Behind the name Yoko Ayami hides one man, guitarist and singer Satoru Kadowaki, and Ayami Yoko is the album that introduced his music to American underground audiences, thanks to the Nebraska-based label Public Eyesore. His music is best described as psychedelic outsider folk. In a nutshell, Kadowaki strums chords on his reverb-drenched guitar while howling off-key melodies. Sounds amateur? Not at all, although the clash between highly conservative chord changes and spacy, Keiji Haino-esque vocal flights has something very uncomfortable to it. The comparison with Haino stands: both men weave their own unique soundworlds, both convey strong emotions in their singing. But Kadowaki's guitar playing and song structures stick closer to Kan Mikami's. Yet Vajra's leader has never used this much reverb in his voice. There is something resolutely progressive about these songs. Many stretch over eight minutes and go through a complex maze of sections. No matter how much (intentionally) out of tune Kadowaki sings, his voice propels the music forward, both gripping the listener's attention and provoking the changes in the guitar -- much like in Syd Barrett's solo songs. This listener doesn't understand Japanese, but the topics sound painful and melancholic. Even when the singer hits the "La la la" section in "The Toy of Love Greed," the idea of flower power beauties never crosses your mind. This album is utterly strange, at first repulsive but insidiously seductive on the long run.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture