Monday, 16 October 2017

🐣 GENIUS — 2226

The dust that this track kicks up the dust caught in lances of light coming in through a boarded up window the dark humid nature of it and the basement punk feeling of it the slapdash half-asleep DIY dream of the track sloshes against your ears like an old pair of jeans. It is in the harsh comfort of this track, its vintage photo smouldering cigarette atmosphere, where inexplicably a subversion of this sort of music dwells. Garage rock, abrasive punk-flavoured guitar music features lyrics that are blunt, to-the-point, aggressive. But in this, '2226' by Busan-based band GENIUS – that is μ§€λ‹ˆμ–΄μŠ€ in Korean – the lyrics are so cryptic that they are practically non-sequiturs. It begins with the biggest of all: "Hey dear brothers and sisters / Today I don't wanna take it / Don't make me a bird / Don't make me an ashtray."

At other times, however, the lyrics are in their simplicity quite blissful: "Today I don't wanna drink beer / It makes me full / I just need hot water in the big cup." To hear such strange poetic words floating along to scratchy sweeps of lo-fi guitar, to attitudinal scoops of bass and racketing drums, it was refreshing. When we asked the creators of this gently raucous track about the concept behind the song, the guitarist replied enigmatically, "I want to be happy with my dear brother and sister. That's it." According to the email we received back, many of his lyrics revolve around "rebirth and transcendence." For such big ideas to live in this short tract of grunge-tinged guitar music feels like a reflection of inebriated philosophising, the persistence of big thoughts no matter who or where you are, the discovery of the meaning of life half-drunk at the bar; the song's final line, "We can… be happy more", echoes hopefully like a mantra.

  • πŸ”” This is taken from the band's August 2017 album 별바닀 (Byeolbada, i.e. Sea Of Stars), released on Korean label BGBG. This you can purchase via the GENIUS Bandcamp. You can also watch on the video for '2226', which was directed by Soohwan Swan Park. The artwork, a folded 1000 won note, was created by a photographer named 김진 (Kim Jin).

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Thursday, 12 October 2017


Remember the Nintendo WFC music from Mario Kart Wii? The opening of 'Dependent' on Maxo's very recent Skyriser EP recalls this. There are the spacey synths, the stuttering drums, the feeling of restrained ecstasy that a person feels as they do something immensely exciting controlled by their thumbs and contained within a screen. Ultimately there is no actual wind rushing through your hair, no real monstrous tortoise shells rifling at your head. It's even better: it's in another world. And to add to that already beguiling prospect there is this hyperactive, highly kinetic sound, just to ensure you get the message that this is escapist fun.

Similar cool, breezy synths run through 'Tears In The Wind' with their alien modulation. Starry melodies plink gently across this carpet of percussive electronic activity, leaving behind a trail of stardust reverb. There is also a touch of Earthbound in how the synth chords are muffled at times, how they sometimes seem atonal, and in the rhythm with which they hit your ears, a similar modulation and fuzzy feeling that's in the 'Battle Against a Machine' theme.

Clearly VGM, videogame music, is an influence. But alongside this, infused with it, is an almost outlandish experimentalism, which results at all times in bold dynamic eruptions. The overall intensity of 'Tears In The Wind', for instance, how buzzes abrasively, its bass scowling and gonna-blow, how the chords at times (e.g. around 2:39) chromatise with rapid ascension through semitones, and how cuts in the music itself create these sudden jumps through negative space, literally startling your brain as it attempts to react (0:58); similarly at 0:29 in 'Dependent' the unexpected rush of space into ears is then counteracted with stumbling staccato sound. There's the unforeseen switch in 'Kite' from intense rainbow synths to playroom xylophones (1:05), plus its mad wobbling sounds from about 1:55. Or simply the chord progression itself in 'Grow Wings', a beacon of composition with its breakcore beats, glitching electronics and smooth subtle and sparingly used vocal samples. Dynamics, knowing how to play with sound as much as when to create an absence of it for maximum effect, seems to be a Maxo forte.

Little details like these hide away in the Skyriser tracks like Easter eggs, giving each one a high replay value. The album opener and also its certified most-cute 'Plushlined' is a good example of these small parts both making up the whole and being exceptionally enjoyable on their own—the way it starts with this World 1-1 ease and freshness, the plinking melody, the hyper marching band drums, the luscious fingerclicks, snippets of birdsong, rapidly arpeggiating bleeps, airplane sounds, two or three different vocal samples, then the wonky Earthbound-esque synth chords. And that's just the intro. It's intentionally maximalist and bristling with numerous elements without ever seeming overly busy, each one placed precisely whilst retaining a carefree haphazard quality.

But aside from the tiny details there is an overarching theme, or at least seems to be. We begin with cute and happy, then it gets spacey and far-flung, then a bit more serious in the fluffy threats of 'Tears In The Wind', then downright dark at the start of 'Grow Wings' with its brooding vibe in the bulging synth bass and scuttling heavy half-speed beat, before making an intense volta around the midpoint of that track, and going into 'Kite', which begins as a resolution – with vocals presumably from Maxo himself gently crooning over hard beats and that plonking tuned percussion, a concluding sort of track sounding like sunlight glinting on raindrops left after a storm still with dark grey clouds rolling away to reveal endless blue – and which ends as triumphal pogosticking disco.

Indeed the track's titles suggest this sonic storyline, too: 'Plushlined'—well, it conjures cuteness, comfort. 'Dependent' has somewhat negative connotations, especially regarding drugs or even a dependency on people. 'Tears In The Wind', well it's almost self-explanatory: tears are sad enough, but when they are whipped away by the wind, so that even nature finds your sadness ill-fitting, it has even more lonely, repressive symbolism. 'Grow Wings', like the track itself, sounds like a kind of volta, a change—or there is a desire to change there, to view a situation from further away, from a more objective viewpoint than on the ground, figuratively speaking; or perhaps it is a desire for escapist wish-fulfilment, to grow wings, to gain a superpower. And then 'Kite'. Kites are simple, fun, associated with childhood wonder not-a-care-in-the-world-ness in this non-committal stage of life. Another meaning is of a bird, also called a kite: birds mean freedom, escape.

Thus in Skyriser, even in the title itself we have the point of the EP, the story: from start to finish, from ground to sky, our central character is happy and fine, experiences attachment and then rejection, wanders lonely and sad, somehow grows wings and ascends into the sky.

The EP comes with three remixes, essentially different tracks rather than recognisable reworkings. Two are of 'Grow Wings'—Tomggg flips it into a virtuosic tumble of bleeping sounds, uptempo skittering dopamine-firing electronic melodies and low bassy booms; on the other hand TREKKIE TRAX-affiliated producer Carpainter turns the track into a frenzy of happy hardcore. The other remix is TORIENA, who puts a breakcore-flavoured spin on 'Tears In The Wind' with glitched-out chiptune sensibilities. These are stylistically likeminded artists, ones who help with the colour palette of Skyriser even further, adding to its moodboard of high-powered fun: absolutely this is dance music that eschews lyrics and formulae for imagination and free association, swaps populism for poptacular, paints a fresh nightclub – if only in our headphones, in our bedrooms – for nerds and internet people and gamers and creatives and for anybody else who wants to be taken elsewhere by music.

  • πŸ”” Maxo's Skyriser EP was released on 11th October by Japan-located label TREKKIE TRAX. You may purchase the EP by clicking this hyperlink and subsequently deciding exactly which service you would like to use in order to do so.
  • πŸ”” The artwork for Skyriser was created by visual artist and also musicmaker Yung Slav. It features Maxo's musicmaking logo – the interlocked cubes – hurtling into a splash of crystalline aquamarine liquid. There's a lot of kineticism and fluidity in the visuals, reflecting the movement and natural, effortless flow of the compositions on the EP; or else, in opposition to the EP's title, the logo, textured smoothly rocky like an asteroid, falls towards the Earth. Perhaps that is the silent, visual beginning of Skyriser, and after this comes 'Plushlined' which sonically describes the newly-arrived-on-Earth creature whose story we subsequently follow.

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Thursday, 5 October 2017


If the internet were real life, it would probably look a lot like Shibuya at night. The thronging people, the neon colours, wild characters, skyscrapers looming above, the overload of endless, endless options. Pop-up ads and entertainment galore. The centre of Japan's capital at night is the city everyone expects Tokyo to be. Twenty-four hour future megalopolis cities are often dreamt of, fabled even, but Tokyo is the real thing. Multi-floor arcades buzz with players spending their yen to claim Neko Atsume plushies from the crane machines, basement restaurants hidden behind a single wooden door unfold beneath the depths of the street, weird walkways with seedy lurkers offering anything money can buy, girls waiting in the cold with signs selling third floor karaoke bars, salarymen stuck in the 90s ramble into the nearest soap land to sip on sake and more. In the dark of the night Tokyo becomes an escape for the hardworking officeworkers, a place to let go of the overtime schedules and bowing to the bosses. Illuminate the darkness and stay awake as long as you can, Toyko is alive.

A layer of the complex nation peels off and it is all Japanese. An enticing gleam of glow spilling out of each doorway inviting passersby in. Under-designed posters layered over scraps of messages stamped in graffiti, signage for twenty-four hour vending machine restaurants. Anything that could be considered Western in origin has been sucked in and warped to suit a Japanese manifest. A crossing of practical ugliness, angular buildings, informative signs, with a scattered infusion of cuteness, inadvertently results in charm. Illicitly obvious and sweetly saccharine and sublimely innocent.

A lattice of streets each drenched in vertical signs, lanterns, advertising billboards, jostling for attention, singularly underappreciated but together they tessellate to create the neon glow of Tokyo's global image. Whilst the Hong Kong government strategically phases its iconic signscape out of the city in an effort of homogenisation, Tokyo shows no sign of dulling its intensity.

The city's glistening wonderland extends to the otaku centre of the universe: Electric Town itself, Akihabara. Each level of every building is a world of its own, providing stimulus and a home to each geeky fascination and a corner for social outsiders to feel whole. Akihabara is the district to explore, with bewilderment and curiosity, the underbelly of innocuous anime and geeky fandom. Burrow deep, get warped by the kawaii cuteness that sells so well in Japan and gaze in shock and consider with an analytical eye the perverted nature of peculiar pastimes such as building lifelike femme dolls and the reverence (or lack of) for females on the cover of the more porn-based manga.

In fresh light of day, the seedy side rescinds and the city pops with the a crisp brightness under a blue sky. Looking resplendent in every weather, winter brings a cold clarity to the streets and from the top of the Metropolitan Government Building the spread of this mega city is almost understandable. From the ground level each intersection feels like an Oxford Circus, like ten London's in one city but from atop this viewpoint, the flat network of Tokyo's streets filtering off into suburbs and edged by a ridge of mountains is magnificent. All of the nooks of life and happenings in the streets below are incomprehensible.

The night before we left the neon world of Tokyo behind we were treated to a vision of the city lights in the rain. Japanese people always seem to be prepared for any weather and with the first splatters of rain umbrellas appeared above the heads of the crowds; circles of colour reflecting the glow and refracting the gleam of lights on the puddles of rain on the tarmac. When it rains in London, the city is grey and dismal; when it rains in Tokyo the city is resplendent, shown off in all of its depth texture and flavour, futuristic, otherworldly, retro and delicately detailed.


All photographs © 2016, yes/no. Please credit if used


The overdriven beat is what starts this track on its way to you heart. It is not only the superficial decay of it, the lo-fi crackle as the booming kick begins to distort into a speaker-blowing splodge, the grainy swishing of the hi-hats as they cut through the buzzing air, the exploding handclap hidden in the splash of curdled noise, the snare like robust cardboard thudding its accents on the beat—it's not just the beat existing in this way. It's not just the entire track existing this way, actually, the whole of 'Time Spent Away From U' shuffling with the rhythm of funky house, big sunset crashes of synth destroyed by sidechain and the decay of the track, the vocals crooning ancient lovesongs into the mix. It is not the mere fact of DJ Seinfeld's track existing in this lo-fi manner.

It is more what this actually conveys. What does it convey? When people think of vintage crackle, what is that? It's from turntables, from old records warped and scratched, from old never-replaced needles. But the nostalgia, unless you are old enough to remember it, from these is borrowed, nonreal. The nostalgia of the warping and destruction of this track is blissful and intimate, it has a bootleg feel, as if it were captured on a tape recorder in someone's back garden shed, as if it were being shared by friends on a hi-fi, the speakers already damaged from playing music too loud and now this late night discovery blaring on the speaker, all of you crowded around. It is not just the sound of a song being played a thousand times already, but of the soundsystem it's played through being used even more times. The warmth of this situation, the uncapturable time-and-place perfection of it.

This quality, this aching tragic nostalgic quality of the track, our generation's recognisable nostalgia, not borrowed—this quality, coupled with the sudden gutwrenching drop in the stomach that the big pianos of the track conjure, perfectly illustrates its title. Missing somebody, longing, needing; simply told, bold and blocky, brash and blunt. And through the bleary-eyed sadness of it, we come through the other side, the crunch and depression of it ceasing to quake our ears, the final few seconds of the track free of decay and distortion as we enter into our cold realities once more.

  • πŸ””
  • πŸ”” This track is take from Barcelona-based DJ Seinfeld's debut album of the same name, Time Spent Away From U, which is being released on 3rd November courtesy of Lobster Fury (Lobster Theremin / Media Fury). You may pre-order the vinyl version of this, which features more tracks than the digital version, by clicking this hyperlink.
  • πŸ””

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The smoothness, the channels of caramel that flow wonderful in this track, the untouched pristine minimalism of it, all of this, the popping percussion tumbling along like light-up spheres gently donning into one another. There is just such a tract of these delicious percussive noises going on here, such a catalogue of textures, a gentle curve of creation, cuteness in motion. German musicmaker Moglii and producer-violinist-singer Tonio Geugelin's organic wonderland of a track is powerful in its pastel hues, a vision of the potential intricacy in dance music, in electronic pop music, beyond formulaic future bass and beyond the esotericism of IDM, into a world of warmth and easy intrigue.

Toy instrumentation might not be a true part of the duo's brand new track 'Schillerize' – referring to the process of creating an artificial iridescent sheen in crystals – but there is certainly an element of it present; wind-up toy sounds creak and trickle in the background, ping-pong bloops ding and pop, the sort of sounds you might hear from a VTech electronic learning product, or maybe more like a retro-leaning drum machine tom; percussion like pearl necklaces or bags of marbles jostle and ticker-ticker, big handclaps count out the hidden footwork energy at the heart of the rhythm, this natural world, this flora of beat ornamentation.

Producer Moglii speaks about the track: "It lives through the combination of the organic electronic beat with the acoustic beauty of a violin and vocalchops to get an unique soundscape," he tells us. "Therefore violinist and singer Tonio Geugelin was the perfect partner for this track."

Vocodered vocals, sometimes layered lightly with faint pitch-shiftings of itself, sing out in syncopation, eschewing the typical synth chord or piano syncopation of electronic music, with the synth instead snaking throughout, with not a build-up or a drop in sight, gradually rippling harder and heavier towards the end, the whole track feeling like a distortion of the glassy crystalline surface of a turquoise brilliant body of water.

  • πŸ””
  • πŸ”” 'Schillerize' is out today on BonFire Records.
  • πŸ””

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