“The makeup on the face of the ancient city of Tokyo is plated by concrete,” says producer Yoshimi Hishida in prefacing his new album, Tokyo Restricted Area, “but beneath its antiquities and modernities, the city is sick.”
Fascinated by the “cracks within the concrete,” Hishida takes listeners on an eerie sonic tour beneath the modern veneer of the metropolis to a land of spirits “older than when the human myth begins” that “transcend morality” and threaten to “assault us like an expulsion of a buried trauma.”
The album begins with the washes, bloops, melodic synth stabs, and nightmarish heartbeats of “Plated City,” a track that signals the nightmarish tour-de-force that awaits. Wielding a palette of sounds that rise on a foundation of futuristic trap beats, Yoshimi seeks to present “an unknown story of these ominous memories of the land.”
These memories and spirits are summoned on “Forbidden Place” through spare tribal percussion and what sounds like a resampled didgeridoo. Tribal vocal calls then hypnotize the listener on “Mizu no Onna” (“Woman of Water”), a track that reminds us that Japan isn’t only a land of big-eyed anime girls and kawaii idols, but also an ancient territory suffused with superstition, ghosts, and goblins.
Traditional Japanese instruments sometimes intrude on what is fundamentally an outing of contemporary downtempo electronica. “Refoulement,” for example, sports pungent shimasen pluckings, while on “Hidden in Concrete,” a Japanese flute traces a lonely melody.
For Hishida, Tokyo Restricted Area represents a move away from his day job writing soundtracks for commercial film and TV to the land of international electronic pop music. He spent months composing the album after the Dream Catalogue imprint came across his work and, impressed, asked Hishida to put together an album that jibbed with the label’s vision for “dream music.”
The result is a style Hishida terms “Japanese Hell Trap,” which, as the tag suggests, can at times be a very dark listen. Still, his tasteful deployment of traditional Japanese instruments, cinematic effects, and futuristic trap-style bass and percussion conjures a wholly original atmosphere that makes Tokyo Restricted Area well worth a listen. A series of equally dark videos is being released online to provide a visual counterpart to this mysterious musical journey.
Tokyo Restricted Area out now.