Kaito, ‘Hundred Million Light Years’

Kaito’s brand of emotional trance pairs best with studying, working or drifting off to sleep.

I work some really strange hours a few days a week. One of those days is Sunday. Therefore, I’m often katy_perry_-_wide_awake.mp3 at 3:43 on Monday morning. Like right now.

Since I’m never really in the mood for a hair-whipping Britney Spears banger or a cutesy K-Pop bop at this point in the night, I thought I’d highlight some selections from my moodier, mostly vocal-free musical catalog for the fellow creatures of the night out there.

Consider this a new franchise. SootheMuuse, maybe? To be determined – let me know what you think.

Ambient music’s been a saving grace for me for a while now, especially in the past two years during some of my lowest lows. On days where I really couldn’t muster the motivation to get out of the bed or off the couch, I’d just quickly search “healing music” or “spa sounds” on Spotify and listen until I fell asleep – or, at least, briefly stopped thinking about too much and drifted away for just a little while. (“8 Hours Relaxing Music” is my actual most-played track of 2017.)

I’m in a better place mentally these days, and the end of my Saturn’s Return seems like it’s in sight – new year, new Muu, etc. – but that hasn’t stopped me from still finding solace in strange sounds.

One of the tracks from tonight’s recommendation already made a cameo on MuuMuse years ago on my “MuuCast” in 2010, where I picked a bunch of songs suitable for a night drive. (It’s still my favorite mix that I made.)

Hiroshi Watanabe, otherwise known as Kaito, is a Japanese trance/ambient/electronica producer. Like my beloved Utada Hikaru, his parents were also music-minded, and his passion for production sent him between the United States and Japan to study and create music. He flourished as an artist thereafter, releasing under the Kompakt label and making a name for himself by helping to birth the “trendy trance” scene. He’s also a DJ and a photographer, and he’s done a bunch of cool projects. As recently as December, it seems he’s still regularly releasing new productions, so I’ll need to dig into the later stuff soon.

The album I discovered is called Hundred Million Light Years, which was released back in 2006. (Note: not to be confused with Cheryl Tweedy Cole Fernandez-Versini Payne‘s A Million Lights.)

I wish I could remember how I first stumbled on the album. I assume it was lumped into a post on one of the hundreds of MP3 blogs on the then-booming blogosphere at the time. (Memories.) The cute cover art must have caught my eye: I assume that’s the Kaito, Hiroshi’s son. This whole music project is named after his son. Kaito means “The one that is able to explain the universe” in Japanese, which is beautiful.

Accordingly, this is a personal statement – even if there isn’t a single lyric included.

The music is evocative, emotional, curious and nostalgic; it’s all warm, bubbling electronica and dramatic strings and electric guitars and atmospheric soundscapes. The production is just a hair away from being a #lit dance floor-filling club thumper. But instead, these songs are full of feelings and depth – even at their most uptempo. Be it the name of the opening track (“Color of Feels”) working as a subtle influence, but the album honestly does provoke bubbles of bright colors to burst in my brain whenever I close my eyes and really listen. (Not on drugs, I swear.)

Should the pulsating still prove too overwhelming, there’s also the even more dreamy and weightless Hundred Million Love Years – a beat-free version of the album.

Hundred Million Light Years is one of the many vocal-free albums that have helped to put me to bed for years (a compliment!), and soundtracked so, so many study and/or work sessions. (Of course, not everyone shares my opinion: Pitchfork apparently prefer his older work. Shocker.)

So give this a listen. And if this type of recommendation is helpful to anyone out there, I’ll keep going with even more soothing selections in the next few weeks during the ungodly hours.

Sweet dreams, everyone.

Hundred Million Light Years was released in 2006. (iTunes)

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