Review: Powder – ‘Powder In Space’ (Beats In Space)

Tokyo-based Powder (also known as Momoko Goto) released her eagerly anticipated Powder in Space in February. Part of Tim Sweeney’s Beats in Space mix series, the album is comprised of 18 tracks, including two firsts — the first official reissue of Daphne’s When You Love Someone (Groove Instrumental) and the first release of Samo DJ & The Hidden Operator’s Захват Сзади Rox. The album, released in physical and digital formats, also features two exclusive tracks from Powder: ‘Gift’ and ‘New Tribe’.

Powder in Space shines as a fitting first instalment of Beats in Space’s new mix series, given Tim Sweeney’s taste for house, disco, and electronica. Here, Goto delivers, with an 18-track masterpiece that spans the spectrum from laidback to intense and back. The album brings forth an undeniably positive vibe, which Pitchfork attributes to Goto making the most out of her limited free time. Employee by day and DJ by night, Tokyo-based Goto’s discography is reflective of her creativity being unleashed — then refined not only by a mastery of varying genres, but also by a savant-like knowledge of the tools of her trade. That being said, Powder in Space, in many ways, is quite comparable to DJ Akito’s Gone Again. Akito’s album is a mosaic-like culmination of techniques, styles, and influences, but each track is nonetheless harmonious and well-balanced. Goto accomplishes that very same thing, though arguably better.

Samo DJ & The Hidden Operator’s Захват Сзади Rox, with its serene melody marked by scratchy synths, sets the tone for Powder in Space. What follows is aural nirvana, ranging from the woodblock percussions of Don’t DJ’s ‘Southern Shore’, to the drone-like synths and cadenced percussion of Karamika’s ‘Ton 10’, and finally, the funky beats of Tiago’s ‘Roy Brooks’. But Goto’s own tracks — ‘New Tribe’ and ‘Gift’ — are the album’s unrivalled stars as both capture the breadth of Powder’s immense talent. ‘Gift’ is electric relaxation at its finest, marked by a medley of drum-machine pulses, seemingly sashaying keyboard chords, and recurring bell-like loops. ‘New Tribe’, on the other hand, is the yang to the yin of ‘Gift’: uptempo and marked by a smouldering ferocity that serves as a perfect counterpoint to the rest of the album.

Powder’s brand of house seems equally at home on a dimly lit dance floor, retro 8-bit pixelated game, or even a Japanese pachinko parlour. Yes, that pachinko parlour, which is as much a part of Japanese culture as the kabuki, noh, and kyōgen. Expat Bets’ feature on Japan’s slot games explains how pachinko parlours continue to be all the rage in shopping malls and downtown business districts in Japan’s major cities. Frequented by the Japanese because they are popular haunts, The Globe and Mail columnist Brian Milner explains that these parlours are some of the loudest venues in a country that favours silence, with the sounds of incessantly clanging small metal balls alone producing chaotic yet cadenced noise. Nowadays, the chaotic noise is harmonised by house music that range from Japanese pop to electronica, which include the likes of Akito and Powder at the forefront. The fact that these parlours are now playing modern Japanese music has become a necessity, as they are looking to appeal to a younger generation of players to keep the industry thriving. To this end, playing music from Tokyo’s best artists, like Powder, certainly helps.

It goes without saying, Powder in Space is Goto’s finest work yet, one that further reflects her deep love for all things upbeat and electronic. Moreover, it is an affirmation of Powder’s standing as one of the genre’s best.

Powder In Space is out now. 

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