Yamaoka: Life Line
Not a whole lot of information is available about Yamaoka or the forty-eight-minute Life Line, the group's full-length follow-up to its earlier 2011 album on Somehow Recordings, Warm Colours. At the very least we can report that Yamaoka is the electronics sound duo of Kenichi Oka and Yoshinori Yamazaki who live in Hokkaido, Japan, and that the duo has been issuing albums and twelve-inch releases since 1998 on labels such as U-Cover, Cathedral Transmissions, Kazumi, and, of course, Somehow. The eight pieces comprising Life Line often distance themselves from ambient music in its pure sense by pairing radiant swirls emblematic of an ambient style with synthesizer rhythm patterns that are animated, hyperactive even. In Yamaoka's heavily synthesized music, said percussive patterns hammer and pulsate insistently, often at rapid speed, an effect that in turn lends the music a pronounced cosmic character, while it also generates marked contrast between the more meditative melodic and restless rhythm elements. In the album's two longest settings, the fourth, animated by what sound like loops of processed acoustic piano playing, gradually swells into a throbbing exercise in kosmische musik that stretches its tendrils into across the vast expanses of space, while the fifth's echo-laced bleeps expand and contract for a trance-inducing nine-minutes. In eschewing rhythm elements altogether, the sixth piece, on the other hand, situates itself firmly within the ambient tradition, though even here tension is generated by having a motif repeat without resolution, Yamaoka preferring to suspend the theme in mid-air rather than ground it firmly. The closing piece, in stark contrast, comes closer to being a noise exercise in its focus on abrasive tonalities than anything one might call ambient. None of which is a bad thing, of course; if anything, such deviations show Yamaoka keeping the genre healthy by stretching it into new formations.At eleven minutes long, Josco's 0611 offers but a snapshot of the kind of music produced by Gerard McDermott, who is originally from the Republic of Ireland but currently living in Hat Yai, Thailand. Recorded in Dublin and Vienna, the EP features three pieces, all of them (naturally) relatively short in length but pleasing nonetheless. It's thoroughly fits within the ambient genre, even if there are differences between the tracks. The first shimmers brightly, its gossamer electronic streams suggestive of blinding sunlight on a summer afternoon. Uplifting in spirit, the piece gently fades away, making way for the ominous undercurrents and billowing washes of the dramatic middle setting, which hews more to the dark ambient template. The final piece distances itself from the style of the other pieces in overlaying a foreboding, horn-like synth theme over a brooding drone base. It's all promising stuff and artful too, though the modest serving makes it hard to reach any conclusive determinations about Josco's potential.