Susumu Yokota - Acid Mt. Fuji 2xLP (Midgar, 2021)
"Susumu Yokota shapeshifted through his 30-year career. He might be known best for his ambient works from the early '00s, but he rose to prominence as a diverse house and techno producer. During the '90s he released hard psychedelic trance (The Frankfurt-Tokyo Connection) and dreamier electronica (Cat, Mouse And Me) on Sven Väth's former label, Harthouse, and trippy acid techno as Ebi on the label Space Teddy. The rest of Yokota's output—touching on techno and breakbeat, deep and jazzy house, and even disco, as on 1999—landed mostly on Japan's Sublime Records. He also toured throughout Europe during the time, notably performing at the inaugural Interference Festival in Berlin during Love Parade 1994.
In 1999, when Yokota launched his own imprint, Skintone, forming a UK licensing deal with The Leaf Label, a shift occurred. Over the following decade he would release some of his best-loved and critically acclaimed records: Grinning Cat, The Boy And The Tree and Sakura, one of the finest ambient techno albums ever made. But after 2002, despite his growing fame, Yokota never performed in Europe again. He passed away in 2015.
Yokota, who rarely courted the music press, left behind a rich catalogue, which has been steadily memorialised with reissues ever since. The techno label Midgar offers the latest of these, re-releasing Yokota's Acid Mt. Fuji album, which first came out on Sublime Records in 1994. Like its counterpart, Zen, released under his Ebi guise the same year via Space Teddy, Acid Mt. Fuji is a collection of mystical acid techno jams designed to ferry us out of this world and into another.
Mt. Fuji, Japan's most sacred mountain, serves as the record's omnipresent symbol. Acid Mt. Fuji is awash with both natural and supernatural references, from the sounds of birds, monkeys, elephants and crickets that bookend the LP, to the yokai-referencing track titles. Take "Tanuki," which refers to the raccoon dog trickster spirit from Japanese folklore. It begins with harsh distortion sounds before melodious chirping heralds in one of the record's most buoyant and bubbly techno tracks––a nod, perhaps, to the Tanuki's shift in meaning from evil omen to benevolent icon.
"Kinoko" sets a particularly vivid scene: an eerie fantastical forest teeming with creatures––some of Yokota's own invention, which come across in its growling, gurgling acid nodes. "Meijijingu," named after a Shinto shrine in Shibuya, Tokyo, has a distinctly haunted air. There's a ghostly loop that keeps time quietly in the background, and a wafting, gossamer-like acid line that breaks through halfway. It marks the moment Acid Mt. Fuji's psychoactive properties kick in and the real trip begins.
"Saboten" is a worming ambient techno masterpiece, a long-lost Artificial Intelligence cousin with its hand-hit tribal percussion and brain-melting capabilities. Twitchy alien-channeling "Oponchi" sounds like tweaked-out acid forged in the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. The acid-dripped "Ao-oni" and speaker-blowing "Alphaville" are gnarly squat party fare––proof that Yokota can bang it out with the best of them. But Acid Mt. Fuji's trippiest (and best) is "Akafuji," meaning "Red Fuji," also the title of one of Hokusai's famous woodblock prints of the mountain turned blood red by the rising autumn sun. Here, subjugating drums march through acid pulses that form ominous electrified mists.
The record ends with gently crashing waves. We are reminded once more of Mt. Fuji, the sacred mountain, and the five lakes lapping at its feet. It has been a site of pilgrimage for centuries, the symbol of nature and beauty in Japan, and its most iconic landmark. For acid pilgrims, Acid Mt. Fuji is a landmark too, which, thanks to this reissue, is getting the wider recognition it deserves. May it, like the mountain it's named after, endure." - Resident Advisor