Grinning Cat by Susumu Yokota
Formats: CD (BAY 17CD) Limited Edition Double Vinyl LP (2,500 copies) (BAY 17V) Digital (BAY 17E)
Release Date: 4 June 2001
Yokota writes: 'Now I'd like to explain the title Grinning Cat. Last spring I moved from a house located in downtown Tokyo to a home where I now live in the suburbs. Now my house is larger than the one I lived in before and I also have a better studio environment. Then last summer I started to live with my girlfriend and also three cats: mother cat, Tabasa, her son cat, Bindi, and her daughter black cat, Noa. We all played together like having parties everyday at home. The everyday life with cats is like a fairytale, and also it was like I met the Cheshire Cat in Alice In Wonderland. In my works, I always create philosophy and 'childlike' images. This album Grinning Cat came into existence because of having this wonderful life.'
Welcome, once again, to the increasingly bewitching and playful world of Susumu Yokota. The follow up to the remarkable (and remarkably successful) Sakura, his first album of 2001 finds the influence of jazz and classical music (notably Steve Reich) stronger than ever, with the Eno-strength ambience still present and correct. Say hello to the odd sashay into nearly-house tempo. Handclaps. Windchimes. Heartbeats. Acoustic Guitar. Piano. Somehow it reminds us of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami: a best selling novel in Japan about a lost cat and many other everyday strangenesses, delights and discoveries. It evokes the same capricious, elusive feeling we get from this album (though we must admit Yokota claims ignorance of the book).
It's a more episodic album than the slowly swelling rhythm of Sakura, but the idyllic Grinning Cat possesses an equally tenacious ability to settle inside your soul.
Sakura was The Wire magazine's Electronica Album of the Year for 2000. But that doesn't come close to the tides of praise and astonishment that flooded through from journalists, radio DJs and fans alike, all caught in Yokota's spell. Not to mention the word of mouth stories we picked up on, where friends of friends all went out and bought copies after hearing the album. While Sakura is now officially the biggest selling Leaf record to date (and still counting) the critical garlands have continued to gather this year with LeafCompilation, Yokota's mix CD comprised of Leaf back catalogue, released on his own Skintone label in Japan, and exported in limited quantities elsewhere.