: ai yamamoto

Bus – Outer 6, 2005
www.bus117.com

Previous Bus Gallery Outer releases have been compilations of various experimental sound artists, however the 6th in the series is a solo CD by Ai Yamamato. Japanese born, Melbourne-based Yamamoto is a well respected performer on the Australian scene, renowned for finely detailed, pretty compositions frequently accompanied by her own visuals. So this full length exploration has been keenly anticipated.

Euphonious opens with a 1 minute intro of gauze-like shimmers, quickly launching into the most pop-friendly piece, Guitarist letter, a gentle lolloping guitar loop with evolving frills on top. At the very end a single piano note and deep crackle give us a hint of darker possibilities.

Childhood (Track 4), also has popular appeal, with its overlapping vibraphone note clusters. Though the music box timbre has become the domain of Icelandic experimental pop tribes, Yamamoto's broken, intertwining melodies hang simultaneously in the air, creating beguiling polyphonies, confidently reclaiming the territory. Yamamoto also makes pretty work of the gamelan-timbre on Ai remember (Track 6), her sounds almost organic yet with a digitised edge that is constantly intriguing.

A highlight is Dreaming of swimming in emerald water (Track 7) made of midtone drones topped with melodic wisps, like high clouds forming, dissipating, reforming. New drones are introduced shifting the atmosphere into almost heavier zones which work back to resolved territory. Coming in at 4mins 33, it feels like this piece could quite happily sustain itself for 10 minutes.

Tracks 9-11 seem like a song cycle, joined together by a palette of needle sharp patterns, glassy patinas and waftier undertones that just keep us in touch with the earth. Beautifully mixed the sharpness never becomes unpleasant although it does create a sameness to the middle section of the album.

In contrast, the final 3 pieces offer the most varied explorations. Skyscraper has a majestic meditative pace, heavy on synthesizer tones, drawing inspiration from earlier electronic pop. Sky Train offers pacey, birdlike electronic trills and bleeps creating an atmosphere of excitement on the verge of agitation. The concluding track Make a wish uses a distant piano, gradually turning backwards on itself, giving a haunting sense of a shadow afterlife of the sounds.

On all the tracks Yamamoto's touch is light and considered. Her choice of timbre is her stylistic strength which only rarely becomes too samey. My only wish is for several of the pieces to be longer so that they can grow and hover a little longer on the edge of the darker places she evokes. That aside, Euphonious lives up to its title. More than simply pleasant sounding, Yamamoto offers 14 glittering aural jewels of exploratory electronica.

Gail Priest

1 May 2006