Ryu Yoshizawa Credit: Courtesy of Orange Milk Records

Japanese producer Ryu Yoshizawa has a rich career that includes making music for business conglomerates Square Enix and Lotte, spending 17 years and counting in sound artists’ group Office Intenzio, and providing live support for synth-pop pioneers Ryuichi Sakamoto and Yukihiro Takahashi. His output as Koeosaeme has been varied too. His 2017 debut under that alias, Sonorant, features confetti-blasted footwork abstractions; 2018’s Float is all brooding drones and minimal electronics; and 2019’s Obanikeshi embraces full-blown sound-collage frenzy, with kaleidoscopic productions that often move at breakneck speeds. On his new record, Annulus (Orange Milk), he dials things back, pairing glossy instrumentation with sparse arrangements; each track is deliberate, unhurried, and above all lush. There’s a greater sense of continuity than on his previous releases, largely due to how spacious and airy each song feels. This lightness is key, causing every small sonic variation to feel like a crucial development, and “1520219:44” provides the album’s first taste of such economical sound slinging. Atop winding percussion and the faintest of ambience, a flurry of mouth noises—clicks and spurts and spitting—creates blissed-out reveries in a dizzying array of flavors. “12520219:05” is more straight-ahead in its dreaminess, adorning synth pads with Harold Budd-esque piano ambience, but even as the song gets busier, a sustained string note reins it in. This sort of careful balancing act defines every track, and it’s necessary to maintain the overarching playfulness of Annulus. Yoshizawa’s charming way of handling MIDI instrumentation throughout the album—mirroring percussion and vocals on “2720217:06,” for instance, or marrying electronic blips with a lumbering beat on “122202115:12”—elevates these tracks from mere curios into fleshed-out explorations of density, rhythm, and timbre. He also brings a beautiful mix of the traditional and the contemporary into play, with throat singing and various Asian percussion instruments melding with retrofuturistic synth flourishes on “1214202018:07.” Yoshizawa constantly aims to surprise, and with Annulus, he does so while delivering a cohesive vision.   v