In discussion with djrum about “Grinning Cat” by Susumu Yokota (2001)
What was your first encounter with „Grinning Cat“?
I just saw the CD in a shop when it first came out. I hadn’t heard of Susumu Yokota at all, but I knew the Leaf label. I was just attracted by the exquisite cover design, and it had a sticker with some rave reviews. I took it to the counter to have a listen and was instantly captivated.
Although Susuma Yokota was a very productive artist, „Grinning Cat“ is acknowledged to be one of the best of his career. What makes it so special to you personally?
I haven’t even listened to all of Susumu Yokota’s releases. There are quite a few. To be honest I find his output to be quite hit and miss. There are a few of his albums that I only like one or two tracks from, and some that I just can’t get into at all. “Grinning Cat” is the only one that has no tracks I want to skip.
Is this best listened to as a whole, or are there highlights?
I tend to listen to it as a whole. Like I said, there’s nothing worth skipping. Everything flows really nicely from track to track. There are definitely highlights. For me one of them is the beginning of the first track so I often go to listen to that and end up listening to the whole thing.
It is interesting how many different musical directions Yokota achieves on one single album. Every single tracks seem to move in different directions as they proceed. How does he manage to make this still sound so coherent?
Yes, this is one the things I find most inspiring about this album. I think the coherence comes from the specific sound palette he works from. Most tracks centre around piano samples from French Romantic composers. Then there are a few from American Minimalist composers, and a few other sources such as jazz. But it’s a really narrow pool actually. I think this consistency allows him to structure his compositions in really exciting and surprising ways without sounding all over the place. The structures make the music very dream-like. Listening to “Fearful Dream” or “So Red” is like being led from scene to scene in a dream. There’s an over arching narrative, but it’s told through different scenes each with a distinct sound. Sometimes when you change scene in a dream it’s almost imperceivable: you can flow from one location to the next without even really noticing the change. Different locations and characters can overlap and merge. Other times the change can be quite abrupt. I’ve never heard anyone capture this as well as Yokota on “Grinning Cat”. You can hear something like it in film music sometimes, but it’s never so psychedelic. I think that the fluidity between different sections is helped by ensuring that the individual elements don’t blend too well. He separates sounds with a very unique use of stereo, and he is very loose with pulse, with different elements often going out of phase with each other. Read the rest of this entry »
You were thrown out of that posh private party in the suburbs earlier on. The beer was gone, so you nicked some fine spirits from the cabinet of the hostess’ parents and shared generously. You insulted most of the male guests, and flirted with most of the female guests (or was it the other way round?). They discovered the messages you left on the bathroom mirror and disapproved, even if it was the best poetry you had ever written. At least they could not rub it off that easily. But now the girls did not flirt back any longer (or was it the boys?). You could not afford them anyway. The music was terrible, but you could do nothing about it, as you lost your tape at the station where you got your booze for the way to the party. You walked there, activating every motion sensor in every villa along the street with silly dance moves, and deactivating every second lamp post with a kung fu kick. For contrast. Before walking there, you took the bus.
Now you ride the bus again, into the city. You glance cautiously at the mulleted proles with similar intentions. They are as drunk as you are, and they stare right back. They hate your hair, jacket, badges, and shoes. They hate the rest as well. They are always more than one, never on their own. You hate buses. One day you will be able to afford a cab. Actually you could already afford it, but you prefer to spend your money on getting drunk and the outfit they hate. But until the night you can afford all of it at the same time you already think about what will happen if you meet the same bunch tomorrow morning, waiting for the first bus. You will run again. Weekends mean running. Maybe you can run faster. You better try. But you will be not in time anyway, and there will be further trouble once you arrive, either torn and beaten up or not, but wasted either way.
There had been a fight already as you arrive. You see the blood and broken glass. You see the blood on the broken glass. You see a badge on the pavement, and tonight you are wearing the same one. You encounter witnesses. You laugh them off for exaggerating, even if you know they do not. You walk down the stairs to the club. It is never a club with a view. You always descend. You pass the soccer table (it’s those pros with the gloves again, waiting for victims) and head for the bar. You do not know as many people as you expected, and you wonder if this is good or bad. The DJ introduces the dark round. THE BLACK BOX. The black light. You think it is a bit much that not only the stains on your clothes glow in the dark but your drink does, too. It tastes like cheap liquorice. THE COUNT. You think it would be funny if the count would really be here, targeting future playmates among the Blixas and Siouxsies. You think it would also be funny if the dancers would have to throw their agony shapes accompanied by the meagre disco lights, while the imminent disco round would be hidden by heavy fog. But the punk round always come first. DOCTOR ANNABEL LIES. DOCTOR ANNABEL LIES. DOCTOR ANNABEL LIES. It’s either Buzzcocks next, or something for the scooter boys. But they are not that present tonight, so it means a shortcut to synths, and the floor is split between the heavy fog and the meagre disco lights division. IT’S THE ONLY WAY TO LIVE. In bars. In bars. Ha. You compare your own unimpressed look to others. You realize the button on your jacket’s pocket came off again and your cigarettes are gone. Your keys as well. You decide to postpone the consequences as long as possible. For the keys at least. You will have to wait until the lights come back up to fish for some cigarette money and you get one from the soccer table pros. You wonder if they have a theme song. HAND IN GLOVE. Oh, the irony. THE SUN SHINES OUT OF OUR BEHINDS. Sun. Ha. You are determined your next drink will be something fruity that does not glow in the dark, and you wonder if that is even possible. You get a warm beer instead. And some mean shot. You want results. You take a leak, you hear someone snorting bad speed. As if anything in here really requires chemical pace. You read the same tired jokes on the wall. You check your hair in the broken mirror, even if it is does not need checking. You read the same tired jokes written on there, too. Back in, another round. A lighter one. Quiffs and Marc O’Polo sweaters, predictably. You recognize that girl from the party hours before (or was it a boy?) FROM THE MOUNTAIN TOPS DOWN TO THE SUNNY STREET. Ha. A DIFFERENT DRUM IS PLAYING A DIFFERENT KIND OF BEAT. Ha Ha. You think the DJ could be smarter than anybody else in here. Except you, of course. Later you wake up next to a girl on that dirty sofa (or was it a boy?). You are not sure if anything happened. It does look a bit as if something happened. No, actually you just do not know. Not many people left, slow songs already. TAKE YOUR HANDS OFF ME. You watch the very recent couples, who ignore the instructions. You are too wasted to join in with whomever. WELL IT JUST WASN’T ME. Maybe half an hour left before exit into daylight, and then you will have to run. Oh well.
This is not a true story.
Everything will be different.
We invite you to hear the BEST FUCKING MUSIC EVER.
NO TRUMPETS (some maybe).
Do come by and bring some love. And other people.
We love you (YOU PAY OUR RENT).
Roger, Finn unt Wyrm
What a night. Thank you all!
Posted by Finn Johannsen on Mittwoch, 30. Dezember 2015