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Skintone Collection

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Album Review

Skintone is the label that Susumu Yokota started in 1998 as a Japanese outlet for his ambient, experimental, and otherwise abstract work — which is to say, everything except his more traditionally techno-styled, dance-oriented releases. It doesn't reflect the entirety of his extensive output, but it's the material that has gained him the most attention, and it's probably the largest swath of his multifaceted oeuvre that it would be prudent to consider surveying on a single compilation. This disc, which includes music from the first decade or so of Yokota's output on the label (most of the albums covered were released internationally on Leaf and Lo), understandably devotes three slots to pieces from the much-beloved Sakura, often cited as his masterwork; two each from Grinning Cat and the early works collection Image: 1983-1998; and one apiece from each of his subsequent albums, including the full-length Rothko collaboration Distant Sounds of Summer. The compiler, British radio DJ Ben Eshmeade, has largely chosen to focus on the ambient end of the spectrum — the majority of the selections here are essentially beatless, even those culled from the more emphatically rhythmic recent albums Wonder Waltz and Love or Die. It's a defensible choice, one that makes for a cohesive listen while still providing a good sense of what Yokota's all about: lush, meticulously textured soundscapes, some simple, some dizzyingly intricate, with a penchant for bell sounds and an abiding focus on glisteningly beautiful surfaces. As Eshmeade admits, there are any number of compilations that could have been made from the same material, and by the same token it's hard to make a strong case for recommending this over any number of Yokota's more fully realized albums, particularly Sakura or the more idiosyncratic, conceptually offbeat Symbol. But as a simple overview, it gets the job done competently, compellingly, and in just slightly over an hour. ~ K. Ross Hoffman, Rovi


Born: Japan

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Susumu Yokota emerged in the early '90s as one of the most versatile and prolific electronic producers going. In his native Japan, he was known for many years as a top-tier dance music talent, specializing in all varieties of house while dabbling in techno, electro, and trance for the Sublime, Harthouse, and Planet Earth labels. Alternate aliases for his dance releases included Ringo, Prism, and Sonicstuff. While his dancefloor tracks were funky and playful with a heavy debt to epic disco -- he even...
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Skintone Collection, Susumu Yokota
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