Multi-talented producer Susumu Yokota returns to the ambient realm with the beautiful and diverse Sakura. When he indulges his fondness for pop hooks with his dancefloor material, Yokota's melodic choices are glossy and extroverted, but his music for home listening is focused, controlled, and deeply internal. His knack for blending traditional instruments like guitar and piano with simple electronics harks back to ambient music's birth in the mid-'70s; at times Sakura recalls the work of pioneers like Brian Eno, Cluster, and Manuel Göttsching. The icy "Saku" sets the meditative tone on Sakura, with gentle, winding guitar lines, relaxed synthesizer oscillations, and plenty of breathing space for the minimal instrumentation. Beats make their first appearance on "Uchiu Tanjyo," as smooth, semi-tribal hand drums blend organically with the repeating keyboard figures. "Genshi" adds house drum programming to the brew, and Yokota's knack for reflective electronic melody on the track rivals the best of Kraftwerk. Both "Azukiior No Kaori" and "Kodomotachi" use vocal samples to haunting effect, bringing to mind the favored techniques of Nobukazu Takemura without direct reference to machine glitches. The flow is marred by a misplaced jazz cutup ("Naminote"), but Sakura possesses an austere beauty and should not be overlooked.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Richardson