Boomkat Product Review:
Recorded at the same time as Yoshimura's beloved kankyō ongaku tome 'GREEN', 'Surround' is the proposed soundtrack to a contemporary living space, decorated with luscious synthesized bells, illusory woodblock percussion and ambulatory, 'SAW II'-style new age pads. Sublime music.
'Surround' was originally released in early 1986 and recorded as a commission from Misawa Homes, a housing developer who wanted a fitting soundtrack for their newly-built housing units. Listening in this context it's easy to hear how the delicate sounds might hang on the empty walls or provide warmth to uncarpeted floors; Yoshimura's light touch adds an uncluttered sense of whimsy to a dry space, complementing its reflections with twinkling synthetic bells and pattering rhythmic clusters. In his original liner notes, the composer noted that he imagined the music as "the vibration of footsteps. the hum of an air conditioner, or the clanging of the spoon inside a coffee cup," and we can hear the intention clearly. His sounds don't jerk or jolt, they caress and remind us of the day's quieter, more serene sequences. He suggests that a final element to the listening experience might be "the addition of city noise from outside the window," but doesn't attempt to shoehorn these sounds in himself with field recordings. The album is modular in this way; our own private environmental soundtrack is the missing piece, and it renders differently different wherever or whenever we might play it.
Marimba hits and distant pads flutter around 'Time after time', like a skeletal, slow-paced version of 'GREEN' opener 'FEEL'. Hiroyoshi Shiokawa, who writes this versions additional liner notes, suggests that 'Surround' is the yang to 'GREEN's yin, and it's easy to hear why. Where 'GREEN' whispers in the language of electronic music with cosmic arpeggios and floating synths, 'Surround' takes a more cavernous approach, painting in more suggestive, expressionistic strokes. Everything sounds as if it's been hand-played in situ, with Yoshimura listening carefully to the prickly silence, evoking the emotions, the smells and pristine sights of an unblemished space. Drones mutate into the hum of a nearby unit, with pads standing in for the blurred voices and cries from external units. The title track is more magical, a sparkling, nervous twinkle that's struck through with apprehension, while 'Something Blue' is more playful, suggesting the promise of one of life's milestones with naive electric piano improvisations.
Yoshimura allows himself to widen the aspect ratio more on the 'Blade Runner'-esque 'Time Forest', a lengthy, dreamlike passage anchored by evocative plastic strings, but by the closing track 'Green Shower' he's rolled his arsenal of synths in cotton wool once more, providing a landing pad for exhausted toilers. It's beautiful music that captures the hope of the time - bringing it into the present augments a hint of extra melancholy, but that's not without its charm, either.