Tetsu Inoue








Yolo by Tetsu Inoue is a gemstone of an Ambient album, and one of the few albums about which a comparison with Kompakt‘s Pop Ambient series makes totally sense; at least a few of its songs resemble this popular series. The album could have been released on Kompakt in terms of its style, but in fact was released in 2005 on Ian Boddy‘s DiN label, limited to 2000 copies, but fortunately readily available on iTunes and Amazon as a digital download. If you like warm, lush Ambient pieces that tranquilize you and tuck you in, this (and Yolo‘s follow-up Inland from 2007) is definitely worth your attention. Inoue doesn‘t try anything pioneering and there are no experiments or weird compositions that would shock skilled Ambient listeners who came in contact with pops, crackles and strange noises before. Despite this deliberately streamlined approach, there are mind-blowing songs and synth modulations on this album that must not be missed, and there is no dark sound or shadowy motif that could disturb the blissful soundscapes.


Tane starts with high-pitched static noise and pops that are later accompanied by foggy and creaky room-filling synths that tremble heavily. Short piano notes and an undefined string instrument create an incredibly relaxing atmosphere. Static noises and rasping swooshes are featured prominently, but they never distract from the soothing atmosphere. Remote is a fantastic piece that starts with droning, cove-like synths strings that are quite deep until they are intermittently dislodged by intensifying bright strings which morph back into the deeper strings and later on into echoey drone sounds. All the time, deep strings interplay with soughing sections and brightly oscillating melodies. The last minute features anything but Inoue‘s trademark sound of fragile, calm fragments of melodies. It is in warmth-transporting moments like these where Yolo really shines. Particular Moments features 8-bit synth pads with attractive crackles and pops in unison with wafting winds. The amount of noise decreases, and the positively monotonous synth layers can work on their own, all of them incredibly fragile and quiet. O Shape features the familiar fragility of the layers, but beautiful synth washes and low-frequency strings are added and induce depth with the occasional trembling playfulness of crystalline shimmering synth pads. Flow is the strongest piece on the album with a distinct emphasis on glowing, powerful synth washes and strings that foreshadows Inoue‘s later release Inland in style, omitting every source of pother. While all the former tracks were soothing and quiet, this one is ethereal and ecstatic and might have been a good addition to the Pop Ambient series. However, Flow is only slightly more synth-laden, and it ends on the same careful note. Sour Cloud is another towering track, although a short one, starting with foggy synths, droning noises and all of a sudden revealing crisp, galactic synths and meandering waves of warmth. The closer Spirit Of Data delivers the deepest basslines of the album with flittering ghost-like computer noises that echo in the back. The ubiquitous synth eruptions are distantly comparable with vibraphone-esque notes in their sound and sustain. After the two previous ecstatic songs, Inoue returns to quieter shores.


I consider this album as an essential entry of my Ambient library. Indeed, Inoue‘s style is incredibly warm but often reduced to quiet synth notes; since his goal is the listener‘s relaxation, these reposeful structures with their wide spaces work well in silent surroundings, but not as good on the train or while on the run. Such being the case, there might be a certain clientele who may find this album a bit too bland and unsurprising. But fans of both Kompakt‘s Pop Ambient series and quieter sections that are extremely powerful – despite their calmness – need to own this. I keep coming back to pieces like Flow and Sour Cloud time and again. If you like Tetsu Inoue‘s sound, I am humbly guiding you to my review of Microstoria‘s Init Ding from 1995 which features a sound similar to Yolo and is equally warm and sporadically fuzzy.


Ambient Review 025: Tetsu Inoue – Yolo (2005). Originally published on Jan. 18, 2012 at AmbientExotica.com.