Monday, 17 August 2015

KODAK CAMEO – EVER COME BACK

Yahoo! Well, not exactly "yahoo" – more like a "whoaaah…" because you're not really going to be exactly leaping in the air over this one. It's not quite the energetic pick-me-up for sort of thing. It is however a soul-cleanser, an atmosphere giver, a set of sounds so vast and emotive that you cannot help but be possessed by them for the whole 4 minutes 11 seconds they exist.

"Wow sounds so nice already," you're saying, "What else?" Since you asked so nicely I'm gonna continue writing. It's called 'Ever Come Back', it's tagged "#pineapple", and it's by Kodak Cameo. Picture this: A warmcool breeze, a textured haze slowly fogging around a voidsome space, fragile melodies inching out from the swirling mists of imagination, '80s love ballad aesthetics rolling out like a panning shot of the Ciucaş Mountains, slowly zooming in until you a single blade of grass is crisp and clear onscreen. It's what the track sounds like.

If we're going to get label-y, then I suppose you could call this vaporwave – the transportive nature of the track (i.e. the feeling that you're somewhere else as you listen to it), the retro or throwback hints in the music, the slightly decayed or damaged veneer of it all. It's not un-vaporwave, that's for sure.

Unrelenting blasts of ambience wash over you with watercolour beauty and oil paint intensity, swathes of sound building a picture of bittersweetness decorated with aching snippets of saxophone snatched from some unknown jam, punctuated with glassy synth chords, rounding it all off with a flavour that's as robust as it is delicate, a fleeting ethereality that like passing clouds is huge and imposing but soon dissipates into nothingness.

The sparse sparkling melodies skipping over the merging meld of modulating synth and subtle rumblings, the minimal percussion in the form of reverbing shakers, the whole glittering mass of it, the gentle panning from left to right, the piercing light of its second third moving into the cooler stalwart sounds of its final third. It is an affecting morsel of sound, a touching example of just how epic and all-encompassing superficially "ambient music" can be, taking hints from cheese-laden romantic ballads and pop with its veilsome aesthetics and melodic refrain, but staying firmly in the realm of atmosphere-making, web-born music, an experimentalism hatched not just from a love of sounds, but a love of making sounds.



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Thursday, 13 August 2015

AUSCULTATION – PROMISE YOU'LL HAUNT ME

We begin weaving this basket of words housing our morsel of music for the moment with a smidgen of etymology. Auscultation comes from the Latin word "auscultare" which means "to listen" and refers to the practice of listening to the internal sounds of the body. Whilst less familiar with this more technical term, you will probably know what a stethoscope is; long-named French man René-Théophile-Hyacinthe Laennec invented this instrument in 1816. Apparently the practice of listening to body sounds (lungs, heart, intestines, etc.) has been mentioned in ancient Sanskrit texts, and was also used by ancient Greek physician, Hippocrates.

But enough of this. You'll know it all if you're a medical student and if you're properly interested in getting the meaning of everything you stumble upon, like YES/NO is, you'll google it, right? Whatever. It's time to talk about the musical, non-medical Auscultation and his track 'Promise You'll Haunt Me'. True to its name, there is a definitive feeling of otherworldliness here, of waking up past midnight with your digital clock flashing next to you and a stomach churning sense of the barrier between the realm of the living and the dead oozing and deteriorating, the sweat of spooky summer nights, that monumental feeling of mere minutes seeming to be hours as you wait for something to appear, eyes wide and strained into the heavy glowering pitchblackness of your bedroom.

This sound is in the gently decayed ectoplasmic merging synth chords, pulsating through a hypnotic series of loops whose progressions are joyful yet jarring, relaxed yet maniacal – the nightly breath-hold anticipating a sojourn from a spirit, a mix of curiosity and sustained terror, of happiness and regretful longing. Robust bass columns in beneath, matching the chords, soon joined by thudding kicks, lo-fi muted handclaps, and nocturnal spookily jangling clanks of cymbals, not to mention the high register chirruping melodies that shine lifee-giving and springlike in the more regular chord progressions. But there is an intermittent switching between these "regular" sections and parts that exhibit a slightly more unhinged collection of chords, clouds of shuddering fear or dreadful anticipation in this general blue sky of happiness, heart flutterings as the door creaks, or something taps on your window.

The aesthetic of this track, a sort of half-submerged quality that gives everything a warm veil of misty fuzz, serves to add to the idea that its title suggests, a semi-decayed veneer that speaks of nostalgia and bygone, happier days. Whatever its connection to its title, whether the title came after the music or if its sound was inspired by those words, it remains an arresting, intriguing track that nevertheless speaks of phantomatic trysts, longing and loneliness after death, love crossing the gulf between here and the unknown.


  • 'Promise You'll Haunt Me' arrives as the first track from Auscultation's cassette release on 100% Silk due tomorrow, 14th August, called L'étreinte Imaginaire ("The imaginary embrace" in English). Track titles continue a theme of emotivity — Side A: 'Drop Off', 'Black Window', 'Composure Fog'; Side B: 'Vanda', 'Stranded Love', and 'Lost You In The Fog'. You can get it here (click).


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Tuesday, 11 August 2015

KERO KERO BONITO – CHICKEN

It's Kero Kero Bonito! How wonderful! How thrilling to hear new sounds from them. And how great it is to hear that these soundular visions of the London trio are still tantamount to the apex of uniqueness in music right now. Experimental music is not always unique; some experiments with sound do sound alike. But nobody would necessarily describe KKB's sound as an "experimental" one, yet this is what they are doing: experimenting – with pushing the boundaries of what they can include in an underground pop song, the instruments they can use and song structure.

Aside from what is essentially a trademark of Kero Kero Bonito's sound – a bouncy beat painted with a decidedly drum-machine aesthetic, fuzzy electronics and synthetic chords – 'Chicken' continues with adding in whatever novel things can be added without it feeling saturated or overcooked. Sarah, with only a small rap-sing-speaking part in Japanese this time around, expounds on the virtues of dancing, and urges all listeners to not stand with their backs to the walls and to instead take to the dancefloor and move around.

A specific image in this moving around, i.e. dancing, is that of a shark nibbling at your feet if you don't move them fast enough, or rather, if you don't move them at all. In a similar vein to the popular game/past-time/hobby (???) "the floor is lava," and taking a leaf out of the "the floor is ____" foundation, we are inducted once more into the unconventional, fun world of Kero Kero Bonito through their interpretation of old-hat standards like "dance for one more night, we only have this one night until blah blah~♪" or "shut up and dance~♪" or "we are in so much pain and sorrow we dance it away tonight~♪" etc. etc. Where pop/EDM songs say it with cliché and melodrama, KKB say it with flowers (pretty ones) and a bag of sweets, with a slice of inventiveness and playful innocence that feels missing in today's musical landscape.

Add to this a full metal section that hammers out a crunching riff with MIDI instruments – who else would do this to a song? – complete with a few growled vocals; and also, after the line "If you don't move, the shark's gonna steal your shoes", a wonderful sample: anybody who knows this chomping sound will know the true terror of Snacker the Shark from Banjo-Kazooie. Snacker is faster than you, sort of guards items you need to get from underwater, and comes complete with a Jaws-esque theme whenever he gets near – plus he jeers you with lines like "Snacker smells tasty dinner, stay just there!" and "Coffee and mints? I'll be right over!" – all in all making for a genuinely harrowing experience.

This all combines for a track that's high in carefree attitude, low in gravity, and generally a bubbling refreshment taken in the context of, possibly a backlash to, a "serious" "dance music" "scene" currently spilling its faux-emotional (fauxmotional) guts all over the world. Even by itself, with no context, with no nothing, this music is undeniably upbeat: listenable, followable, adorable. And you can download 'Chicken' for free – lovely~




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