Welcome to the World of Ventla, part 1: In a Ventla Stutterdub

One of the most intriguing figures in the Japanese music underground for the past several years has been Tokyo’s Shuji Suzuki, AKA Ventla.

By any standard Ventla is highly prolific. Suzuki’s stated goal is to self-release one hundred albums (so far he’s put out 25, and you can find them all, for free, right here). The songs tend to be short, and many are instrumental. They do not, it’s fair to say, make for typical listening.

More precisely: in terms of style, mood, and instrumentation Ventla is one of the most adventurous musicians out there.

Most discussions of Ventla cite trendy Internet-based subgenres like “vaporwave” or “chillwave” (though thankfully, some writers have acknowledged that his work goes beyond whatever’s meant by these terms). 

But in a recent interview, Suzuki clarifies what should be evident from the music itself: Ventla is a hyper-eclectic project that has little inherently to do with the synth-based genre scholasticism of the Tumblr era. Except he puts it so much better: “Ventla is almost like a cover band trying to play Lil Rob, l’Ensemble Raye, Hironobu Nomura, Pretty Maids, Paris Angels, Hanatarash, The Pursuit of Happiness, The Hiltonaires, Daf and Stackridge at the same time in Abner Jay style using talkbox and musical saw but no one seems to understand the concept.”

Each of the posts in this series will feature songs that exemplify different aspects of Ventla’s work so far. (I feel a bit bad organizing things this way given dude’s relentless eclecticism, but the corpus is so big that some kind of thematic breakdown is needful, and this is the best I’ve got.)

This week, as the title suggests, the subject is the dub influence found in much of his work.

Up first is “Harataima,” which is a great little echo-driven workout with dueling, driving melodicas.

Next is “Sanman,” which features almost absurd levels of syncopation. It’s a bit like the more raucous end of Augustus Pablo’s stuff…but on cough syrup.

Letterset” is similar but prettier, with waterfalling synths and a loping, octave-jumping bass line.

Up last is my favorite of the bunch, the ecstatic jam “Unitika 92.” Classic dub drop-and-add maneuvers heighten the impact of the central marimba line.

Which reminds me: words like “eccentric” and “difficult” are often used to describe Ventla, but there’s a real pop sensibility underlying most of the songs. Suzuki’s sonic palette is highly unusual–he’s painting in strange colors–but many of the tunes are seriously catchy.

More to come, soon, on the awesomeness of Ventla.

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