Trust is more of the same from Kaito (born Hiroshi Watanabe). The third LP from Berklee College of Music graduate and one of the most well-liked Japanese purveyors of mild and agreeable trance is lush and rolling; its technicolor palette is built of clean synths and soaring string sections, and peaks are frequent. Of this year’s LP releases from the Kompakt camp (Gui Boratto, Matias Aguyao, Gus Gus, etc.), Trust is by far the least challenging I’ve heard. While it’s a likable album, the very singular, gentle nudge beneath Trust‘s glimmering surface helps move this material along in as predictably serene a fashion as it does on previous works.

Since at least the late ’90s, Kaito has been producing a light but deeply ambient blend of house and trance. I’m hesitant, as most people are, to use the “t” word because of the kind of overcooked, thumping three-chord monstrosities that dominate the dance CD section of Target, but there really isn’t a better word for it. Kaito’s work is too fluid and wrought with sentimental synth leads to land on any of the dollar-bin Ibiza Dance compilations, but his bountiful arrangements are undeniably trance-like in their movement, each motivated by percussion that really doesn’t change from track to track, and basslines that are diminished by the ample featherweight bliss at the center.

Kaito’s Hundred Million Light Years, issued in 2006, is a significant improvement on his Kompakt debut LP Special Life, even if certain traditions remain firmly in place. The producer brands his releases with phrases or words that either communicate hippie-type free love stuff or just grandiosity in general (“Your Brilliant Flowers”, “The Universe”, “Everlasting”), and in perhaps an extension of this, he utilizes images of his son on nearly every record sleeve. For at least the first two full-lengths, Kompakt swapped the words “light” and “love” and issued beatless editions of the records, which likely made good with enthusiasts of the label’s Pop Ambient series (See PopMatters writer Tim O’Neill’s evaluation of Hundred Million Love Years here). Sonically, the distance between Special Life and Hundred Million Light Years is worth mentioning, as funky tracks like “Inside River” from the debut or cheesy piano tones like those on Special‘s “Scene” are nowhere to be found on Hundred Million, and although Trust is more relaxed than both of Wantanabe’s previous endeavors, little has changed.

At its loudest, Kaito’s Trust is still perfectly restrained. Both “Rainbow Circles” and the title track begin tenderly — synths swell around the kick drum, while larger, more celebratory string sounds stream alongside it, padding minimal chimes that suit the original theme well. “We Are Living Here” is actually born in a somber place, and hosts abbreviated breaks that offer more shadows than do Trust‘s other tracks. But its central idea changes little, and its course doesn’t differ much from the other productions here. There is a kind of comfort I’ve come to associate with the Kaito experience, and that’s here in droves. It’s just that while Trust expands ultimately to the size of its own universe, it never really rattles ours, or anything.

RATING 5 / 10