Boomkat Product Review:
NHK yx is the solo project of Kouhei Matsunaga, one half of the deadly Japanese production duo NHK with Toshio Munehiro (you may remember their two recent-ish 12"s of ascetic techno for Raster-Noton and Important Records). Having released his debut album on Mille Plateaux yonks ago, Matsunaga has since collaborated with Merzbow and, more recently, with Mika Vainio and Autechre's Sean Booth on last year's terrific Telepathics Meh In-Sect set. His new LP for Skam (who seem to be enjoying something of a renaissance in the wake of that VHS Head album) is an absolute delight, taking his deep roots in hip-hop and hardcore techno as the starting point for 19 productions that are ESSENTIAL for the advanced beat-freaks among you. It opens pensively with '2ndplus' a low-slung, Kaman Leung-esque drumscape, but by the time the swinging, decidedly Drexciyan '190_Pass' drops it's obvious that NHK yx's vision is even more expansive than that. 'Perfectchange' sounds like ghetto-tech reverse-engineered for the sound art crowd, while '475' is blistering computer funk, cushioned by collagen-pumped bass and a rhythm somewhere between Cologne schaffel and Rustie-style electro skank. On '543', Shed-esque rave chords run things to the warehouse zone, while '474' cruises through the grey industrial zone be'tween DJ Stingray and Autonomic d’n’b. All that said, Yx Aka 1ch Aka Solo is not without a clutch of duff tracks, though these only occur when vocalists are involved: 'Invite Only''s snapping breakers’ riddim is weakened AthenA's flygirl rhymes'; Google Premier / Internet Magic's shoddy vocals on ‘Chismax324’ think they're a bit Def Jux but they're more Scor-zay-zee if truth be told. Anyway, what's interesting about this otherwise spotless album is that it feels like it's paying heartfelt tribute to electronic dance music's tropes even as it subverts them. Unlike his past material, here NHkyx doesn't just make reference to dance music, what he makes IS dance music. As the closing 'Plant' - a tune as generously melodic as primetime Four Tet or Boards of Canada - confirms, this is an album built for enchantment and enjoyment, not head-scratching. That it boasts some of the most ruffneck yet cerebral, progressive rhythm mechanics we've heard all year is a wonderful bonus. Highly recommended.