Makyo :: Yakshini
Japan has received much attention this past year in the realm of popular culture. With the almost back-to-back releases of Kill Bill Vol. I, The Last Samurai, and Lost in Translation, Hollywood at least seems to be taking notice of the exquisiteness of this Far East land. Why its music has been left behind is truly a mystery. The 70's electro-pop pioneers Yellow Magic Orchestra was the East's much lauded answer to Kraftwerk. Other than Ryuichi Sakamoto - a founding member of YMO who contributed to, and no doubt, influenced Talvin's experimental OK - and much later, Ryukyu Underground, contemporary Japanese electronica has failed to receive its fair share of popular, and more importantly, critical acclaim. If you were to believe Dakini Records, Gio of Makyo is here to change precisely that. After listening to this album, his fourth, continuously for a week, I am a believer.
While not Japanese by birth, Gio has been spinning, remixing and producing "shanti sonics and zen dub" in Tokyo for more than 10 years now. According to the label website, 'Dakini' is a rough translation for "space-goer/celestial woman/sky dancer" (I guess I slept through Basic Sanskrit and Zen Buddhism 101), and indeed, the Makyo sound is very much preoccupied with the celestial and ethereal. While a number of artists can be described the same way - Delerium, for example - there is something that sets this music, and Yakshini in particular, apart from the rest. A well placed hi-hat here, a gentle sitar pluck there, followed by an soothing breakbeat. A perfectly pitched Natasha Atlas ("Natasha") to accompany all of the above and you have the makings of a truly hypnotic, otherworldly vibe. "Tantrika" is electro-tribal meditation, chanting and all. "Desire" and "Takshaka" venture into deep ambient territory without ever looking back while "Soar Angelic" - my favorite cut on the album - takes a tabla, some Indian strings, a piano, an enchanting vocal sample, adds a heavy dose of groove-ology and clocks in at just over 14 minutes. If we were lucky, this would surely be the soundtrack to dreams.
The only drawback of this album is the length of its tracks. With the first-mellow, then über-hyper title track droning on for almost 21 minutes, your attention starts to wane soon enough. Nonetheless, I regret having discovered this album three years too late. This isn't trance. Well, not the kind you're used to anyway. Leave your mind altering chemicals at home. You won't need those with Yakshini.