Album Review by: Cissi Tsang
Perth-based producer Ukiyo has made a big splash in the electronica scene, thanks to his innovative and eclectic sound and prolific output. His list of endorsements alone highlights the diversity in his music – from Hollywood royalty (Will Smith), music kingpins (Pharrell Williams) and YouTube creators (PewDiePie) – alongside over 40m streams. A 2019 mixtape and a handful of singles later (including The Middle, a collaboration with Panama and accompanied by a suitably-trippy music video), Ukiyo finally delivers his debut, self-titled album.
If this album had to be summed up in one word, it would be: NEON. There are plenty of bold splashes and dance numbers (Good Enough, With Me), accompanied by an array of collaborators. The Middle has a pulsating beat underneath its smooth exterior – hinting at a relationship hiding its dysfunction behind a happy façade.
The real gems of this album, however, come from the instrumental tracks featuring Ukiyo alone, where Ukiyo’s creativity is clearly less constrained by the need to work around a vocalist and their sensibilities. Sputnik transports you to an otherworldly place, with its sparkling opening synths backed by a minimal percussion that carries the track forward. Dimension is gloriously vaporwave, full of choppy, grainy, washed-out electronic goodness and is a great closer.
This album also highlights a tension many artists find themselves when thrust rapidly into the spotlight – how pop can you go? The collaborations, while good in themselves, sometimes push too far into bland, commercial-pop territory. Which is a shame because Ukiyo is capable of doing far more. Despite the unevenness of some of its parts, the album as a whole is a very worthwhile listen – there is something for everyone in these thirteen tracks