’s vision, finally culminating in an end to traditional instrumentation, but with the most melodic, classical musical styling of any song before hand, like the climax of pleasure and joy at the end of Bjork’s “Vespertine” with the track ‘Unision.’ Bjork asks a lover to “unite, tonight” and on “Sensational Area,” Ytamo asks us to unite to the idea that the future isn’t so scary after all, with sunshine as opposed to snowy winters.

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