Marat Shibaev: Seeing Tokyo
If Marat Shibaev's name is unfamiliar to textura readers, his Martin Schulte alias might be less so as it's the name under which the Russian electronic producer has released dub-techno collections such as Far Away (Rednetic, 2009) and Slow Beauty (Lantern, 2013), both of them previously reviewed at textura (Lantern also has been home to the Schulte collections Depth of Soul, Odysseia, and Treasure). He decided to issue his latest collection Seeing Tokyo under his birth name because in his view it represents something extra special in his musical career—not to suggest that he didn't regard those that came before as special in their own ways. But Seeing Tokyo is special for being a portrait that grew out of his first visit to the city in late 2012. In that regard, Shibaev expressly wanted to capture the dynamism of the city—its energy and accelerated pace, its subways, trains, and crowds, its business centers and night spots— from the foreigner's perspective, as well as the quieter side of Tokyo offered by its parks and temples.
Whereas the Martin Schulte releases often lodge themselves comfortably within the dub-techno genre, Seeing Tokyo is notable for how much it also evokes in spirit and style the mid-‘90s Basic Channel-Chain Reaction template. In fact, one could slip tracks like “Dissonant” and “Hydraulic” onto Decay Product, the 1997 Chain Reaction set from Torsten Pröfrock under the Various Artists name, and no one would bat an eye. There also are moments on Seeing Tokyo that invite comparison, appropriately enough, to Hongkong, the Monolake set that Robert Henke and one-time member Gerhard Behles issued on the Berlin label in the same year. Stoked by a kinetic rhythmic force, “Acceleration,” for example, dazzles with an ecstatic propulsion that could be mistaken for Monolake operating at a slightly higher-than-average speed.
The album and track titles suggest that Shibaev intends for Seeing Tokyo to be experienced as a day-long travelogue, and with that in mind “In the Early Morning” serves as a natural starting-point for the seventy-two minute album. But, contrary to what one might expect, the track isn't an ambient scene-setter designed to prepare the listener for the fast-paced animation sure to follow; instead, “In the Early Morning” bustles in a way that conjures the image of a tardy young executive hurriedly preparing for the workday and racing out the door (a similar challenge to expectations occurs when “Calmness” ends the album on an equally spirited note). Naturally, the tracks that follow exude the kind of insistent propulsion one would expect from pieces with titles like “Motor” and “Acceleration,” and the album sees Shibaev repeatedly blending chunky synth chords, hyperactive hi-hat patterns, ringing ride cymbals, and pulsing kick drums into charging dub-techno throwdowns.On production grounds, the material is as polished as one would expect, given the large volume of material Shibaev's issued under the Martin Schulte moniker since 2006, and on sonic grounds his multi-layered constructions are a source of constant stimulation. In terms of content, the album, as satisfying as it is when broached on its own terms, impresses slightly less, simply because it doesn't signify a dramatic advance on the music Shibaev's previously released. In that light, Seeing Tokyo might generously be seen as a refinement of his music-making as opposed to the beginning of a bold new chapter.