Ryo Kawasaki

Sweet Life

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One of the dangers anytime an artist decides to forgo the organic approach and back his primary instrument with electronic effects is relying too much on the machinery. Fortunately, Ryo Kawasaki, as strong a producer as he is a lyrical electric guitar master, makes sure his silky urban rhythms on Sweet Life are simply an enhancement, rather than a burden, to his fluid lines. Whether the track is straight-out funk, smooth late-night seduction, or a loping ride like the title cut, his hypnotic synth lines simply set the mood. Kawasaki's plucky, winding way with a melody is textured over that, working its way toward varying degrees of emotional resonance. While the fully plugged-in mode carries the majority of the collection, Kawasaki earns his most memorable kudos for the simple and sparse acoustic gems, a lush cover of Janet Jackson's "Again" and on "Sweet Life," which improvises a flamenco-like edge over fingersnap percussion that sounds more real than machine-generated. Another edge he gives himself over the competition is his admirable aversion to outside lead instruments like acoustic piano or sax. When a performer advertises a guitar in the forefront, it's nice to see him deliver the goods without any distractions.

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