Boomkat Product Review:
Freshly re-mastered, "Symbol" was originally released in 2004 and follows Susumu Yokota's tried-and-true method of welding almost overfamiliar classical motifs onto fresh rhythmic grids. Gorgeous, timeless music that walks the conceptual tightrope between high and low culture expertly.
In many ways, the cut 'n paste technique Yokota had perfected by the time he released "Symbol" should have made him as notorious as The Avalanches, but his shyness and lack of showiness made him much harder to market. Here, he assembles classical music elements we've all heard hundreds of times echoing through our culture - whether on lofty recitals and self-serious movie soundtracks or on fairground rides and bank adverts - and frames them completely differently. Sometimes Yokota doesn't do much more than just loop a recognizable melody and cut it with another harmonic snippet, and occasionally he chops the motif, interrupting the perceived flow and forcing us to reshape our expectations.
Yokota will often utilize discernible rhythms - shifting into experimental electronics, breakbeat or techno - but mostly allows his samples to do the work, creating a meter as they loop. But it's his choice of music that's the most notable; Yokota swerves our Western reading of the classical canon and treats these well-worn sounds with sensitivity and egalitarian inspiration. Loops that we might avoid completely are twinned with elements that shouldn't work, but sound as inviting as a warm log fire on an ice cold day. Sure, it's cheesy at times, but it's supposed to be.
'Symbol' is a sentimental and affecting set of sample collage from an artist who left us too soon - if you've never heard Yokota's work before, it's a good place to start.