In the vast expanse of the musical universe, every so often, there emerges a celestial body, a collection of melodies and rhythms that transcend the conventional boundaries of genre. “Planet Q” by the visionary duo Kyoko Takenaka and Tomoki Sanders is one such cosmic wonder, a harmonious amalgamation of neither jazz, ambient, pop, nor folk, but a bit of all of them, all at once; Planet Q invites listeners on an odyssey across infinite galaxies of sound.
A notable aspect of “Planet Q” is that it was conceived and created in one week last year during the Omicron lockdown. Amidst a time often characterised by isolation and uncertainty, Takenaka and Sanders, who are both queer and non-binary artists, channelled their creativity into creating a unique sonic universe. Takenaka was living alone at the time, so they invited Sanders to isolate at their apartment. Their aim, explains Sanders, was to create “a really beautiful, secluded safe space for ourselves as qtpoc folx”. The album is not just an auditory journey but also a safe haven for marginalised identities, emanating inclusivity and acceptance in every melody, enabling listeners to find comfort, solace and validation in their amalgamated soundscape.
In their 8-track debut, Takenaka and Sanders have crafted not just an album but an entire cosmos, a universe of music where genres melt into experiences and melodies become cosmic entities. Each track is a planet, a celestial body of sound that pulses with the rhythms of the stars, offering listeners a journey that transcends earthly realms. As you’ll discover, the two non-binary artists make genre-fluid music joyfully, not constrained by traditional music rules.
My Tender, My Sweet, My Loving Home opens the album with a mellow, dreamy vibe featuring atmospheric sax, bell chimes, delicate piano notes, and distant vocals. Dedicated to Tomoki’s late father, the brilliant Pharoah Sanders. The title seems to express a longing for home and comfort. It sets a chill, reflective mood for the rest of the album. The track is rife with emotive longing and a profound yearning for belongingness, anchors the listeners’ hearts in a familiar haven, thus setting the mood for the entire odyssey: thawed, reminiscent, and reflective. It’s a melodic whisper wrapped in nostalgia, preparing the listeners for the ensuing eclectic exploration.
“竹” picks up the tempo with pulsing synths and a percussive beat. The guitar riff courtesy of Tanenaka builds another energetic layer, making it a perfect counterpoint to the first track. 自分の気分 brings the energy back down with a minimal, lo-fi beat, some gorgeous flute and nearly whispered vocals. The overall vibe is one of late-night contemplation. The simple arrangement highlights the vulnerability of the vocals. Midnight Jungle in Africa, as the title suggests, this instrumental track creates a nocturnal jungle ambience with ambient animal calls, rustling shakers, and sparse African Thumb piano notes. It’s an immersive soundscape that transports the listener to another place.
The tempo shifts again with Grow as Sanders’ sax provides the funky framework for a steady drum beat and layers of keys to rest upon. Takenaka recites the title softly, encouraging personal growth and overcoming self-doubt. This is the standout and most radio-friendly track. Next up is Nebaneba; this short interlude slows things down again with a minimal, glitchy beat and hypnotic hand claps. It provides a brief moment of respite before the next track. The energy ramps back up with a bouncy, upbeat ライスクッカー driven by synths, keys, and percussion. The playful melody and rhythms give it a retro, arcade-inspired feel. Though I can’t understand the lyrics, the song is whimsical, fun, and instantly catchy.
The album closes with the epic and cinematic 宇宙. The arrangement builds in layers to create a dramatic, spacey soundscape. Though no vocals exist, the instrumentation evokes a sense of floating through the cosmos. It’s a fittingly grand finale.
With “Planet Q,” Kyoko Takenaka and Tomoki Sanders have created a musical universe as expansive as it is intimate. Each track offers a glimpse into a new galaxy of sound, from the mellow dream pop of “My Tender, My Sweet, My Loving Home” to the retro arcade energy of “ライスクッカー” to the cinematic grandeur of “宇宙.”
As a journey through a secluded, safe space, this album is meant to be felt as much as heard. There is a knack for crafting hooks that stick, dramatic builds, and transporting soundscapes that Takenaka and Sanders possess. Those components come together to create an artistic whole that invites listeners into their musical cosmos that is warm, welcoming, and wonderful.
Though difficult to define by genre, “Planet Q” can be characterised as a collection of cosmic odysseys, a set of sonic spaceships transporting listeners across the Planet Q universe of sound. It’s an album meant for dancing, dreaming, floating and feeling, sometimes all at once. With its blend of genres, languages, and styles, “Planet Q” embodies the borderless spirit of music itself. Takenaka and Sanders have crafted a work that invites listeners into new musical worlds, offering escape, joy, drama and catharsis.
This album is meant for infinite replays, a set of sounds that unfold in layers, revealing new dimensions with each spin. “Planet Q” is a universe of music waiting to be explored, and this duo are the perfect guide for the journey. Overall, this stunning project establishes Takenaka and Sanders as visionaries, crafting music meant to transcend earthly bounds and transport listeners into realms of pure sonic bliss.