Since we spoke to Local Action‘s main man Tom Lea back in March, the label has put out albums from its lynch-pins Slackk and DJ Q, dropped debut singles from Shriekin’ and Finn and stepped into the realm of full-on, legit house parties. As they approach year’s end, they’ve upped the ante once more with a truly superb cassette from another newcomer, Yamaneko. The London-based producer first came to our attention with a mix for Subcity Radio in early March. Just a few weeks later Tom Lea opened his Truancy Volume with “Seabrooke Rise”, a track from the album Pixel Wave Embrace. In the intervening months, Mumdance has weaved a few of Yamaneko’s tracks into his never less than excellent Rinse FM show, whetting appetites and building (in this case, deserved) hype around the producer. It was appropriate, then, that Mumdance should play host to the “Pixel Healing Spa”, a 30-minute journey through the type of new-age bliss that inspired Pixel Wave Embrace. (Even more fitting was that the show was broadcast from RBMA Tokyo, in a country whose culture has had a palpable influence on Yamaneko’s ideas.)
What of the album, then? It’s a thing of beauty. It opens with the unguent flow of “Fragrance Transmission”, the thick, globular tones of which feel like bubbles drifting upward from the ocean floor. Delicate notes float around these structured patterns, offsetting their regimented indolence and sinister melody. Opening the album this way it’s clear that it will be as unsettling as it is welcoming. Yamaneko plays with convention, defying the ordinary and opting for the unexpected. The tropes of instrumental grime loom heavy over the release, yet it’s far from formulaic. Gunshots abound, as on the aquatic “Greeen Hillz” and the cacophonous “Slew Wave”, which is perforated by the sound of human breath as much as automatic fire. “Yonkoma” and “Accela Rush” bypass grime completely, moving instead towards uptempo techno beats, albeit on quite a granular level. The former shuffles along with a glint in its eye, while the latter opens with dancing aquatic bells before jumping into a zone of distorted acid. You find yourself immersed in its darkness before you quite realise what’s going on. “Is this on shuffle?” you might wonder. “Have we switched on something else?” The album drifts so effortlessly into this entirely new sphere that you wonder where it might go next.
Standout “Primrose Island”, which premiered on Juno Plus, returns to the album’s sonic trope, adding in subtle laser drops and grime synth modes to the track’s hauntingly lovely melody. The aforementioned “Seabrooke Rise” is the only track that raises cause for complaint. Assured and accomplished as it is, it outstays its welcome and suffers from a lack of development. The repetition of its two main phrases could be contracted somewhat, or indeed developed outward. That said, Pixel Wave Embrace barely lasts 40 minutes, so this is little more than a petty grievance. While “Calotype Process” is the most straightforward ‘grime’ track here, the album’s final passage sees it enter full-on healing spa mode. “~” does away with rigid bar lines in favour of weighted pauses, while “Noises In The Wave Wires Like The Kissing Of The Sea”, which features Rimplton, seems to lament frantic late nights on the dance floor, opting for the lethargic freedom of the night bus. The album comes to a close with “Adrift”, a thoroughly blissful conflation of grime hiss and gentle electronica. Flip the tape over, set these rolling bells against the taut flex of the opening transmission and there’s a sense of a coiled spring devolving to a straight wire before dissolving into thin air. Mumdance coined the term weightless for that sweet spot between energetic beats and ambient wash, and it seems that, even at 130bpm, “Adrift” is utterly weightless. If you do flip the tape over as we’ve suggested, you’ll find it hard to press stop. This album is one that bears repeating, with all its mischief, melancholy and heart coming together to form one of the essential releases of the year.
Yamaneko – Pixel Wave Embrace is out now on Local Action Records.