The Japanese producer Shinichi Atobe doesn’t tour. Doesn’t do interviews. Rarely DJs. Whenever he’s done with a new record, he air-mails it to his label in England with nary a note or a thank-you. For a long time, it wasn’t even clear whether his new music was even new, or even if he was actually Japanese and not the persona of some insensitive German. He’d only released one EP, 2001’s canonical Ship-Scope, by the time the DDS label got a hold of him early last decade. Since then, he’s released four albums and two EPs, which were assumed to be culled from archival material—until Heat came out in 2018.

It wasn’t just that Heat reflected the radiance of Chicago house rather than the submerged doldrums of dub techno, or that its cover featured a seaside resort rather than an austere block of text: it’s that in no way in hell was this sequenced after-the-fact by a producer. There’s a palpable sense on Heat that it’s Atobe taking us on the journey, not DDS.

Heat spans 7 tracks in just under an hour: the squattest dimensions of any Atobe album, squat even by the standards of house albums. When DJs roll their sleeves up to make their “artist albums,” they tend to add a lot of ambient interludes so you forget their music is properly heard on the dancefloor. But Atobe, for whom communal ecstasy is dead last on his list of priorities, chose to secretly create a ‘70s-rock-vinyl-style longplayer instead, each track bearing equal gravity. Never mind the dancefloor: insert your own psychedelic adjectives. For me, Heat sounds like exploring an endless beach when you’re not sure if you’ll make it to high ground once the tide comes in.

1. “So Good, So Right”

Four chord changes: north, south, east, west. Heat’s 12-and-a-half-minute opener seems to expand in every direction, the flat chords threaded between its congas standing in for endless stretches of sand. The longest beaches in the world: Praia do Cassino Beach, Brazil, 157 miles. South Padre Island, Texas, 113 miles. Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh, 96 miles. Imagine.

2. “Heat 2”

If “So Good, So Right” suggested ancient, imperceptible, tectonic motion, “Heat 2” is a dip in the surf, a swim out to sea, kids screaming as their panicked feet get soaked by an incoming wave. As a filtered synth chord pulsates like a stranded jellyfish, we pick a spot on the horizon, and we’re gone.

3. “Heat 4”

We’re lost. It’s getting dark, and the tide is rising. Phone at 3% and dropping. Crabs scurry sheepishly; sandpipers peck impassively; a seal carcass gathers flies. Are we even allowed to be on this part of the beach? Where are all the people?

4. “Heat 1”

There they are. Kids play in the distance. Umbrellas. A brutalist seaside construction, maybe a pump or a water treatment plant, its doors locked.

5. “Break”

A shipwreck covered in barnacles and graffiti, half-buried in the sand. We check it out and move on.

6. “Heat 4”

Silhouetted against the setting sun, the kids run and duck out of sight. The tide comes in. A cold splash of sea-water at your feet. No way forward. A single organ chord deep in the mix: distant lights of boats at sea. There are people on those boats. What are they doing? When will they come home? Existence expands in every direction. You stare out to sea. Something stares back.

7. “So Good, So Right 2”

It always feels like it takes longer to walk back the way you came. The shipwreck, disappearing under the surf. A high, beeping synth in the upper register of the mix: a beach ball blown in the wind, an umbrella rolling sideways, a splash of color subsumed by the churning deep-blue of the ocean. There’s nobody here.

Praia do Cassino Beach, Brazil, 157 miles. South Padre Island, Texas, 113 miles. Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh, 96 miles. Ocean Beach, San Francisco, 3.5 miles. Imagine.

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