Ebi - Space Teddy EP 2 (Transmigration, 2020)
Like fragments that fall from time, we are blessed with yet another reissue of seminal acid leaning ambient mastery from the legendary Japanese producer.
In recent years, reissuing has become almost as important, to some music lovers, as the introduction of new records from contemporary established artists or from new up and comers. For many, musical development has reached a point of saturation, where countless records each week get released onto the internet, a slew of new tracks, sounds and styles to seep through that perhaps leaves people feeling overwhelmed and unsure as to where to find what they were looking for in the first place. If you dig deep enough you eventually find that special release you were after, something that leaves you feeling reassured in the current crop of music makers. But for some, they get this same feeling when looking back in time, when they explore the dusty crates and the endless sea of discogs releases - discovering a label or individual or group in this manner holds somewhat more of a distinction due to only really being able to find these tunes via very specific places. For those who really engage with musical stylings of the past, its wonderful to see and experience these records within the context of the present, particularly when labels look to repress timeless classics alongside releases from newer artists, as it really drives home the notions of connecting the past to the present. More now than ever, contemporary artists are looking to the past for inspiration, not like that didn't happen before, but for some it has come through these shared passions of those classic sounds of which much got lost within the dusty annuals of history. Its perhaps due to, like in todays climate, records getting lost in the absolute slew of electronic leaning records that came about during the late 80s and 90s, all vying for a bit of attention, with many smaller labels outputs now becoming highly desirable. But perhaps more importantly, so much of this music was intrinsically brilliant, with unfathomable levels of depth and care applied into the music, a reflection of just how much experimentation and willingness to push the boundaries existed during the golden age of electronica. Much of the time, when perusing through the annuals of Discogs, or youtube, or your preferred record shop, the sounds that permeate through from the early 90s in particular seem to resonate enormously alongside contemporary releases, particularly the sounds of progressive house, trance, techno and rave/breakbeat, with sprinklings of jazz house and electro also coming to the forefront in recent times. The links between the past and present become infused, intwined with each other, the gatekeepers between differing times in history, their music crafting those missing links and vibes that we didn't even know existed. Such is the power of certain records, their beauty, technique and vision spinning a narrative throughout space and time that is hard to deny, the tunes even now sounding unbelievably fresh and meaningful. The mastery never faded, just waiting for a new audience to fall in love with the music all over again.
There are certain names who tread the finest of lines between genres, their excellence shining through from within a plethora of sounds, styles and tones - Susumu Yokota is very much one of those names who legacy is cemented in time infinitum. The Japanese producer released a remarkable amount of music within his lengthy career, one that touched on all the important musical hybridisations that occurred during the 90s, before developing many trends that would surface during the 2000s and beyond. His outputs were as numerous as they were spectacular, with Yokota trying his hand at so many genres which he always pulled off with gusto and style but also a deep understanding of the foundations of these genres, his respect and acknowledgement shining through via his own personal take on the sounds. There is an instrinicness that runs deep across his various aliases, one which immediately draws us into a world that feels familiar but always has space for us to grow in, a musical universe self contained for exploration and discovery. He knew no bounds when it came to experimentation and tonal exploits, with so many layers thrown in to provide a level of depth that remains so remarkable to this day. As a result, his music shines so brightly still to this day, his craft something to behold and marvel at, a sense that the tunes he nurtured would remain in the collective imagination for decades to come. We continue to be in awe simply because the music transcended its original context, a certain blend was achieved that resonated enormously with the crowd at the time but still has the ability to wow contemporary audiences, something that remains a key sign of a producer with an eye for the future. Yokota always seemed to blend these ideals in his music, with the notion that the listener can grow within the musical landscapes to a point which we feel so involved with the progressions, the futurism, the feels of it all. To pick and choose from his discography is no easy task, and if you have time to delve back through his many works its well worth your time, but we have selected some of our favourites, starting off with the legendary LPs 'The Frankfurt-Tokyo Connection' and 'Acid Mt.Fuji = 赤富士 ', that arrived in 1993 and 1994 respectively, with both records a brilliant starting point to any journey through his music; the excellent tonal ambient bliss that is the 'Magic Thread' album, that landed in 1998; the excellent 'Zero' and 'Will' records, that arrived in 2000 and 2001, where Yokota flexes his deep house muscles; the awesome 'Laputa' and 'Kaleidoscope' records, that landed in 2003 and 2010 respectively, both of which are excellent journeys into the leftfield mindsets. He also released some excellent EPs under his own name, with our favourites including the brilliant 'Akafuji' (1994), 'Future Memory' (1999) and 'King Of Darkness' (2002) EPs, but there are certainly more to delve into if you feel the urge. Yokota also released records under a wide variety of aliaes, with some selected favourites including the 'Metronome Melody' and 'Fallen Angel' records, that landed via his Prism name in 95' and 97'; the excellent 'Plantation' album that arrived in 95' via the Ringo name; the 'Vol 2' record that landed via the 246 alias; the equally excellent 'Hebula' album that landed via the Anima Mundi name in 96'; the 'Grand E.P' that arrived via Yin & Yang in 97'; and finally, his Ebi name, which is arguably one of his most beloved, which churned up some absolute gems, with the honourable mentions going to the 'Hi', 'Acid Live' and 'Phat Shrimp' EPs, alongside both the '禅 = Zen' and '天 = Ten' LPs, which are both brilliant. There is much here to fall in love with, Yokota making that part very easy indeed, and to this day his name is spoken with such reverence and respect within the electronic music scene, his mastery and diversity something that music lovers of all kinds can get behind and enjoy. His mind a boundless plain of possibility, the music that flowed from him a spiritual and melodic fantasy, played out within realms that puncture our imaginations. Simply one of the greats, and an artist well worth checking out if you like your dance music in depth and intelligently designed.
It seems only fitting that such an icon like Yokota has been the focus of numerous reissues over the past couple of years, with particular emphasis placed on his Ebi alias, which is the subject of todays review, the recently released 'Space Teddy 2', that arrives via the German label Transmigration. The follow up to the widely celebrated 'Space Teddy' from 2018, the heads behind the label have selected particular highlights off of the two LPs released under the name back in the early 90s, and simply demonstrate why there is so much love for this particular part of Yokota's career. The overall flavour of ambient acid mixed with progressive dub techno undertones is an aesthetic that rings true so much today, and that is a feature that runs rampant across the EP, showcasing Yokota's brilliance when approaching mood, feel and texture. Its dubby, futuristic as hell, and so electronically melodically rich you could reach out and taste it, with so much vibrancy and feel you begin internally swimming within its sea of gorgeousness. Its acid ambience at its finest, the two genres blended together in such perfect harmony, something which we, collectively, can all get behind, as it morphs and grows in size and significance. Well, without further ado, lets dip into this.
Up first comes 'Zen', and the stage is really set within the long, panned opening. The acid line twinkles on the horizon line, making its presence known to those standing in the distance, with a equally vibrant drumming pattern joining in with proceedings, the two crafting a symbiotic relationship of sorts that weaves and dips in and around the imagination. Before long the hats and cymbals have joined in, making the textural levels reach new heights, as the tonal relationship that persists with the acid lines begins to split into two, with the looping lower end one acting as a pulse of sorts as the higher line just keeps on swelling and swelling. The drumming underneath has spun a further web, its thick top coat playing off the pulsating kicks and toms that underpin it, the overall feel of the track really starting to melt minds and hearts on this one. The track take a moment to focus a bit more on the sombre moments, with the layers peeling away to focus more on the ever evolving acid line and the soft delicate drumming patterns that persist underneath, the feel and groove of the track taking on a mind of its own as it continues to weave and believe in its own destiny. By this point in the journey we are fully locked in, our minds really expanded beyond the point of understanding and delving further into the realms of the unknown, the not so distant future, unravelling before us like a mind map with no obvious answer, just sound and progression as a guide, the acid line pointing us in one direction before quickly deviating and changing tack. And like that, the song plays itself out, happy to demonstrate its full range of sonic capabilities one final time, leaving us to wonder of what may have been. 'Chuu' arrives next, and we start off our journey in similar surroundings to the previous cut. The drums are light and airy as ever, softly humming along to the rhythms of life, before we descend into the gentle introduction of the melodic side of things, that begins with the pulsating chord line that chimes along, with the kick drum and additional hats being thrown into the mix for good measure. And then, it arrives - the acid line, and it is quite the entrance, with all the foundations lifting slightly to accord with its impending arrival, with the sequence slowly making its presence more and more known. The chords around it become more bold and bombastic, as the drums continue to align themselves with its prolonged presence, with the track then swinging into more stripped back territories to focus on the acid line and drums, which then takes a left turn with the acid line moving away for a moment. This then leads into the most glorious of sequences, as the sequence comes back in in all its glory, only this time joined by the most euphoric of chord lines, and like that we reach the level of euphoria that was building this whole time. Its a masterpiece of morphology, of emotional exploration, of textural design and musical evolution, to put it simply by the end of things we are completely immersed in the epic vastness of it all. Just stunning, in every sense of the word. Endlessly stunning.
Up next comes 'Sei', and the drums kick things off once more. The drums build up into a fade, before finding a tonal plain for which to sing from, and before long we are joined by the most gorgeous of chord lines, washing over us as we dip our faces into its sonic majesty. The chord line goes through a few bars before being joined by the acid line, that gently permeates at all the right times, acting alongside the drumming to give over an experience that operates on numerous levels, both groove along to each others energy and feel as we get transported along in a series of tidal waves designed to tantalise every part of the mind and the soul. Short, but effortlessly sweet, meaningful and touching, stuff to make you believe again. Up next comes 'Kaze', and we start off in similarly soft surroundings. The drums peak and illuminate a soundscape at night, its energy rebounding all over from the mountains in the distance to the calm waters near the foreground, all the while soft sombre lights and chords begin to populate the view, its hue warm and orange in the deep sun drenched evening. The drums pick up a bit of urgency, reverberating within their realms of rhythm, with the keys and chords remaining sporadic but beautifully placed, installing a true sense of calm in the listener, something which remains maintained for a long while as the track slowly moves past objects of interest and intrigue. The track never moves between gears, more like it responds to elements within itself, feeling out all that is contained within as a means to transfix and embolden the forward momentum that exists within its calm waters, as the listener remains continually involved in all the little features and feels that swell and delve around the consciousness. Sonically, you can't get much better. Finally, we come to 'Tsuki', that sees out the album in the most perfect way possible. Much like with the previous cut, the track remains on a consistent plain of audial existence in the introduction, maintaining a soft presence in regards to its percussion before upping the ante with simmering cymbals and hats that add greatly to the feel and tone of the track moving forward. The keys and chords on top retain a looping sequence, before descending into a more free flowing textured approach to proceedings, allowing for maximum engagement in all that flows out from the track. The track contains a little bit more energy than the previous, but its ability to grab your attention with every little element that permeates through is really wonderful, allowing for our hearts and minds to be fully submerged one final time. A blissed out euphoric state, a plain that persists on so many levels, something to believe in, truly. Such a special collection of songs, from one of the greatest to ever do it.
Listening through to this record is like taking a step back in time in order to take a giant leap into the future. The way in which Yokota bridges genres together remains remarkable in itself, but its the approach and aesthetics he applies that amounts to genius - there are so many times during this record you really take a step back to marvel at it all, with some jaw droppingly good moments that stand out as truly innovative, like the manner in which layers are entrenched in progression, or the subtle builds and blends in melody, or the beautiful use of drumming as both a pace setter and additional melodic feature. Ebi might be one of Yokota's most enduring creations, and this record and his previous really say it all about his works. If you want to pick up a reissue this year, then this really is the one to do it with. Timeless ain't the word. Supreme music from a genius.
Support the troops - This is sold out in most places, we managed to cop a copy for £20, be quick!!