Shohei Amimori - Ex.Life [ Noble Records - 2021]
Ex.Life is the third album from Tokyo based musician/ composer Shohei Amimori. And it’s a wonderfully playful and shifting affair that utilises retro easy listening , atmospheric music, and 80-to-90’s electronica to create a real sonic chocolate box, where you really don’t know Animori will take you next. Making it certainly one of the more creative, surprising, and varied retro focused releases I’ve heard in some time.
Shohei Amimori graduated from Tokyo University of the Arts, Department of Composition. Earned a Masters degree from Tokyo University of Arts, Graduate School of Music. He released his first album Sonasile in 2016- it found him complex/ detailed electronic sounds with pop melodies. This debut was followed up in 2018 by PataMusic, this pushed further his blend of pop music, electronics and experimental music. With Ex. Life he’s most certainly paying tribute to both past listening, atmospheric music, and soothing pop- but added in we get more than a few twists of surprising and daring arrangement, creative retro electronica, and modern elements- which are used largely in a low key manner. Meaning this album often comes off like a more coherent and skilled take on the whole vaporwave thing.
The album opens up with “Falling on Earth” which finds elegant and grandly piano keys blended with 1980’s emotional synth scaping, and a adrift on a sonic sea of woozy skittering beats and melted Muzak air. By track four we come to waving 80’s new age -meets- hazed pop ambient of “Wabe”, with it’s later addition of lightly drifting operatic female vocals and trapped ethnic electro bets. As we move into the second half of the fourteen track album, we have the repetitive Reich like note weave and baying-to-dripping Muzak tones of “Scanning Earth”. The playful/ devious “Yarn phone” with its blend of cute piano & music box melody, hovering ‘n’ hazing smoky muzak elements, and noir jazziness. With the album leading out in fine dissonating/ psychedelic manner with “Next To Life” which is a hazed-just out sink blend of lightly strummed easy listening acoustic guitar, looped simmering keyboard banks, entangled low-key electro beats, layers of oriental vocal chatter, and skittering feed back guitar tones.
More often than not, those dabbling in retro sounds and it's genre-mixing either try to replicate and create the past exactly the same/ make a bland copy. Or they meld and blur the elements together in a very vaporwave manner- which often lacks focus/ depth. Amimori takes a different tack, he uses past sonic tools/ textures to create his own reality/ world- which takes from the past, but never blandly steals or cheapens- with each element been well played/ balanced, always try to hit that sweet spot between sentimental/ emotional/ memorable tunes, and creative experimentation. I was really, really taken by Ex.Life, easily saying it’s one of the highlights of the first half of 2021. Head here to find out more about Amimroi, and pick up Ex.Life.Roger Batty