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Special Life

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Album Review

The brass at camp Kompakt were clearly smitten when they heard the productions delivered to their headquarters bearing the name of Kaito, an alias of Japan's Hiroshi Watanabe. Three Kompakt 12" releases later, they were still heralding Watanabe's loved-up nu-trance anthems as a refreshing synthesis of early-'90s trance with deep house sensibilities. Many a baffled Kompakt fanatic didn't know what to make of the label's unexpected move, what with the word trance commonly acting as the verbal equivalent of ipecac, but the majority of those people were won over by the warmth, clarity, and striking lack of sameness in Watanabe's tracks. It's easy to see why, since they practically drape the listener in cozy, thick blankets of synthesized atmospheres (sometimes melancholic, sometimes blissful), refined drum programming, and a steadfast refusal to rely on just a handful of melodic tricks and limited keyboard vamps. In a heap of sound-alike trance productions, Watanabe's rich and unique compositions — along with his uncommon approach — truly make his productions stick out. "Breaking the Star" even returns the trance form back to some of its roots in Detroit techno, merging the alternately moody and exuberant sounds of Carl Craig's disparate B.F.C. and Paperclip People projects. Special Life collects most of the sides from those three singles and adds some previously unreleased material, including an ambient mix of "Awakening." For staunch trancephobes, the disc could take some getting used to, but diligence will likely be returned with a payoff.


Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Kaito is the most well-known alias of Berklee College of Music graduate Hiroshi Watanabe (aka King Street, Nite System, Oxygen Music Works, Quadra, Tread, 32 Project), a Japanese producer and DJ who spun at New York clubs Twilo and Tunnel & Speed, and held a residency at Save the Robots. As Kaito, Watanabe produced tracks that the brain trust at Cologne's Kompakt label dubbed nu-trance. Combining early-'90s trance elements with the sensibilities of a deep house producer, Watanabe issued a trio of...
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Special Life, kaito
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