Exotica Song Of The Month: December 2012





Kenny Sasaki & The Tiki Boys
Snow On The Beach







Tokyo-based film musician and Exotica buff Ken Sasaki's faux-band The Tiki Boys is one of the famous neo-Exotica projects that covers all the different tropical, Latin and Polynesian styles you might think of. At the time of writing this review, Sasaki has unleashed three different albums: the dark but enthralling Tiki Moon (2002), the Surf Rock-flavored paradisiac Tiki Pop (2005) and the echoey dreamscape called Island Slumber (2010). And while his compositions and arrangements differ greatly, there is one particular solemn piece of his 2002 exotic debut that is very close to my heart, as it proves to be a one-time affair for the talented producer in this regard: I am talking about the principal piano arrangement called Snow On The Beach. I write principal since Sasaki finds numerous ways of expanding the perceived blandness of a mere piano arrangement, which is a much-hailed artform in many circles, but deemed all too reduced in the vivacious realms of Exotica. Luckily, Sasaki injects many tricks into the mix, making Snow On The Beach an utterly dreamy piece that is nocturnal in its setting, but perfectly enjoyable during daytime as well. Kenny Sasaki has never been gentler and more warmhearted than on this unique cut.



Snow On The Beach is not your typical Exotica song. It is indeed a proper piano-vibraphone arrangement with a few important ornaments gently admixed in order to lessen the majesty of the piano and to evoke a moony setting. A hazy field recording of mild ocean waves is playing incessantly in the background while golden-shimmering piano chords and frostier Lounge-evoking vibraphones are interacting in a constant dialog. The almost unnoticeable double bass slaps further conflate with the deeper piano tercets, but add an important depth to the soundscape. An aqueous ukulele is also on board, but it sounds totally different and has next to nothing to do with Hapa Haole Hawaiiana music; it is all the more plucked with care, with long pauses in-between the respective tones which allows the listener to inspect the characteristic trait of this instrument further. The smoothness of the main melody is astonishing! One cannot hum along to it, and yet it is catchy. Despite the jazzy approach, the composition lies wide open in front of the listener. Neither is it particularly convoluted, nor does Kenny Sasaki try to be overly inventive in regard to eclectic tone sequences or sudden rhythmic shifts. No, the dreaminess is maintained all the time, making Snow On The Beach a superbly wondrous anthem of snugness and utter contentment. This is not one of the sleazy uplifting coolness-expanding Surf Rock hymns Kenny Sasaki is usually known for, but a silky ballad with a great plasticity.



Snow On The Beach is a magnificent piece for Jazz and piano lovers as well as for Exotica beginners who think of this genre as a waste disposal site for unsuccessful Easy Listening maestros or exotic instruments that are just used for their novelty factor alone, not because of their actual timbre, texture and surface. A piano arrangement at its heart, Snow On The Beach is ennobled with vibes, double bass, a ukulele and a gentle field recording, the latter of which is not used as a mere gimmick as it happens every so often, but is actually able to transfigure the soundscape and take the listener to an enchanted place at the beach. No electric guitar is used on this piece, and I for one am glad about its omission, for it would have destroyed the pristine gentleness. The snow factor is comparably thin, so to speak, this is no chilling arrangement, the opposite is the case, for it is full of balminess and coziness. Since it differs so much from the intrinsic soundscape of Kenny Sasaki's debut Tiki Moon, its grandeur only grows in my opinion. A definite opus of the dreamy side of Exotica and one of the tunes I deem essential. 






Exotica Song Of The Month Review for December 2012: Kenny Sasaki & The Tiki Boys – Snow On The Beach (2002). Originally published on Dec. 2, 2012 at AmbientExotica.com.