It is hard to imagine a world without the music of Susumu Yokota. For so long a part of the fabric of our listening lives. What makes it so unique is difficult to define. It has a phantom power, a chimerical presence. Something other. His music brings mystery and transcendence into our lives and through his music his spirit lives on.
Lo Recordings in association with Daylight Music presented a tribute to Susumu Yokota, at Union Chapel on the 26th of October 2019.
As an homage to him and his music Lo Recordings assembled a suitably diverse and esoteric collection of musicians to perform compositions from his catalogue.
Union Chapel Artist
An introduction to the performance was a piece created by Charlie Alex March taken from elements of Yokota’s works.
George Crowley is a saxophonist, clarinettist, composer and promoter based in
London. Since his arrival in the capital in 2007, Crowley has steadily established
himself as a key player within the city’s burgeoning creative jazz and improv scene,
and increasingly well known further afield, performing across the UK and Europe. As
a performer he is active across a range of styles; whether infusing melodic through composed
writing with open, searching improv in his own Can of Worms, channelling
fiery avant-parade ghosts in Brass Mask, weaving through the polyrhythmic Ghanaian
trance of Vula Viel or exploring more traditional repertoire, Crowley’s energy and
expressive, warm saxophone sound mark him out as a musician who demands attention.
He can also be found playing with bands and musicians such as Melt Yourself Down,
Julian Argüelles’ Septet, Yazz Ahmed, Red Snapper, the Michael Chillingworth
Septet, Rick Simpson’s Klämmer and the Olie Brice Quartet featuring Jeff
Williams. Outside of the world of jazz and improvised music he has worked
with artists such as Boy George and Culture Club and Mount Kimbie .
Seaming To’s experimental ethos and mastery across a variety of instruments has
enabled her to collaborate with some of the most respected and radical artists of
this decade, particularly in electronic, classical and experimental genre. Described as
‘the voice of a 21st Century’ (Radio1), and ‘truly avant garde’ (Robert Wyatt). She offered a
uniquely engaging take on Yokota’s work.
I first discovered Susumu Yokota in the late 90’s. Immersed in his sounds sitting in a flat in
Stoke Newington at dawn, after a night out clubbing.
I performed a response to a song from Mother, an album hitherto unknown to me
until I began to delve into his rich catalogue of music while preparing for the concert.
Imperfect Orchestra have been writing and performing since 2013. They specialise in
working with amateur and non-musicians to produce live performance soundtracks
for moving image and contemporary art events.
For this commission, Imperfect Orchestra took specific elements from the
work of Susumu Yokota and developed it into an eclectic live performance that
creates a narrative exploring some of the themes that were important to his life and
his work, including spirituality, sampling and resampling audio, found sounds and field
It has been a huge honour to be trusted with reimagining work from someone so internationally
influential. Exploring such a range of work from one who, seemingly shared some of our own
irreverent approach to the notions of classical music, has been incredibly exciting and offered
new and liberating ways to approach composition for this project
Ordinarily we write scores for moving image projects, so this gig has taken us out of that
way of thinking; it has made us look at the audio alone, as well as take the elements we
appreciate from the tracks which jumped out at us and see if we can transpose Susumu’s
inventiveness into our interpretation, in some ways, even in absence he has been the director.
There is much richness and beauty in things that at first appear simple. There is an
effortlessness that could be construed as lacking depth, but through repeated and close
listening, the tracks keep giving something new. Through reinterpretation we have been able
to forge a closer bond with Yokota, We feel grateful for that opportunity.
Antony Ryan and Robin Saville have been making music as Isan for over twenty
years. Their music takes threads from early electronic experimentalism, blurry
dreampop, motorik rhythms and diverse modern modular sounds, weaving them into
a confection which is entirely their own. Sweet but rarely without a melancholy edge
they have been described as making “difficult music easy to listen to”.
Onstage, Isan fill the space with beautiful washes of noise and rhythm, they took
Yokota’s compositions as starting points and augmenting them with improvised
beats, pulsing melodies and rippling loveliness.
We were first introduced to Symbol by Jon Tye at Lo and was immediately taken by it’s
loveliness – have loved it ever since . Antony was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to
master Yokota’s ‘Dreamer’ album in 2012.
It’s been really fascinating to dive into the source material for tracks which we *thought*
we knew well… there are so many parts in the finished tracks that one never noticed before,
Yokota had a gift for combining elements, which initially appear to be disparate, in a way
that is ultimately harmonious. Listening deeply to his work it is apparent that a great deal
of intricate work went on behind the scenes in order to present such an exquisitely balanced
Union Chapel’s organ scholar
Jay Richardson is an organist and sound artist based in the UK. He graduated from
Pembroke College, Cambridge with a BA in Music in 2018 and studied organ with
James McVinnie. Jay was Composer in Residence at Cambridge Corn Exchange for
the 2016-17 and 2017-18 Classical Series. He won the 2019 John Golland Award and
is a 2019-20 Finzi Scholar.
Next year marks the 5th anniversary of Susumu Yokota’s departure from this world and yet he is very much still here. His music always had a timeless quality and the new release Cloud Hidden is a perfect example.
It was conceived following the discovery of a DAT tape by Mark Beazley containing unreleased tracks and early sketch versions of tracks that formed ‘The Boy and the Tree’. Mark had worked in cloaboration with Yokota on the ‘Rivers Edge’ EP and the ‘Distant Sounds of Summer ‘project, but had no recollection of why or when he was sent the tape.
Mark sent the tracks to Jon Tye who ‘decided to do my best to honour the spirit and legacy of Yokota’s work by completing the tracks in a way which I thought he would approve’.
‘I only met Susumu once but communicated with him many times and always felt a strong connection with him and his music, it all came together swiftly and flowed from start to finish without thought or question. I hope what I have created is a fitting tribute. It was a privilege to enter the world of Susumu Yokota and spend time with his spirit’.
‘Many of the titles and the quotation below are taken from the book ‘Cloud-Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown’ by Alan Watts, which I was reading at the time the tracks were mixed’.