Like so many forces of electronic music—see Warp co-founders Steve Beckett and Rob Mitchell, or Kelly Lee Owens—Japanese producer Yoshinori Hayashi spent formative years working in a record store. Hayashi’s time at Tokyo’s Face Records comes through in his genre-melding music, which overflows with the encyclopedic passion of an enthusiastic cratedigger. Yet his sounds extend far beyond fandom or homage. His new album, Pulse of Defiance, takes styles forged by others—free jazz, breakbeat, acid house, dub, and other unclassifiable strands of electronic sound—and fills them out into complete worlds of his own.
Ambivalence, Hayashi’s 2018 Smalltown Supersound debut, made a clear insinuation about the artist’s relationship with any single genre or form. His first full-length dabbled in abstract, eerie multi-instrumentalism that only occasionally solidified into something dancefloor-friendly, suggesting a jazzy experimental composer as much as a DJ. But Hayashi is just as formidable a selector as he is a painter, and Pulse of Defiance gives both tendencies room to breathe.
Album opener “Callapse” begins with pensive, spacey piano that’s soon engulfed by scattered drums. Hayashi’s polymathic abilities are on clearest display when it comes to percussion; at slower tempos, his pounding loops have a trip-hop quality, while at higher BPMs, they metamorphosize into full-fledged breakbeat. The drumming on “Make Up One’s Mind” is fast and free, sounding unpredictable and open-ended while still controlled and precise.
The album’s first three cuts offer space to settle in; when the beat really drops on “Touch,” the rave begins. At its opening, the track’s four-on-the-floor pulse has an overpowering intensity, but it’s balanced out by the ethereal, almost vocal quality of the synthesizers, which sound more suited to an open-air dance party than a dark club—Hayashi’s dance tracks more often recall the technic optimism of British rave pioneers like Orbital, Underworld, or 808 State rather than contemporary minimalism. Though its energy is active and kinetic, Pulse of Defiance feels informed by the experiential nature of ambient music—as “Touch” stretches past eight minutes, you eventually forget about the underlying beat and lose yourself in its layers of crackling sound.
Though Hayashi’s work often suggests a restorative comfort, he’s not afraid to throw it off balance: “Twilight” oozes hyperactive hi-hats and cymbals, chopped-up voices, and a disorienting piano line. As the album progresses, Hayashi embarks on a restless journey through dance music history. “Flow” teeters between 808 cowbell-driven electro and acid-drenched bleep techno, with hues of LFO or Joey Beltram, and though less electro in its timbre, “Go With Us” recalls classics of the forward-thinking subgenre like the Jonzun Crew’s “Pack Jam” in its resonant kicks.
With the record’s final three tracks, Hayashi fully releases the breakbeats and turns towards classic rave. This is no nostalgia trip, though; his take on ’90s dance music is still thoroughly destabilizing. On “Shut Up,” a hazy vocal sample stretches to infinite dimensions and fractures into pieces as drums scatter and scramble. “Gallop” gleefully embraces ragga texture and jangly piano lines, while “I Believe in You” flips a dub intro into unrestrained jungle, its frenetic drum and bass infused with healing ambient waves and even a clean guitar line. In his synthesis of varied styles, Hayashi’s compositions feel less genre-defying and more genre-unifying.
Buy: Rough Trade
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