One of the classic cliches about Tokyo is that it’s a city where the past and the future intermingle, one where ancient shrines sit steps away from neon-soaked shopping districts. Long-running musician Yoshimi Hishida explores this very idea on “Tokyo Restricted Area,” but in a way far more abrasive manner than your typical “Lonely Planet” foreword.
Released via England-based label Dream Catalogue, “Area” mixes the pummeling sounds of today with elements of classical Japanese music, creating a constricting album that comes off haunted by times long gone.
Hishida, who records as Yoshimi, has called his style “Japanese Hell Trap,” an apt descriptor for the music found on “Area.” Almost every song here features tightly compressed hi-hat beats, used not as a party starter but as pounding percussion mimicking the crushing feeling of living in Tokyo (song titles such as “Hidden in Concrete” and “Trapped” add to that mood, too). Mixed with that are traditional Japanese touches, from shamisen to enka-style vocals, that add further tension to Hishida’s songs. Slow-burning numbers such as “I Had So Many Names” get further intensified by samples of throaty, distorted singing, which play out like ghosts trying to communicate with the modern day.
The bulk of “Area” suffocates, but this makes the few instances of reflection all the more sweeter. Despite the name, “Ominous Memories” is just over three minutes of wispy electronics, a welcome bit of space to breathe, while album closer “Disintegration” ends the collection with its most minimalist moment. Although rare, these songs help the album pace out, and makes all of the pounding moments hit harder. Whether using the sounds of the past or present, Hishida creates a soundscape of Tokyo that anyone who sometimes feel trapped in the metropolis can appreciate.
Yoshimi’s “Tokyo Restricted Area” is available via dreamcatalogue.bandcamp.com/album/tokyo-restricted-area.
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