Album of the week: Susumu Yokota – Acid Mt. Fuji

At the beginning of the year, Fact Magazine ran an article about the resurgence of Japanese Ambient music. Albums that had been pressed in limited copies for the Japanese market only  found minimal success outside of their own country, and had largely disappeared into obscurity, was being excavated by a new audience over the internet. While some of these artists followed their work into the mystical vaults of music history, others prevailed and found success in electronic music.

Susumu Yokota was one of the fortunate ones. Touring Europe throughout the ninety nineties while releasing music for prominent dance music labels, he established a productive Tokyo – Frankfurt connection, but while some of his work were readily available, some had found a fate much the same as counterparts like Hiroshi Yoshimura. His second album, Acid Mt. Fuji on Sublime records would follow records like Yoshimura’s “Green,” disappearing almost into obscurity. A CD-re-issue in 2016 came at the perfect time on the crest of a wave of the resurgence of Japanese Ambient music, leading to a newfound interest in music like this.

The Internet and especially Youtube had suddenly brought these mythical sonic documents to a new audience scouring the known digital hemisphere in search of something they hadn’t heard before. A few of these exotic pieces concurrently caught the ear of a few influential people on various labels and as a result some 14 years on we now have the first re-press of “Acid Mt. Fuji”.

Mr. Yokoto sadly passed away in 2015 after a long period of illness, but his music lives on forever incased in that reverential time for electronic music, the ninety nineties. The record returns to the world during a time of Bandcamp and the style of Ambient/New Age music that is currently being proliferated through the website. “Acid Mt. Fuji” slots in there somewhere with a DIY approach to groove boxes and digital synthesisers, but at the same time negates the trend as something that lives outside its own time, both as something from the past, and something that couldn’t be encapsulated in that time either.

Susumu Yokota paints a surreal, abstract landscape in psychedelic hues with Mt. Fuji looming in the distance of the frame. Beads of wafer-thin electronic droplets cling to bio-organic rhythmic structures like a mist hanging over a rainy forest. Pulling back the shroud, simple repetitive structures form the basis of Yokota’s work, which can go from lush, padded ambience to churning percussive movements. Music, like “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” is conjured from some fantastical world where the biodiversity of nature finds some synergy with hyper-modern language of machines.

Echoes of unlikely animal kingdoms, where African elephants and Capuchin monkeys occupy the same ecosphere, pierce the thin exterior of the album’s electronic stratosphere and organic sounds forms some unlikely relationship with stark electronic noise. Melodies offer only wistful encounters with the listener, like they exist without the purpose of being heard, answering that old adage about the tree falling in the woods. While  Moments like “Alphaville” and “Saboten” do offer jolts to the system in jack-hammering four to the floor beats, they only disrupt the languishing atmospheres for a moment before disappearing back into the serene, opaque mist of songs like “Oh my god” and “Tanuki.” This new re-issue enshrines the sounds Susumu Yokota and “Acid Mt. Fuji” for yet another generation and the future, where it will hopefully live on in infamy for centuries to come.