Though Sensuous isn’t exactly the musical equivalent of a mood ring, Oyamada’s latest is full of future-retro tunes built up around simple production and an astute attention to sound quality and fidelity. It’s less atmospheric than 2002’s Point, but much cleaner than the kaleidoscopic, sample-heavy Fantasma, mostly due to Oyamada’s in-the-box approach.
“Since the technology and plug-ins have gotten better, I wanted to try recording in a high-bit recording space,” he explains. “I wanted to make the high and low sounds as wide as possible.”
This time out, Oyamada ditched his monster SSL board and relied exclusively on Pro Tools HD and Logic Platinum for tracking and mixing, opting to record everything at 24-bit/96kHz. To make sure he got the cleanest signal possible, he used a Røde NT-2 — famous for its extremely low self-noise specs — to mic both his acoustic guitar and his vocal. A Neve 8801 rack completes the chain. While the guitar is undoubtedly Oyamada’s songwriting lynchpin, his two primary keyboard choices, the classic Yamaha DX7 and Native Instrument’s FM7, give Sensuous a fat, classic tone that warms up the otherwise sparse instrumentation. In conjunction with his start-stop drum programming and guitar work, the synths create the unique blend of ultra-clean but heavily fragmented funk that runs throughout the entire record.
“The theme for this album was, of course, sensuous,” says Oyamada. “As in you could touch the sounds. What I was aiming for was to have very clear sounds; almost like having no sound. When there’s silence in analog recording, you still get analog noise. I wanted that clear sound, and there’s no sound in digital silence. Then you start getting a sense for the non-sound. I’ve actually put some of those non-sound parts in this recording.”
Oyamada used a lot of looping and stacking on his vocals to achieve a smooth yet robotic feel, treating the words on tracks like “Fit Song,” “Beep It,” “Gum,” and “Breezin’” less like traditional lyrics and more like MIDI-triggered sound collages.
“I’m focusing more on the reverberations of the words, not the words themselves,” he explains. “The way Japanese words are lined up gives them a different meaning. It’s like sound poetry.”
It’s safe to say that Sensuous is essentially a concept album, both in its execution and its content, and a fair amount of musical and lyrical repetition only enhances to this dynamic. Oyamada is a master of subtlety and nuance, and using computer-based sounds and production tactics is a solid fit.