REVIEW: Susumu Yokota – Symbol (2005)

Upon pressing play, the listener is immediately plunged in a current of ethereal introspection. A wide range of classical samples are seamlessly interlocked, sleight of hand shifting to synth melodies and back again. Symbol is beautiful, to put easily. It frames clearly what ills us, like a mirror reflecting back to us our shadow selves.

Only a few songs into the album, stabbing strings on Traveler In The Wonderland emphasize the song’s looping nature while countering samples fade in and out in a haze of reverb. Even as things grow more festive, an air of mystique is always at hand on Symbol. Following track Song of The Sleeping Forest is no exception. A 60s prom dance clashing with electronic personified exotica, melancholic tenderness carry the listener on a cloud of air before fading into the night.

Many songs, Flaming Love And Destiny for example, are far too bold to simply be considered ambient (as this album usually is). Even songs 3 or 4 minutes long seem to fly by in seconds. Still, the album is incredibly meditative, introspective, and begging to draw out the wonderment (however enlightening or horrifying) we carry deep within ourselves.

Symbol is a masterwork in musique concrète and contemporary classical composition. Each song on the album is intricately crafted, vocal samples obscured or altered resembling only the fading memory of human life. Maybe none more so than I Close The Door Upon Myself, a sonic interpretation of painter Fernand Khnopff’s 1891 symbolist work I Lock The Door Upon Myself, or perhaps of other work inspired by it. Either way, Symbol‘s introspective element is made abundantly clear in a statement such as this.

Yokota died, 54 years old, on March 27th, 2015 after a “long period of illness.” His exact cause of death is undisclosed. While Mr Yokota released many records since the early 1990s, one could spend their whole life exploring each sound, technique, and the myriad of emotional interpretations that saturate Symbol.

Susumu Yokota is a genius, a master of his craft gone too soon. Symbol is perhaps the most beautiful album released so far in the 21st century. Quoting Youtube user Ed Barret on an upload of Blue Sky and Yellow Sunflower from Symbol, “If I were to leave a piece of art this stunningly beautiful when I die, I wouldn’t need an epitaph.”

For fans of: Tortoise, Steve Reich, Tim Hecker

Like Susumu Yokota? Give these a listen: Brian J Davis, Adam Weikart, Slow Blink

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