Thursday, 2 July 2015

SAMUEL – THESE DAYS

Ever since I first heard Samuel's debut EP, Falling Star I was hooked. Here was a very fresh, very haunting new voice seeping into the music world. The EP was produced by Okzharp (of London-based outfit LV) and paired Samuel's aching vocals with a futuristic post-R&B sort of sound to a stunning degree of hypnotic clarity – though his voice, both then and now, feels as if it transcends any association with "dat future bass". Just like Samuel as a person, his voice is unique.

So thankfully this rare voice, this anti-commonplace set of vocal chords and their unconventional owner, is back for your ears to enjoy, beaming themselves into a new morsel of music called 'These Days'. Produced by London producer Kwes, it's a different sound to the type that graced the Falling Star EP – the cold, glacial, future-forward sounds are gone. However, the minimalism, which basically translates to the producer's careful consideration with Samuel's voice, is still there.

The production is bright, summerful and sunny, soft and soothing synth chords cushioning the vocals, with pockmarking plunks of bass left to peddle their simple subtleties below the meandering croons of Samuel rather than rumbling in-your-face. Clusters of homemade-sounding DIY-esque percussion clink and clankle in the chorus alongside shakers and the lonely thud of a kick as Samuel sings the cryptic hook, "These days are brighter than the sun, so tell me what you want / tell me what you want" – a sentiment reflected in the dripping innocence of this heat-warped music.

What else is good about this? The soaring vibe, the delicious synth sounds, the whole atmospheric, far-off feeling, the spirit of new romance, the deepness of the vocals coated in rich textures snaking through this cloud of production like a lone bird hovering silhouetted against vast blue, or even a the fleeting glint of a passenger plane caught by shards of sunlight amidst nonchalant clouds as it flies lonely and steady out of sight.




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Tuesday, 30 June 2015

BANSHEEBEAT – SHINSEKAI [初演 • PREMIERE]

It's another premiere – what? Yes it's true. And this time around it's from a Tucson, Arizona-based musician-producer called bansheebeat. Contrary to many SoundCloud-born-and-bred musicmakers, whilst maybe ostensibly belonging to part of a scene, bansheebeat employs many different styles under a banner that at first glance may appear to be heralding J-pop-flavoured electronica. His latest track, and the first to be taken from his impending album Lumine (itself two years in the making), is 'Shinsekai'.

Shinsekai or 新世界 is a Japanese word meaning "new world" – from my perspective it refers to two things: the New World of One Piece, and also the Shinsekai district of Osaka, whose origin dates from Japan's period of rapid modernisation in the early 20th century. In reality the term is more abstract and refers to the earliest inspiration for bansheebeat's song.

"Shinsekai is just an abstract term, but I originally got it from the fact that an early iteration heavily sampled from Dvořák's 9th symphony [known as "The New World Symphony"]. It took over a year to finish, and went through so many completely different forms," bansheebeat tells YES/NO. "It starts with a bit of an overture; I wanted it to sound like you were starting up a JRPG on the SNES, like Chrono Trigger or something, but it ended up being this eight minute monster that is like three songs in one."

And without further ado, here is 'Shinsekai'.

Beginning with the always-welcome crash and wash of waves on the shore, we move into the "overture" part that bansheebeat mentioned above – electronic harps plink their gentle melodies alongside strains of synth flute, strings and marimba hits; a plaintive song that sets us up for surprise when breakneck virtuosic buzzing synth leads whirlwind into your ears in the next section. Syncopated kick-locked synth chords explode along the way with ticking hi-hats and punchy snares – a driving beat for joyful vocal samples echoing into the void. These get their own chance to shine midway through, alongside the endlessly skittering and increasingly jostling beat, pugilistic heart-throbbing toms giving it extra urgency.

Chiming melodies return for a gentler section in the latter part of 'Shinsekai', gradually giving way to a return of percussion heavy boomings that previously bounced around in our ears, the vocal sample now stretched and pitch-shifted to play out an aching melody of discovery and wonder. Because with the concept of this track as "new world", essentially, you can very much discern a real sense of excitement in the elctro-symphonic journey that we're taken on, the hyper-anticipation wriggling in the endlessly impatient shifting patterns of the beat, the grand chords like triumphal orchestra hits expressing achievement, the gentler, more fragile melodies and elements summoning newfound beauty – all of it conjuring a true sense of what any "new world" (a fresh beginning: starting a new job, falling in love, emigrating, moving house) can be for any one of us: scary, exhilarating, and regretfully sad for the "old", all at the same time.


  • It's taken from bansheebeat's upcoming album Lumine, which is out next week.


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Friday, 26 June 2015

MINOGAME – FORGET ME NOT

Any style of music suffixed by -core generally isn't widely held to be inherently "beautiful". Leave that to Edvard Grieg and ambient music and toytronic etc. But there are people out there making music that is both xxxxx-core and beautiful. Stunning, actually, if we want to all out on this one.

Specifically I'm talking about lolicore and this track, although not tagged as such, by Minogame called 'forget me not'. I've sort of self-diagnosed it as lolicore because it's arrived to our ears courtesy of lolicore-aligned label The Worst Label. We arrive now at the crucial moment where you open up the the keep gate of your mind and let in the broken frantic beats and vital charm of this piece of music.

It begins with delicate harp prostrating itself sadly amidst the finely textured rain sounds, the fluid plunks of the harp are joined by emotive strings as crunchy bitcrushed beats begin to clack into view, marching across the sky with all the crazed static of an approaching storm. Here is pathetic fallacy in music itself: a sad song mirrored by the eruption of heavy rain and thunderclaps.

Which may or may not appear in reality: amidst the chaos of rapid-fire, stretched and pitch-shifted, tormented snares there need be no extra sound effects. The breaks themselves are stormy enough, punctuated with offcuts of unknown high-register vocals, ripped apart and scattered for melodic effect as the aching virtuosity of these drum edits continue on their way. All the while, a new element in the touching backdrop of sound, a soft, resounding set of occasional chords, laps at the jagged corners here with puppy-dog eyes.

WHOOOSH~~ and we're back in the melting, heart-wrenching emotion from the beginning of the song. A subtle ringing bleep signals every now and again, then cuts into a continuous tone just like the beep of an ECG machine that tells you when someone's heart has stopped. Through this song, after breakneck calamity, a heart breaks somewhere.




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