I suppose it would be cliché to say that Shinichi Atobe turned up the ‘Heat’ for his fourth album on DDS. No matter how awful my puns are in respect to the celebrated ambient techno artist, Atobe certainly brought his A-game to the table on his most danceable record yet. Featuring jacking house tracks, piano stompers, and his signature treble-heavy techno clickers, this surprise album is truly worth going insane over.
Atobe’s approach to making club tracks treads a delicate path, each sound pillowy and light; the overall sound and vibe is like a faded photograph of a family at the beach in the 1970s, a red exposure mark imbibing the photo with age and nostalgia. “Heat 1” has a repeating synth line that sounds like an ethereal circus organ gone bittersweet, the essence of an all-night party at sunrise, all over a tribal-sounding beat designed to make people move. The way Atobe steadily brings in more and more ambience as the track runs out is just plain beautiful. If this music were furniture it would be the softest bean bag chair in the world.
“So Good So Right” and “So Good So Right 2” aren’t too far off from the general vibe of “Heat 1”, either. The first one features jacking percussion and a breakbeat-like backbone, with a rotating bass line and pad keeping the beat from touching the ground. It wouldn’t be an Atobe track without gorgeous synthetic piano glissandos slowly appearing in the mix about halfway through the song. The second one is much more laid back, featuring a steady “boom-tss-boom-tss” style beat and Atobe’s stuttering clicking at the end of every fourth beat. Employing the same trick as “Heat 1”, ambience is steadily brought in as the track progresses, a breathtaking vista stretching far and wide like a sonic version of the Salar de Uyuni with water.
Atobe is no stranger to the piano stomper, which he recreates in his own wacky style on “Heat 2” and “Bonus”, both feverish interpretations of the classic 1990s sound. “Heat 2” wobbles along with a rubbery synth skeleton until the stuttering piano drops in and repeats incessantly until the end: certainly a masterstroke of post-minimalist electronic dance music. “Bonus”, on the other hand, is a looping, two-note style workout that clocks in as the shortest track on the album.
Wondering where the signature, crisp treble work went from the master of softly distorted high end? Look no further than “Heat 4”, with a rollicking machine gun of hi-hat loops and synth pads slowly swaying in the background. All elements dissolve into nothing but negative space by the end as it segues into “Heat 1”. “Heat 3” forms a kind of flip side to “Heat 4”, a swollen banger stuffed with sensory overload, clicking and moaning sounds coming at you from every angle far beneath the percussion in a strange hell.
I would be dead wrong to say that ‘Heat’ isn’t one of the best albums of the year so far; the fact that a 400-copy limited edition can sell out on Boomkat in less than 24 hours is a testament to how well Shinichi Atobe connects with his audience in many ways, the most basic of which is on a purely emotional, melodically bittersweet level. ‘Heat’ features all of the sonic touchstones that we’ve come to expect from his music and capitalises on the best moments from the almost 20 years we’ve known him to exist. With no other way to put it, ‘Heat’ is simply so good and so right.
Heat, Shinichi Atobe’s new surprise album, is out now on DDS, order a copy from Boomkat.
1. So Right So Good
2. Heat 2
3. Heat 4
4. Heat 1
6. Heat 3
7. So Good So Right 2