Susumu Yokota

The Boy and the Tree

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On The Boy and the Tree, Susumu Yokata continues the trajectory of ambient albums formed by Sakura and Grinning Cat. Like Sakura, The Boy and the Tree is gentle and buoyant, but for the most part Yokata leaves guitars behind for odder instrumentation -- plinks, clacks, gurgles, gongs, and bells. The result, especially on tracks like "Live Echo," sounds like Brian Eno crossed with the ancient and pastoral. "Fairy Link" dances through a dreamy repetition until it floats into even less grounded territory, "Secret Garden" employs hushed, indiscernible vocals that suggest some magical twilight realm, and "Red Swan" finds an exotic, sparkling Middle Eastern groove. "Thread Leads to Heaven," possibly the best track on the album, seems giddy and playful, merging Japanese music with a cartoon simplicity. While challenging, Yokata's ambient music on The Boy and the Tree is extremely accessible because it works with uplifting melodies and vibes that most listeners would even find relaxing.

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