Kenny Sasaki & The Tiki Boys
Island Slumber





Honolulu, Los Angeles, Tucson – and Tokyo? Kenny Sasaki & The Tiki Boys is the faux-band project of Tokyo-based music producer Ken Sasaki who, according to his website, is heavily influenced by English music and U.S. culture from his childhood onwards due to his habit of listening to programs featured on the Far East Network. He is the best example of the fact that (fake) Exotica music is heard all around the world and that it can be produced on the far side of the Exotica epicenters in the United States.


So far Sasaki has released three albums with The Tiky Boys of which the latest and, I believe, most ambitious one is called Island Slumber. Whereas the former two albums, Tiki Moon (2002) and Tiki Pop (2005), had a playful mood by using sounds of exotic birds and waterfalls plus drawings of tikis all over them, the third one exchanges the tikis for a green lava lamp and the playful mood for a more advanced, dreamy and overall consistent presentation of entirely original material.


Fly Me To The Island is the short starting point reminiscent to Hawaiian music and stripped to the bones due to the use of ukulele, acoustic guitar, marimba and subtle percussion. Trade Winds is one of those great songs that would make The Vanduras proud. Using not much more but surf guitars, bass guitars, rattles and drums, Sasaki is able to fabricate a similarly dreamful, entirely relaxing atmosphere due to the added hall effects of the main melody which works quite well in its quiet surroundings of carefully played percussion. The first downbeat of the song is especially well made.


Quiet Volcano is a hybrid of a clichéd mexican sounding, i.e. standoff, bullfighting or sundown evoking melody that is realized with a vibraphone and a bass guitar and thus sounds more exotic than the instrumentation and the played chords might let you think. A Night Of Ghosts is a very strong outcome that starts with a warped, echoey vibraphone, one of the few electronic filter effects applied on the album, and shortly thereafter features cheekily played surf guitars in time with a slow mambo groove. The melody is catchy and the improvisation of the hastily played vibraphone leaves a refreshingly icy impression.


My favorite track is Jellyfish, an immensely laidback groovy song that makes me feel drugged while I am being ingested with gentle vibraphones and strangely scaled guitars that thin out in different halftones each time – this one has to be heard to be believed, and while the effect isn‘t unique, it is nonetheless especially well applied here. Furthermore, the surrounding echo of the guitars gives me a feel of wideness, but the dry percussion lets me think otherwise. Truly a great implementation of instruments and reverb effects and surely Sasaki‘s finest tune on here.


Rum And Coke, finally, is the most quickly paced song on Island Slumber with reverberated vibraphones, a mad rock organ and a wild guitar. The trick is that a distinct melody is missing on this song and all the little melodies and instrumental solos seem to be improvised by Sasaki, which adds a beneficial variety to the album where everything else is played with great precision and every melody is sophisticatedly thought-out. The album ends on a rebellious tone that still integrates well with all the other songs because the instrumentation and production qualities are the same.


The variety of instruments and song structures is greater on Kenny Sasaki‘s prior albums, but the overall presentation on Island Slumber is that of an album rather than an admittedly great hodge-podge of various songs stitched together to form an album, as happened in Tiki Moon and Tiki Pop. This is the shortest but most accomplished album by Sasaki, the album title fits the mood created on most of the songs and interludes. However, if you like ambient noises of birds and exotic animals in contemporary Exotica, listen to Sasaki‘s first two albums, as there is plenty of creatures to be found on there.


Exotica Review 010: Kenny Sasaki & The Tiki Boys – Island Slumber (2010). Originally published on Dec. 18, 2011 at