Sunday, 29 September 2013

TAPE TRANSPORT PANOPLY EP

I received an email the other day and it was from a person called Anders Obel (you can call him Andrew, btw) - he was introducing me to the music that he had created under the name Tape Transport. I am very glad that he sent me the email because I've had a very nice time listening to this EP on repeat just now. He is from Norway, and I don't think I've ever written about someone from Norway before - there is a first time for everything.

Anyway, I was going to write about just one song but now I think I'll just write about the whole EP, called Panoply (coming from Greek meaning "a full suit of armour"), which Mr Tape Transport has self-released on Bandcamp for purchase on a name-yo-price basis. Not only is the whole EP worthy of praise, but there's a difficulty in picking a song that best represents his style, because it's as varied as it pleasant to the eardrums. To sum it up on a general level, I suppose you'd call it electro-pop but it's not as straightforward as that - there are dance elements in there, as well as a large chunk of experimentalism chucked in.

The song that stuck out most, on first listen, was 'You Are Mine', whose skiffly beat jitters away in the summoning up of dance energy and the steering of organically modulating synth bass and chords that rise up and down. Rapidly chopped-up vocal samples give extra oomph to the energy here, almost an R&B vibe - and it's very well done. Likewise, 'Flick The Switch' creates a dancey vibe, but with a more laid-back half-time rhythm thanks to an understated beat - here synth chords stab intergalactically and create glorious walls of noise alternately. That rhythmic, house-like twinging of chords occurs on pretty much every song on Panoply, which ain't a bad thing; nope, it adds retro dancefloor appeal to all five quite-differing tracks.

That said dance-hearted rhythm commands the chords in opener 'Crushing Waves', sending them from muffled depths to exalted heights of ear-piercing treble, adding synth horns for a triumphant atmosphere - kinda perfect for a first song. The beatwork at the beginning was certainly a promising sign when I first listened to it, intricate sounds coming together and layering for maximum excitement. There's REAL electric guitar here, too, sounding like the perfect accompaniment to the song - it's not easy to make real instruments and synth get along sometimes, but Tape Transport's got it down.

But it's a more chilled out affair for 'Look At The Stars (And The Stars Look Back)', which utilises a chiptune-style arpeggio and that twinging chord rhythm again against a lo-fi beat. Again, there's real guitar here: single, muted, reverbing notes that resonate beautifully. Towards the end of the song vocal samples pop up and the arpeggio plays in reverse - it grows ever ambient, with gentle bells, before fading away entirely. A similar ambience imbues closer 'Bedtime Story 夢は現実のもの', with a fizzing, glitched-out, up-tempo beat that upholds delicate glockenspiel sounds and soft synths; at about 1:42 a gently crashing cymbal adds to the urgency of the beat. Little things like this make the whole song quite a joy to listen to, like a genuine journey into dreams, the purpose of bedtime stories (the Japanese btw means 'dreams into reality' or similar). Muffled marimba provides a lullaby-esque outro.

With a good ear for creating dynamic soundscapes, and skilled switching between pretty, ambient atmospheres and upbeat, dancey vibes, Tape Transport's Panoply is more than just a "chill" journey: it's a deeper side of intelligent, glitchy dance music, multi-faceted enough so that it's an original voyage with each listen.

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Saturday, 28 September 2013

RADKEY ROMANCE DAWN

I stumbled across this song a while ago and was struck more by the references in the title than anything else. Being a part-time One Piece (it's a manga about pirates) fan, you'd have looked up to find out, or already known, that Romance Dawn is the sort of proto-One Piece; it was short-lived but it grew into what is now like one of the most popular mangas ever ever. Isn't that fun? So anyway, I was quite surprised when I saw that this song by Radkey was called 'Romance Dawn' - but then I, as I so often do, forgot about it and continued surfin' the web. (That's still an expression, right?)

But I heard it on the radio the other night and was enjoying it rather a lot - without knowing it was Radkey. Then strangely I decided to look up the song again today. Long damn story short, I re-found the song and am sitting here right now writing about it.

Anyway. Whatever, right? Whatever indeed. So we continue. Read on. Radkey is or are a trio (brothers, in fact, but not triplets) from Missouri, USA, who play punk rock music. They sure do. But there's a lotta different types of punk out there: combine the word with any other genre and you have a different type every time - punk rock, punk pop, electro punk, thrash punk - so what's different about Radkey's stuff?

Well, with a distinctive voice - something like lip-curling rockabilly crossed with black-metal glam projected theatrics - the vocals lead an easy-to-chant-to galloper of a song. I don't use this epithet very much, but I'd say it's pretty "high-octane" - energy explodes out of this one. Thick guitars chomp through riffs of varying tempo, especially in the full throttle drum-spasms just before the break where the gutsy bass takes the spotlight, and a driving guitar solo noodles around towards the end - all very energetic.

The intro to the song sounds like something an aggressive biker might hear in his head in his first few seconds of waking up. It's also one heck of a build up. The drums rollick around before galloping into the verse, before the crashing chorus which is complete with some almost-obligatory "Hey-hey!"s sung by the backing vocals. There's something a bit Offspring about this - you know what I mean? Only a bit. It's different, of course, but it's nice to hear familiarity too.

This comes from Radkey's upcoming Devil Fruit (another One Piece reference) EP, out 14th October.

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Friday, 27 September 2013

SPAZZKID WEIRD GIRL

I would say that this man needs no introduction, but in some ways I would like to introduce him anyway. Here is Spazzkid, a Filipino-LA-based producer who I have been writing about since May (he's really nice - here's a Q&A with him). If you don't already know him, I'd urge you to check out his music; it's characterised by almost euphoric electronic sounds combined with slow beats - but with his latest song he's diverged somewhat from that. In the email he sent, he mentioned that this could indeed be a taster of what is to come on his next album. And you know what? I am looking forward to it: fresh sounds are good, no matter if you sounded fresh before getting even fresher.

So what's different? Well, in this newest song 'Weird Girl', Mark Redito (the real name of Mr Spazzkid) has eschewed his usual slow and swaying chilled-out rhythm for something a lot more up-tempo. Coupled with this, he's laid down a biting saw-wave bassline that adds a lot more of a hard edge to his sound than I have heard before. The beat style, in fact, sounds a little UK garage if you ask me - there's something in the sketched-out, glitching beats that contains within it the insectoid wiggle of garage rhythms.

His utilisation of samples is a lot more pronounced than it has been before, too, chopping up songs and vocals and placing them with maximum dynamism throughout. The second half marks a change in the song, as synth chords punctuate the mix and everything gets nice and messy, but in a beautifully organised way: synth leads arpeggiate, clap-along claps raise the energy levels, the beat shakes and fizzes.

But he's still there. A sparkling female laugh appears, as it has done in earlier tracks, and there are marimba or xylophone melodies with an oriental spirit, the kind that have injected their gentle cheer before in some of his songs. Overall it's a new take on Spazzkid. Spazzkid+. Spazzkid 2.0. More sampling, more up-tempo - there's a lot to shout about here, and a lot to dance to. I am heartily looking forward to the next album.

This has been released on Bad Panda Records, a "next generation" DIY record label based in Rome, Italy.

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KERO KERO BONITO SICK BEAT

Kero Kero Bonito. That's their name. 'Kero kero' (or 'gero gero' if you like) is the noise a Japanese frog makes (FYI: dogs go 'wan wan' not 'woof woof', also). Bonito is like... bonito tuna. Maybe? Is it? Kero Kero Bonito (ケロケロボニト). KKB. That's it. It is a group of three people from London (ENGLAND) called Sarah, Gus and Jamie and they make music. Nice music.

I stumbled across this song, called 'Sick Beat', thanks to someone on Twitter. I listened and instantly liked it. There are many likeable things about this song. However, I believe that the use of Japanese in songs, or samples from Super Mario 64, won't be for everybody: but they are for me. It is nevertheless a really cool song with a really nice message. There's a rap in it, interchanging Japanese and English, expounding the idea that girls can play videogames without the stigma of being a 'girl gamer' - it shouldn't even be an idea. Just don't be surprised that girls play games too, what's so difficult about that?

Anyway. Let's listen together〜

Starting with an amazingly utilised sample of the "ba ba ba ba ba ba" from Mario 64, the song launches into mildly swaggery beat whilst Sarah of KKB raps nonchalantly in Japanese, chucking in some English phrases for childhood references, mentioning Tomb Raider and Windows 98, all the way to the chorus which is where the heart of the song lies. It's a really catchy hook, not to mention clever in its lyrics; beginning with a challenge - "Whichever console you play / no matter how many hours a day / I could win at any game / Whether you're a boy or a girl or a supercomputer" - ending with a lament of more "girly" pursuits - "It's often said / I should get some girly hobbies instead / but that thought fills me with dread / I'm not into sewing, baking, dressmaking, not-eating, bitching, submitting [?]"

That's all done in pleasant layered vocals to the tune of some fizzing bass synth that plunks alongside marching snare drums. From the middle, the rap gets a spotlight whilst the beat lays in wait for its part in the sample-infused finale of the song. It's a straightforward like indie pop rap kinda vibe with additional appeal for its get-em-if-you-can, gotta-catch-em-all references, and the heavy investment in Japanese language. In style, it kinda reminds me of the cutesy rap that may.e did a while back, but for me, the fact that it's from England is both exciting and praiseworthy. What a global world we now live in!

This btw comes from Kero Kero Bonito's upcoming mixtape Intro Bonito out 30th September.

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DEMICAT FEAT NEON BUNNY SINGING BIRD

Last time I said anything about music from Korea it wasn't about Psy but actually Neon Bunny, whose song 'Oh My Prince' caught my attention. It is a nice bit of pop with a retro atmosphere coupled with super catchy vocals - very nice.

And there I was the other day, thinking, "I wonder if Neon Bunny has done anything new," but before I could bother looking (I am easily distracted, OK?) I got an email from Neon Bunny herself telling me that she had indeed done some new stuff. Namely, she features on 'Singing Bird', a track from Seoul producer Demicat's new EP, Out Loud, which is on the whole a big snub to the onset of Autumn, carrying on instead the humid 90s pop/dance flavours that dripped onto our tongues this summer. One of my favourite flavours, so the EP is WELL worth a listen; it crosses French-touch-style rock-electro guts with lighter electronic noises to provide the perfect correlation between hard and soft. Please do listen.

When I listen to 'Singing Bird', in particular, it is filled with that kind of atmosphere that is almost bursting with the potential energy that summer beams down upon us, and I feel as though the weather outside should be almost unbearably hot. There are noises in here, the occasional lead synth melody at the end of each couple of bars, for instance, that remind me of particular things: swimming pools come to mind - that feeling of lying on the grass in the sun after swimming. But that's not helping you is it?

But maybe it is. Because the song smells of summer. Its synth lead arpeggios glitter sultrily, like the sun on rippling pool, ambient synths fill the spaces between Demicat's funkily placed chord stabs as if a true summer haze wobbled down to the horizon, or heat warped the air above hot tarmac. Piano chords dot the song with a nice progression, as if each one could be a different cut in a film or... The beat is meaty, literally like chucking a hefty steak repeatedly on a kitchen worktop (if yo American or something else it's synonymous with your word 'counter'; counters are in shops here) - and a little touch that I like is the alternating sounds of the snare, heavier and lighter by turns.

Then of course, the cherry on top, the icing on the cake, the dot of the i and the cross of the t, is Neon Bunny's vocals - she breathes an extra breath of spirit into the song. She sings languorously, softly in contrast to some of the harsher edges of the song, decorating it with faint glimmers of pop aesthetic. Even her vocal melody sounds similar to something you would've heard on the radio as a younger person in the 90s. Lovely really.

Again: listen to the EP - especially if you liked this song.

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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

LAZY INTERVIEW #14: CUUSHE


← #14: THE ORWELLS #16: ARISTOPHANES 貍貓 →

Perhaps you know or perhaps you don't, but I wrote about Japanese singer and trackmaker Cuushe's new album, Butterfly Case, on Monday - the day of its international release. Far from replicating that highly positive review that I wrote (all things are positive; cast your negativity aside), I will say simply that it is the kind of album that grips you at first, cradles you, and then lays you gently down for sleep - by the end of it, when it finishes, it feels as though you've just awakened from a trance. That's the kind of music that Cuushe makes: dreamy, otherworldly, beautiful.

Cuushe herself, once based in Berlin but now back in Japan, was very kind enough to answer some questions for me, for YES/NO, for the good of the age old tradition of finding out more about something you like. She comes across very well, but for somebody who makes such... well, "human" music - deep with feeling - you would expect her to be a very nice person and she is indeed very nice.

Here is what she had to say...



Who are you? Where are you from? What do you do?
 Hi I am Cuushe. I am from Kyoto and I make music.

Why did you decide to start creating music?
 Naturally I started to create music from when I was little girl using piano, because my mum made me to go to piano lessons, and I didn't like to practice, but I liked to play piano improvisationally. That was the start of me creating music.

How would you describe your sound? What makes you and your style stand out?
 My sound is "Dream Pop", I call it. It's like dancing in dreams. Sometimes it's under the water, sometimes it's on another planet.

Is there a perfect time and place for listening to your music?
 I almost always make music in the night, so night is a good time for my music, and maybe sunrise and sunset time!

What inspires you most when writing a song?
 My emotions. When I am sad, I make a sad song, but sometimes I would make a happy song to make me happy.
 And when I want to dance or I am high, I make an up-tempo song. And of course movies and my friends' music inspire me lots!

What is your most memorable musical experience?
 Touring in Europe this year from March to April was soo great! I met many nice people! Love them and love the experience! Sometimes I was on radio programs... my english was terrible... but it was fun!

What are your favourite three songs at the moment?
 I've recently listened to this song again and again... my heart feels pain and beauty... so great!
 Daughter - "Still"
 And I like to listen to this album in the night. So chill... love his voice.
 Sam Amidon - "Bright Sunny South"

Who do you most admire in the music world?
 Boards of Canada.
 Love their sounds always.

In your opinion, what is the future of music?
 People love music in any situation, so music will keep alive and music lovers will protect music, I think. Me as well.

What's the future of your music - what do you hope to do next?
 Next, I want to do collaboration work with someone, but I don't know who yet...
 I want to make some up-beat songs now.

What, aside from music, is most important to you?
Manga!



The romanticism of creating what is essentially art, if we can assume that music is art, as a reaction to or a cure for our emotions is not dead, it seems. For Cuushe - real name Mayuko Hitotsuyanagi - her dreamy style tells of nights beset with different emotions, like the contemporary musical version of a poet writing in ink by candlelight. Her music is fragile and delicate, thin and hushed, so as not to disturb you too much - it's not the kind of music you party to, let's say that much.

However, the prospect of a collaboration by Cuushe with somebody (who will it be? It's a secret to everybody, including Cuushe herself) in order to create some "up-beat" songs is a rather a happy prospect. Whether it will be similar to her current style of music, one injected with the dreams and hush of night, or if it will change completely is something that we'll have to wait to see. I would definitely be up for hearing a different side to Cuushe, though, maybe one that leans towards the "pop" side of dream pop - something different is always nice, isn't it?



← #14: THE ORWELLS #16: ARISTOPHANES 貍貓 →

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Monday, 23 September 2013

JACOB 2-2 HERBIVORE LP

"Like all of nature's creatures, the child must one day go exploring by himself," one of the many samples taken from Jacob 2-2's brand new LP, called Herbivore, gives you a good insight into how the album sounds - to a certain degree, anyway. Herbivore is all about that wonder we all had as children, how amazing the world seemed, how small details of things existing in the world fascinated us, how exploration and adventure lay at the end of each newly discovered suburban road, each new park visited, each new videogame played.

Something somewhere said something about Jacob 2-2's music, something about the inspiration behind it. I think it was about classic 80s sci-fi movies for children, saying how they'd all start in some kid's bedroom somewhere before going on some crazy adventure. That's another theme. Not just actual childhood itself, but the imagined childhood of children in the different media we consumed in our younger years - the magical places where who we wished to be with all our hearts. And it's amazing how this heart-warming feeling transcends above the not-necessarily-heart-warming landscape of hefty beats that Jacob 2-2 throws around with rather a lot of skill.

I've written about just one of these songs before, 'Milo De Venus', a song that reeks of homely, close-to-the-heart nostalgia with a fidgety glitch-hoppin' beat, but now it seems quite a challenge to cover all of them comprehensively without being too waffly. Well, the next logical step is to bop over to 'Empire Plaza'; it contains the ticking of architecture, the glitter of industry, straight-talking beats - schizoid hi-hats and brief coughs of snares - that Jacob 2-2 has used to illustrate Empire Plaza, Albany, with its equally straight-talking brutalist buildings. Did you also hear the slowed-down sample of the opening chords of Tears For Fears' 'Everybody Wants To Rule The World'?

'Platforms' also contains another fantastic example of Jacob 2-2's beatsmithing razzmatazz, with its intricate beat bleeding a swaggeringly slow yet frantic hip hop style into the song's magical melodies; looping, chopped-up vocal samples in the second half are expertly executed and conjure a computerised, adventuresome otherworld - wishful thinking for a childlike mind. Likewise - swaggering, stumbling, half-dancing-half-sashaying onwards - laid-back bass and lickety-split beats give the mesmerising 'Red Heather, Yellow Heather' some attitudinal oomph. This is contrasted with the childhood-recalling sample of those read-a-long cassette books, "Turn the page when you hear the chimes…" The title refers to the tonguetwister constructed by varied sampled voices in the song: "red leather, yellow leather".


Jacob 2-2 animated this video himself as a trailer for the album - cool huh?

In the art of makin' beats the hip hop way, sampling does indeed play a massive part. Huge. So it's not surprising, but still damn cool, that Herbivore is packed full of delicious samples. Cut up bits of 90s-esque sounds hold up UK trackmaker Pogflipper's nostalgia-driven rap in 'Sunrises'. 'Lower 3rds' begins with the sample "In 1978…" and ends with the sample "…when teenage boys forget about girls" - between these two blasts the adventurous kinds of sounds that invaded people's heads when videogames first arrived on the scene. Dinosaurs were an obsession when I was younger - I am sure it was the same with a lot of people, seemingly including Jacob 2-2 himself, who in 'Struck Out / Foliage' samples archive footage of a man talking about the way the dinosaur world worked. This is only in the second part of the song, 'Foliage'; the first half, 'Struck Out', deals with the bummed-out feeling of losing in a game, namely being struck out in baseball, samples of "Hit it!" and "Here I go…!" giving the sense of a baseball field in soft focus, plush with rose-tinted memories. In near-heartbreaking opener, '2LTL', there's a child's sampled voice saying, "Boy, I'm too little for everything…" The song has, in its whirling synths and raining bleeps, the wild determination of a child who does want to do everything, despite their age, size, or lack of comprehension.

Feelings and images pop up out of everywhere: in title track 'Herbivore' there is leaf-eating innocence in its friendly bassline and glittering showers of synth (the carnivores can have their sharp teeth and mean looks, but triceratops, stegosaurus, brachiosaurus - they were pretty cool). 'Construxon Time Again' sounds like what scientific discoveries should be unveiled to - the soundtrack of progress - somebody demonstrating an email being sent for the first time; the slow, touching euphoria of 'Baby Duckbill'; the industrious bassline of 'So Long, Solaris' with its wondrous synths gives way to a vision of loss with lamenting strings (possibly a nod to the acquiring by IBM of Sun Microsystem's Unix operating system, Solaris. Possibly not); 'Rm W1' is a hypnotic dose of spaced-out echoing synths, an ambient journey into an adventure-movie-induced dream; 'Snow Brite' is like watching the frozen outdoors in winter from your window; 'Asphyxiation' - the majesty of a single human floating gracefully through space, without a space suit, but still marvelling at the grandeur of everything. There's such a lot that sparks the imagination.

Two contrasting tracks end this delightful album; whilst 'Quarantine Kid' exudes that listless feeling that went with being stuck indoors as a child, 'The Light Shines' sounds like the freedom of the summer holidays and the glory of playing outside in the sun. I think I've said enough. What more can I say? The exploration of the sometimes downright magical nature of childhood, all the entertainment and adventure and wonder and unanswerable questions, is something that I've never heard before - certainly not to the occasionally harsh nature of the hip hop-flavoured beats that underpin each floating synth, each retro sound. It is the clashing of a half-imagined world and one that is rooted in reality - yet in both there is discovery and ingenuity. So nostalgic. So nice.

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CUUSHE BUTTERFLY CASE LP

This second half of this year has been dominated by the news of Cuushe's upcoming new album (or LP as I've anomalously called it in the title), Butterfly Case, and all that went with it, including sneak previews of how the album would sound thanks to a steady stream of songs uploaded from it. It's always been shaping up to be a rather beautiful-sounding collection of sounds and now the time is upon us. It's out, officially, today. It's been available to stream for a few days, but if you wanna own that album physically - and you're not from Japan - you can order that today. Literally.

My first contact with Cuushe, the Kyoto-born trackmaker, was when I wrote about an updated version of her song 'Airy Me' - from her debut album Red Rocket Telepathy - and the stunning hand-drawn animation that went with it. I've been intrigued since then, but luckily I haven't had to wait very long. For long-time Cuushe fans, however, it's been a long time in the making; Butterfly Case comes four years after her debut, and more than a year after 2012's EP, Girl You Know That I Am Here But The Dream.

However I am happy to report that anybody, fans and newcomers to the music, will be heartily pleased by this dreamworld of sounds that Cuushe has lovingly conjured. It is a blanket of close and comforting sounds that, with the very first sounds, envelops you, takes hold of you. Those first sounds come from 'Sort Of Light', an up-tempo number that soars above the clouds in a post-Balearic kinda euphoria. It encompasses, in general, a dreamy pop sound that is employed with catchy aptitude across the album. For instance, Cuushe's vocals are at their catchiest in 'Butterfly' (you should check out Kidsuke's remix), an uplifting number with a fluttering, kinetic beat, vital bass - almost as if its breathing - decorated with with synth leads that scream their existence in between the chugging rhythm chords. 'I Love You' is a pop song whose edges are undefined, whose sounds bleed indulgently into each other, but whose heart remains the same; an overflow of noise in the chorus here perfectly illustrates the strong emotions that dwell in love.

And shining out as a lovesong, but of the sad variety, is 'I Miss You' - there are wonderful percussion clicks here, giving the beat an understated vibe as the emotion of the song takes over, helped by a slo-house feel mixed with Cuushe's beautiful imploring voice. It's almost an obvious fact about the beauty of her voice, but it really is lovely: in 'Lost My Way' she could almost be crying out for guidance, whereas her voice seems telepathically sent from a dream in 'Twilight' (which I wrote about in more detail last month). At times her voice is as much an instrument as anything else, in 'Steamy Mirror' it weaves in and out of the crackling ambience, the ghostly synth, the blur of sounds.

There can be drama in Cuushe's songs, not just beauty. Although, a well-executed sense of drama - flawless dynamism - is kind of beautiful in itself. 'Twilight', for example, starts slow and humble, but ends as an near-overwhelming cascade of frantic synth and percussion. However, something like 'Swing Your Heart' is all drama: a subtle beat fizzes almost as if it's battling against torrents of rain, the rise and fall of the free-spirit guitars and synths crowd the heart and mind with a beautiful kind of melancholy feeling, and the quasi-anthemic chorus of "Swing your heart…" just leaks emotion. 'I Dreamt About Silence' exalts in a celebration of sound, a swaying field of synth - that gladness you get when you wake up and realise the dream was just a dream. Piano blusters and drums fizz; the build up later in the song, dropping with the resurrection of its icicle-like synths, is stunning.

Even the slow closer, 'Hanabi' ("fireworks" in Japanese), emulates the slow spectacle of a fireworks show, heavy echo on all parts of the percussion giving the sense of many staggering bursts of colour. But there is quiet here, too. Ambient quietude can be found all over the album. In some cases it is almost a sad sense of quiet and stillness, as in delicate 'Lost My Way', with its ever-so-slightly unnerving ambient noises, like frost glistening on the branches of trees, and its beatless nature conjuring the feeling of being lost. And in 'Hanabi', although there's the magic of seeing fireworks for the first time, there is the feeling of empty disappointment that arrives when the show's over. At other times it's not so gloomy, however, like the warm, homely feeling towards the end of 'Steamy Mirror'.

All in all it's one of those albums you put on, listen to all the way through, and sit there afterwards in a daze, like waking up from a dream. I listened to this in the car today and thought that it sounded as if we were travelling in a dream-like bubble, the grey day outside passing us like a faraway blur. And also I now understand the title, Butterfly Case. It's a place where dead butterflies are pinned and look beautiful, despite not moving or being alive anymore. And that's the case (no pun intended) with Cuushe's album; she's taken her emotions, that were vibrant, moving, mutating, and pinned them down in her own butterfly case. Although the very moment of feeling these things is not alive anymore, they have been preserved here beautifully.

It's out now on flau. Get it.

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Friday, 20 September 2013

THERE IS A FOX SLEEP WELL

It is sometimes quite amazing to find out what kind of music is just waiting to be uncovered out there in the wilderness of the internet. It is also easy for people in general to think that good music can only come from respectable sources, record labels, TV, magazines - these are the places you hear a band or music artist playing for the first time, right? Well, the internet is a still pretty-much-untapped vein of talent, with so much uncovered not just daily but semidaily, and hourly sometimes, so it's here that I like to zip around having a look to see if I can hear some nice stuff.

And I did hear some nice stuff just now. So whilst it might not be in keeping with the traditional Friday evening prelude-to-a-big-night kind of party tune that you usually hear at this time of day, I am going to shirk these cultural leanings that I'm so used to and write about this song. It's not a party banger. It's not really energetic. It is, however, very, very pretty - beautiful, even. It's by a track-maker from Long Beach, California, called Hiro Makino who makes music under the alias There Is A Fox. Most of his songs, he confesses, are about "sleeping and staying inside the house" - and that's just fine. Here's 'Sleep Well'.

Priddy. Dont'cha think? I think so. It's really nice. A tension-relieving weave of floating gentle synth and light acoustic guitar arpeggios lead into a swaying breeze of lovely sounds that range from waves of synth to glockenspiel glittering, from subtle synth gleamings to brief electronic bleeps. And the vocals, sleep-inducing, soft, begin the song with the touching line, "I don't know your name, but sleep well tonight" - they're like this throughout. Sentiment is wonderful.

The sounds build up, so by about four minutes in you're treated to varying layers of guitar melodies and other noises - a lovely mix: the musical equivalent of a waterfall hitting the plunge pool - that all calm down perfectly towards the end. All becoming a lot quieter. The vertebrae of bass being all that's left as you hear the microphone switching off. This is an admirable and subtly brilliant mix of ambient guitar and a kind of Lullatone-esque toytronic sound - cutesy, pastel-coloured, sleepy, dreamy. All those things. I really hope he makes some more music.

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HARMFUL LOGIC S☹RRY [FREE DOWNLOAD]

At the time of writing, I'm currently upstairs in a house somewhere in the suburbs of Surrey buzzing off some coffee. It's "French" coffee from Tesco's. Someone is hoovering relentlessly outside the room, thoroughly sucking up that dust 'n' dirt. I've just been having a look at Rob Kardashian's new sock range (here are my favourites) and outside it's kinda sunny but kinda damp as well. But it's not raining, which is a plus. Why do I tell y'all dis? Just to paint a picture. That's all. Oh - I'm getting a bit annoyed with someone putting their feet in my face, as well.

Anyway. We are here for music. But that is an image of what I am doing whilst I listen to this song 'S☹rry' (hereinafter 'Sorry', can't be pastin' that forever) by 20-year-old Irish producer Harmful Logic, aka Steven Clarke, who is from Drogheda. Ever heard of it? Me either, sorry, but apparently it's got quite a nice art scene. That's all I know, thanks Wikipedia. My mind's feeling pretty cloudy and the fizzy wash of sound that exudes from 'Sorry' is quite a nice cushion to wrap around it right now.

The song is based on a semi-unrecognisable set of samples including a woman saying something and a sound like Gregorian chanting - giving it the bleak sense of sanctuary that comes with wandering around a musty old church - as well as more instrumental samples, a stringed something-or-other like muffled glitter in the bubblesome deep of the white-noise synth that shudders below and within all the other sounds.

The beat is done in a lo-fi hip hop style, thin snares cloaked with reverb partner with the slightest of kicks to the metallic metronome of the hi-hat, speeding up and disappearing at some points for some subtle dynamic changes. It suits the lo-fi sound in general, really. Altogether this song is like being dipped in that kind of feeling where you're somewhere but not REALLY THERE, the mush of conversations passing over your ears, other thoughts on your mind. Kind of dark, but relaxed about it all. Chillin'. That's what this song's like.

If you like this then you'll be pleased to know that Harmful Logic also recently put out an album - his debut, Lost In The World - on Mexico-based label, PIR▲.MD Records.

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Thursday, 19 September 2013

OKADADA SHIMIN POOL

A blast of summer as we head into the depths of Autumn, September engulfing us like a galaxy-sized blob of soggy days and slowly browning trees. Yep, a blast of summer. I think a blast of summer is what's needed right now. So I'm kinda glad I'm a month late for writing about this particular tune. It is by Osaka-based producer (or as they say, "DJ/Trackmaker" - I like "trackmaker", I'll use that one day) Okadada or okadada or OKADADA and it is called 'Shimin Pool'.

Which is funny, because it's kind of a pun. "Shimin pool" sounds a bit like "swimming pool" but also "shimin" in Japanese means citizen or community so it's "community pool" - hoho. In addition, it comes from a recent-ish compilation CD by netlabel Maltine Records called 市民プールサイド - or Community Poolside. Puns an' that - fun, no? Anyway it's cool and it's damn summery and I think I need to emigrate someplace warmer.

聴く〜 (Listen〜)

It begins with a rather funky selection of percussion - bongos and whatnot - which is the base of all good dance-a-thon: a few drums and you're well away, am I right? It's a lush blanket of beats that is a great warm-up to the rest of the song. Some modulating synth chords come in and lightly lead us to the house beat that accompanies us for the rest of the song. House piano chords make an appearance too, their warm timbre screaming "beach", "party", and "summer" and "summer beach party" all at once. The tempo here is also perfect. Just right for chilling or moving - you decide!

The lead string-synth on this song drip with liquid sunshine, it's like dappled light by an actual poolside or beachside as palm trees wave gently above. With an old-school twist to it - those kinds of strings just seem to have that vibe y'know? The vocals are cool too, faraway like a floating-and-melting-at-the-same-time pistachio ice cream in amongst the summery sounds. Then there's this groovy bass breakdown - yeah! - bwing boong de-ding bom bom... You know how a bass sounds anyway. Real organic sounding electric bass that taps yer bones. Nice dynamic when the vocals come back in - and a lead synth screeches in for the final part of the song. All in all: a much-needed dose of nostalgic 90s-esque funky slo-house that takes me away to a sunnier place for four minutes.

You can download the album on which 'Shimin Pool' appears, 市民プールサイド - or Community Poolside, on Maltine Records' site.

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TREE FT BEAT CULTURE AND LENA KUHN DEMONS

Yo yo yo yo. How are you? Good, me too. So I was sent some info that included a link to this song, 'Demons', a while ago and I was pretty surprised at the originality at work in the sounds. It's by Tree, real name Oliver Tree Nickell and features beats and noises from experimental pop music-maker, Beat Culture, as well as vocals from Lena Kuhn. I still haven't heard much about these guys, though I did just google Lena Kuhn and found that a lot of other music blogs wrote about this song already. Boo-hoo poor me I'm so lazy.

It's from Tree's debut EP also called Demons, released on Apollo Records late August. I listened to all of it and really liked it, but it turns out that I like this song the most out of all of them. It's a really good song that leaks an atmosphere of angst and anxiety all over the shop. There's such a glistening array of noises present here that it's kinda impossible to listen all the way through and not like at least one thing about the song. But the star of the show is Tree's voice, I'd say, but it's the mix of everything that gives the end result. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I guess? Lol?

Anyway, it begins with some languishingly strummed guitar that's augmented by this haunting whistling-wind kinda sound. Starting quiet and then in rumbles some hefty bass and the skeleton of a beat whose snare crashes like distant ships running aground in a pitch black night, whose hi-hat glitches like a neurotic clock. Emotion seeps in with grey flights of ever-falling strings, thickening later on in the song with something more cello-like. It's a sophisticated atmospheric composition where bright loses to dark in an emotive murk of sounds.

The vocals from Mr Tree himself are pretty spectacular as well. It's kinda like rapping, kinda like spoken word, kinda like singing. His words teem with emotion, not just in the near-twisted aggressive way he spits the lines as if them being in his mouth is leaving too sour a taste, like he's gotta get them out, but also in the words themselves. The lyrics are morbid and paranoid and are littered to references to demons and "the self". Some that stick in my head: "Sometimes I look at who I am in the mirror and forget / Sometimes I return home to demons on my doorstep / Just let me be / I want you to leave / Sometimes I get so suffocated I could barely breathe" and "I knew that it was time to go face to face with demons from my last life" and the chorus refrain "Sometimes it's easier pretending that you're somebody you're not". All conjure the sense of different parts of a person wrestling with themselves, the frustration of defining yourself to yourself. And the backing vocals from Lena Kuhn give everything a spooky, near-schizophrenic vibe - a quite beautiful effect if I may say so.

A real surprise. Dark, experimental, brimming with emotion... What will come next. I don't know. Watch & see.

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Listen to Beat Culture on SoundCloud

CLARA MOTO HOW WE LIVE IN EACH OTHER

Last month I probably should've written about Clara Moto's new EP, Joy Departed, but instead I just wrote about one of the songs from it called 'Disposable Darling'. This was essentially a slice of techno infused with pop sensibilities, kind of like sitting the Techno Viking down and dressing him up in more fashionable clothes (putting a T-shirt on, for starters) and teaching him about pop hooks and things. Something like that. Anyway, it was nice.

And again, there's something really nice from Clara Moto, the Berlin-dwelling Austrian: 'How We Live In Each Other'. This is one of the songs from her upcoming album called Blue Distance, out 4th November on InFiné records. It is named after a phrase used by Sylvia Plath in her poem 'Years'. Quite a beautiful poem don't you think? I wonder why she chose that particular phrase from that particular poem from that particular poet. Who knows, not I. Not I. But the meanings behind things, as fascinating as they are, do not get us listening to a song, do they? So please, click play below and get stuck into the all-encompassing 'How We Live In Each Other'.

It is a song of two halves, which is something I really like anyway so she's already got points for that. The first half is an unnerving wash of sound that summons an atmosphere that is dark and unnerving. Images of trees shaking in the wind, something suffocating at the same time, disturbing almost. Synth blips pulse in and out like something from the future. Rainstick sounds ebb and flow. A gusty set of wildly reverbing piano chords play their morose melody. It's really atmospheric. Maybe it's a reflection of the song's title, the suffocating nature of a too-close relationship or something. I'm sure there are other explanations.

And then the vocals come in, I think they are Clara's own, leading the charge of the pretty brutal beat that barges in belligerently with a big boom. Yeah it's aggressive and ballsy, like any good techno beat should be, but leaving aside genre-specificity it's safe to say that it's great. The punchy kick with its two-tone flavour, bouncy - almost reversed - in one instance and rumbling in another; the snare with its mighty slap-sound, like a punch sound effect from an old action movie. Going back to the vocals for a second, their melody is dark and almost eastern-sounding, they pierce in like something from the future, something foreboding. They drip with a kind of straight-talking trance-like vibe. How great are the things that Clara Moto is doing, right? Genre-bending. Is it techno is it this is it pop is it what. It's experimental techno pop probably or something like that.

Anyway, will probs write about some more of her songs before the album release. Keep an eye out yo.

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Wednesday, 18 September 2013

OLDTIMER [オールドタイマー] CANARIA [LIVE]

I've been meaning to write about this for a long time but I just haven't gotten round to it. Why is that? Something you feel like you want to do sometimes turns into something you have to do, and I don't work well under obligations, even if they are self-made. It's weird isn't it. A choir of weird. But that's neither here nor there is it now. We can breathe and move on. Time has ticked and that is that.

I first wrote about OLDTIMER at the beginning-ish of this year, after (and about) the release of their My Girl EP. They actually took the time to send me a package with a cute note and a few copies of the CD - all of which were hand-illustrated. Naturally I have a lot of time for them. I heard them first on a live recording of their stuff, which had plenty of energy and noise to it, and this latest song goes in much the same way: energetic and noisy.

What are they? They're a self-described "indie rock band" from Tokyo, but I'd say they're like a shoegazing indie pop rock band. Not much difference I suppose except my definition is more specific. Now, if you can accept that, let's have a listen shall we?

Straight away you're thrown headlong into a high-energy fast-paced belter of a track. The drums gallop ahead, dragging everything behind it, with singer Lilia Masami's pretty vocals floating in the ocean of noise. The guitar has a fantastic sound - this is what I first noticed. It screeches along bending out of tune and creating a sound that is quite gloriously unsettling. Gives it a bizarre alternate-reality surf-rock vibe. Listen to it though. Great guitar, really. Leaves you reeling in the spaciest of ways.

The bassline is pretty magnificent, too, let's be honest. Against the noisy screams of the guitar, its smooth sound and complex notes give the song a jolly upbeat background. A piece of pop against a noise-art installation or something. The "doo-doo-do-do" vocals do something similar as well, as do the vocals in general, giving the song a pop feeling and contrasting with the un-pop guitar. Lovely. I had a feeling that they'd get even better, and they have.

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VENTUREX KEEP ON & ON

O dang o damn. Feel da Funk. Can you feel it? If you haven't pressed play, then I doubt very much if you're feeling the funk at all at the moment - unless, that is, you happen to be listening to funk already; or perhaps you feel pretty funky anyway. Maybe you're a funky person generally. Well, whether you got the funk or you don't got the funk or you want to know what the shiz I'm talking about, then I'd read on.

Hi, it's me again. So here we have VentureX, a producer from Chicago, with the overtly funky vibrations of 'Keep On & On', one of his most recent songs. He's rather prolific on his SoundCloud so I'd check that out if I were you - there are tons of gems just like this one. I chose 'Keep On & On' cause it sounds grrrrreat, better than a bowl of Frosties. "What's cooler than being cool?" asked Andre 3000. "Ice cold!" the people respond. And this song is ice cold. Freezy.

The song seems to fade in from nowhere, just like all good future funk songs, and at once it explodes into a funk-tastic groove of a track. The bass digs deep into your spirit. The drums thud, glitching out every now and again in delicious clipping clops and delectable clopping clips - hi-hats tick and the snare is a vicious slap. Synth samples wash over your brain. A piano is in there too. The funk guitar or synth or whatever-it-is melody conduces a funk-flavoured dance-a-thon in your blood.

The vocal is a strong altered sample from somewhere (do you know where it's from? I don't); it's handled with care and stretched to dynamic proportions around the change of vibe in the song as it becomes a blast of energy aside from the head-nodding funk that cushions this section. Don't you just dig the the bongo rhythms at 3:05? And then the song fades out. It leaves as it arrived. A brief spark of stimulation for the brain and body, carrying with it the spirit of funk as well as the spirit of the radio on a Saturday afternoon in the 1990s. You can't deny that. Listen to more of this guy's songs.

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Tuesday, 17 September 2013

JENI PARABLES

Omg what the hell so old omg what am i doing??? Song so old. so old. Is that ok? Of course it is. Since I've got that out of the way we can move forward with the singular purpose of writing nice things about this very good song, no matter how old it is. Have you heard it before? If you have, please register your complaints with any good social media outlet - something like "This isn't new music you dimwit!" would be cool. If you haven't heard it, you're in for a treat.

The song is called 'Parables' and it's by a girl who is really good at making music called JENI. She was brought to my attention from a tweet I saw the other day (it was actually from Lidly) and it's that kinda thing where you get sucked into someone's YouTube channel and just can't stop watching. Once you pop you most certainly cannot stop. Especially when the channel is good. JENI makes music defined by futuristic synth sounds, thickets of R&B beats and beautiful vocals, all of which are provided by JENI herself.

She's made her name by covering/remaking some pretty high-brow songs, for example, SBTRKT's 'Wildfire', Justin Timberlake's 'Suit & Tie' and 'Stay' by Rihanna. And they're all beautiful covers. I urge you to check them out. But I thought I'd chat about something original by her. Here's 'Parables'.n

The base of this track is Jeni's fantastic looping work on the vocals she records at the beginning. I have a lot of time for loopers (is that the right word); The mind-power needed to construct things in this way is pretty impressive. But yeah, those oh-oh-oh's sound just gorgeous - and these are only supporting vocals. She brings in some heavenly thick synth, all-encompassing, smooth, mind-tanglingly bassy. It's the perfect contrast to her voice, which is superb, dripping in pop groove and aching with emotion - powerful yet floating above everything else.

Modulating synth chords pierce the softness that comes before to bulge in the chorus, alongside the deep pulse of a beat heavy with kicks and featuring the perfect tap of a snare. All of it is beautifully produced. Her voice is half-shrouded in a mist of reverb, the bass is undulating and organic, she brings in electronic bleeps to decorate the track like glitter and alters the beat at times to muffle it. That voice though. Very nice. All to the tune of what is essentially like future-something. Future R&B. Speaking of futures, hers could be very bright indeed. How wonderful that true talent can shine through in this day and age more than in any other.

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LAZY INTERVIEW #13: THE ORWELLS


← #12: CORY JREAMZ #14: CUUSHE →

Currently, recently and of late I have been having a small love affair with The Orwells, a five-membered band which is a rising punk rock star right now. There's a lot of interest in them. That's no surprise. Having released a debut album last year, one EP at the start of summer and another, Who Needs You, at the end of summer, this string of releases is catching the attention of everyone who has a penchant for the young energy of The Orwells' raucously raunchy music.

I went to go see them live last week, which was an experience that showed me their recorded songs - as good as they are - cannot match the furious frenzy of their in-the-flesh renditions. I really do recommend that you go and see them, if you can of course. It's something that injects the soul with the spark of punk spirit that The Orwells' crashing boom bang sound creates. It was fun. And on top of that, they were extremely kind enough to take time to answer the Lazy Interview questions. What gentlemen!



Who are you? Where are you from? What do you do?
 We're The Orwells, we're from Chicago, Illinois. We play rock n' roll music.

Why did you decide to start creating music?
 It was one of the only things we weren't horrible at. And it gave us something to do on the weekends.

How would you describe your sound? What makes you and your style stand out?
 Youthful. I think it's our energy that makes us different from the rest, when we play live, having a good time comes before performing well.

Is there a perfect time and place for listening to your music?
 When you just got suspended from school.

What inspires you most when writing a song?
 Thinking of being on stage with each other playing it to a crowd of people. Finding the connection between all five of us.

What is your most memorable musical experience?
 Hearing The Stooges' 'I Wanna Be Your Dog' for the first time. That song put the band on the path we're currently still venturing down.

What are your favourite three songs at the moment?
 The Virgins - Travel Express
 Ty Seagall - She Don't Care
 Bob Dylan - She's Your Lover Now

Who do you most admire in the music world?
 The Replacements.

In your opinion, what is the future of music?
 Rock n' roll will take over this planet again. Mark my words.

What's the future of your music - what do you hope to do next?
 Keep making different sounding albums. See how far we can push the walls to our box without breaking them.

What, aside from music, is most important to you?
 Family, cheese fries, and baseball.



In some ways, the most important thing that's said here is the word "youthful" - it's what they are most known for. But that's only in some ways. However, it is definitely something that makes them stand out. Their songs are bursts of irony, vents of frustrations, slightly morbid explosions - things that, more often than not, come from young minds. Putting that kind of stuff on a record is easy enough, but to play it with even more attitude, energy and aggression onstage - as if your life depended on it almost - is something that isn't easy to replicate every time. In that sense, they're very genuine.

It all seems to be about the live performances with these guys. They would prefer to have a "good time" over "performing well", but often if you don't think about performing at all, and just enjoy yourself, things go more swimmingly than you'd imagine. Simply by trying to have a fun time, trying to connect with each other, and always thinking of that live sound, The Orwells - in their muddle of youth as we all are - become more philosophical than they perhaps expected they'd be perceived: they are about the NOW. People may gloss over a band like The Orwells with a just-another-punk-band cynicism - for me, however, they put noise to all the wordless exclamations of our generation. Plus, cheese fries - or cheesy chips as we know them here in the UK - are very important.

As for their prediction of rock 'n' roll taking over the planet again... I've never really thought about that but, in a time where dance music is dominating popular music, the switch back to guitar-based music could be closer - and more angry - than you think. Watch out world.



← #12: CORY JREAMZ #14: CUUSHE → - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
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Friday, 13 September 2013

LIDLY TIME

Not only is it now Lidly time, as in 'it's time for Lidly', but it is also 'Time' by Lidly - fun isn't it? Now that we've got that cleared up, I'm very happy to introduce to you - whomever you happen to be - the fantastic beats of Tokyo producer, Lidly. I think I've probably said his names enough times now, so that'll be all for the moment anyway.

First time I stumbled across him was when I wrote about Taiwanese rapper Aristophanes貍貓's stunning track 'The Peach Blossom', which was produced by this Japanese beat-maker. It was clear then that his sampling and beat structures could do more than just compel you to bop your head: they could make you feel stuff as well. FEEL stuff. Imagine that. And that's always a good sign when it comes to someone who's known for making beats for other artists to sing/rap over. His beats, and beats are often just fanciful metronomes, are blankets of sound that can stand firmly on their own two feet. (If that is as many feet as a beat has).

When Aristophanes shared my article on her FB page, someone commented on it and said that they "hated" the Lidly beat: "makes my teeth hurt," they said. Well. Their teeth must be super sensitive to GREAT BEATS. That or they have utterly no taste.

Anyway, recently (like a few days ago) Lidlyさん released an album/mixtape called The Shabby Neophilia. There are so many great sounds on there, trippy multi-faceted sample-heavy hip hop that glows with attitude. But one really stood out to me and blew me away so I'm gonna write about this one. It's called 'Time' as you probably have guessed already and it sounds like dis...

Sullen organ sounds noodle with incomprehensible everyday-life kinda samples and crashing lazy cymbals before the song busts out. To a stumbling buzz of a bassline a hip hop beat drags itself through the song, ripping tearing along like someone with velcro socks staggering along a path of more velcro. Inescapable harsh claps and fizzy hi-hats.

The star here is, however, the intense scale and emotion of the synth chords. They hit you like a classical piece would, so expert is their progression within the song, except there's more depth here than a regular, non-electronic instrument could give you; the chords are broken, torn, distorted and, at the end, begin switching between left and right, chasing each other down, before fading with an echo. They give, moreover, a maudlin kind of sound: it has a feeling-sorry-for-myself vibe but there's a twist of glory and triumph that perfectly suits the majestic-yet-debilitating mystery of Time.

So... go listen to The Shabby Neophilia - u won't regret it.

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HEAVENLY BEAT HONEST

What a catchy song. It's really nice. Great groove. Great everything. What's wrong with that? Nothing. It's anti-wrong: it's right. It's good. It comes from ex-Beach Fossils bassist, John Peña (I love an "n" with diacritical tilde), in actual fact known for his solo music as Heavenly Beat. And I'd say that he's chosen a suitable name for his project, at least going by 'Honest' anyway: heavenly beat, heavenly groove, heavenly yes.

It comes from his upcoming second album, Prominence (the first being his debut of last year, Talent), scheduled for release 14th October dis yeer on Brooklyn-based label Captured Tracks. Apparently it's a song that expounds on the admission of guilt after infidelity. Can't hear any lyrics that discuss it but that's all I know. Sorry. On the other hand, it sounds great musically.

Beginning with some frantic nylon-string guitar sounds - something that becomes the theme of the song, a skipping heartbeat that goes with a guilty conscience I suppose - it soon descends into a lush journey of sounds. The beat is fresh and understated, aided quite substantially by the constant shuffle of shakers and with the groove of a melodic bassline. Peña's vocals are breathy and faraway, soaked in reverb, nearly whispered.

There are some lovely little melodies in this. Sometimes they come from simple three-note ditties on guitars, palm-muted snippets of funk, and synth horns, other times they are plaintive tunes on a harmonica or drips of a steel drum. At like 2:11 there's a really nice acoustic solo that's all slide and string buzz, a small touch of wild-west folk in the midst of an indie-pop gallop. Lusciously flowing, it is as danceable and groovesome as it is nice to chill to - but it doesn't overpower you. It's understated throughout, strangely innocent in its resignation to guilt - 'Honest' is a good word for it.

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Thursday, 12 September 2013

RÁJ GHOST [FREE DOWNLOAD]

who is RÁJ? What is 'Ghost'? Well, RÁJ is a maker of music - whether it's one person or more than one person I don't know. Also, where is this entity located? Dunno. Sorry. Could be anywhere. They've got the Eiffel Tower as their background picture on Twitter, so it could be Paris but then again it could not be Paris. Who knows - not me. 'Ghost' is their brand new song. Like, really brand new.

Not completely brand new. Like a day old. Is that ok? Sure it is. Sure. In any case, it sounds pretty darn beautiful. It kinda sounds like pop, with a pop structure and a pop melody in the vocals but it's dark. Yep, it's sunk in the depths of morosely strummed clean guitar chords and a sullen vocal that expresses intense emotion yet staying controlled: a talented voice. Judging from a few of the lyrics, it could well be anti-drug, a kind of intervention song or lament for someone - a loved one - close to RÁJ. But it's not all gentle strumming and emotive crooning, not at all. Listen and see fo yo self.

Oh, and it's a free download. How nice is that?

It starts with a sample of child talking - something that pops up like strange snippets of memory throughout the song. The chords come in, a beautiful set if I may say so myself. After the first chorus some muffled drums march in alongside a chorus of wordless oooo's, kind of hopeful dirge, the snare exploding with reverb. There's a lot of reverb, giving it this faraway sense of not being able to reach the person (or people?) at which the song is aimed, an acute atmosphere of resigned desperation.

The entire song builds up from the very beginning, first adding the dynamic of those suffocated drums and then abruptly breaking into a more concrete beat that is accompanied by a dark orchestra of aching strings that seem to touch your heart. Frantic percussion decorates the towering beat as the vocals belt out the lyrics in loud lungfuls of heartfelt tones: a testament to the emotion in the song. A murky synth melody drapes itself along this epic final section. Beautiful, basically.

Well well. It's their first song uploaded to SoundCloud. They've got like, 12 followers on SoundCloud. But if this first offering is anything to go by, there will be some very nice tunes to come - the familiarity of pop with overtones of fragility and dark atmospheres that do come from everyday life.

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ALEPH FOURTH WAY EP

Here's a damn nice treat today. Future sounds. Not really like anything I can think of off the top of my head. That's always the sign of an interesting song. When something doesn't really sound like much else, there's a vibe to it that's wholly new, and that leads your mind to go off into new, unexplored clouds of thought, nearly indescribable and unquenchable quiet raptures of feeling or imagination. Too deep? Too much? Well, whatever.

In some ways, it's an assault on the ears, but in other ways it's such a glorious mix of sounds that my ears don't mind. Or maybe I should just turn it down. This is the Fourth Way EP and it comes from young (19!) producer Ivan Erofeev, born in a remote Siberian village and now living in kind-of-no-less-remote Omsk, south-west Siberia. Released on the ever-cool King Deluxe, the Canadian label that brought us Jacob 2-2 and Metome, the EP is a quartet of heterogeneous songs that command your complete undivided attention. The EP is named after P.D. Ouspensky's interpretation of one of esoteric teacher George Gurdjieff's theories, the "Fourth Way" - Ouspensky put it as follows:

There are three recognized ways of self-development generally known in esoteric circles. These are the Way of the Fakir, dealing exclusively with the physical body, the Way of the Monk, dealing with the emotions, and the Way of the Yogi, dealing with the mind... there is a Fourth Way which does not demand its followers to abandon the world. The work of self-development takes place right in the midst of ordinary life. (says Wikipedia)

And maybe that's what Aleph's EP is getting at - experiencing life by actually experiencing it, simply being in amongst it all. Maybe, anyway. In any case, it starts with a killer of a song, 'Overheat' - aggressive, dark, brimming with unrelenting bass and buzzsaw-like distorted synth, pushing a brooding, ballsy breakbeat-style rhythm into your eardrums. Just the kind of song that I would literally be overheating to on a claustrophobic and sweaty dancefloor. Chopped-up samples glitch-out in the middle, a police siren screeching from somewhere. Sheer energy.

But next is the actually-quite-esoteric-sounding-itself title track, 'Fourth Way'. It is a rich weave of sounds, a veritable tangle of percussion that snaps to a rhythmic dubstep beat, a thick and heavy atmosphere illustrated by waves of synth punctuated by a procession of 8-bit bleeps. There's a really cool video to this track, created by Namibian animator Gero Doll - it's basically psychedelic 3D-rendered madness. You can watch that below.

Next is the subverted party tune, 'Crown of Slave', whose summery synth chords and slow house beat soon turn dark and stormy: trap-esque vocal samples slot in amongst menacing sub-bass, the percussion gets crazy with rolling toms and screeching synth. Yet it's back to its calculated stabs of symbiotic melodic synth chords and bass till the end of the song. Which kind of brings us perfectly onto the goofball sounds of twisted after-party gurner, 'Vodka on Patio'. Kooky popping percussion joins with weird my-head-is-spinning piercing whirls of synth. A funky little melody joins in alongside an equally funky bassline. The beat falls over and into itself, clashing and skipping the whole way. It takes a bizarre twist when around halfway through it breaks out into a smart bossa nova rhythm, and the image of having vodka on the patio transforms into a mockery of some classy cocktail bar. A clippy, still-bustling beat - with so many bouncy percussive sounds - and a Mediterranean, maybe like French or something, acoustic guitar melody gives a coolly .

An incredible work in sampling, dynamism, the difference between light & dark, and the construction of beats, Fourth Way is a lovely slice of sounds from Aleph, a promising producer and one who hopefully will thrive after this release from King Deluxe. I'm so glad I was sent this to listen to. I'll be watching for new stuff, and maybe you will too.

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CLUBFEET ACAPULCO & LA [FREE DOWNLOAD]

Hello hi. Apple juice is not often purchased by me but when it is purchased it is rapidly consumed. Do you also find that? But this is neither here nor there. Sorry, it's music time isn't it. Here is something new. It's called 'Acapulco & LA' and it's by a band called Clubfeet.

They are from both Australia and South Africa at the same time - I'm not sure how that works out. As in, which members of the band are from which countries I don't know, so I apologise for that. Their first album, Gold on Gold, released in 2010, caused quite a stir and they've been kinda popular ever since. Perhaps not on such a global level but certainly in their respective mother countries, sure. Oh I just looked at the press release. Yeah, I was right. They're a "critical and commercial hit" in Australia. Too right as well. They have some nice tunes.

One such is this one, which they are offering to fans and non-fans alike on their SoundCloud page - 'Acapulco & LA'. As soon as I saw the title of this one I just thought of sub-tropical party fun and, listening to it, I wasn't wrong. It's a damn party song. It sounds already like an indie-dance classic. Yep, with that intro of ambient synth roaring like distant waves, jungle noises, and a gently calming, simplistic guitar melody set to a driving beat, you know what you're getting into.

Soon there are some truly delicious sounds - hollow synth melodies and the undeniable jolly cool that comes with a xylophone exposure. Xylophone chords, as well. Truly chilling yet heartwarming on the most basic level ever. Surely the xylophone is like one of the oldest instruments. Always is like someone playing bones or something.

It's a dancefloor number that should find its way into many indie-wired clubs in the future. It just oozes that beach party sound, with the added personable appeal of knowing that a five-piece band has created the track - somehow, it just is more personable. As with this kind of music, it's emotional, too, often going with the easy heartbreak that can occur in the darkness of a club environment - lover's tiffs and rifts in relationships haunt these places like the scent of alcohol-soaked carpets itself. As such, there's emotional lyrics, such as, "You broke my heart and now I'm lost forever" and the catchy pop-hook of "I lost another beat of my heart" with the support of ahh-ing backing vocals.

Nice. Keeping that indie-disco flame alive with a nearly 90s-dance twist, 'Acapulco & LA' can be downloaded for free and comes from Clubfeet's second album, Heirs & Graces, which is out now.

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Wednesday, 11 September 2013

SAINT PEPSI UNHAPPY

Here is a song that I was supposed to write about like last week but Saint Pepsi (aka Ryan DeRobertis) decided to take it down soon after he'd put it up. It's called 'Unhappy' and I think must refer to end of summer. That's an assumption based both on the time of year it is currently - the end of summer - and the fact that the main hooks in his song come from an altered sample of a song called 'The Summer Ends' by an emo (yeah emo) band called American Football, who were around from 1997-2000.

And well well well. Firstly, how genuine to have sampled a song that isn't a hot pop hit, something of the moment, but something that was probably totally in Saint Pepsi's ears at some point or another in his life. That's a really nice touch. And from that you can I suppose infer that he's completely making the music that he wants to make, with no constraints, no box, no label (certainly not that of vaporwave), instead going totally on what he wants to do.

In this instance, the slow guitar arpeggios and unassuming percussion in the original become faster and get summarily glitched-out, along with vocals that are now nicely chipmunked, but not in a bad way - high vocals can of course go one of two ways, and this one has come out ok.

Alongside the magic of this sample - the strange nostalgia from a song I've never heard from a band I never knew effusing from its now-altered state - there's now chunks of smooth bass and a hip hop/I-guess-trap beat, in which much revelry seems to be had with producing joyful flourishes on the snare and hi-hat, making it a very energetic beat indeed. Some synth finds its way in there somehow, after the midsection of the song.

On the surface of things, setting a sample of an emo song to a down-south-flavoured hip hop beat is theoretical madness. Imagine that working. Well, it has, in this instance. It's worked very well. It's a multicoloured shower of candy, trap turned on its head, emo's frown turned upside down - yet in the midst of this subversion, there is emotion. Whether it's happy or sad is up to how you're hearing it, I suppose.

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SCRUFIZZER FIZZY FLOW // RAP RAVE // KICK IT

Here's something pretty damn cool. It's grime! Hooray. Imagine hearing good grime music again... well, here it is. Someone who isn't, as one astute YouTube commenter put it, "just chatting shit slowly over a beat" but introducing himself as a contender in today's world of grime with an extreme flow. A 'Fizzy Flow', just like the song says. Yeah it's Scrufizzer, how did you know?

I first heard him on the remix that he worked on with Angel Haze of the latter's track 'Werkin Girls' - I was impressed with his impeccable, machine-gun-fast flow, and also impressed that it had reached the attention of Haze all the way in the USA. If you haven't heard it, you probably should. I heard his unrelenting voice spitting effortlessly, almost like a young Dizzee Rascal, and was pretty much bowled over. Unlike Dizzee, however, Scrufizzer is from West London, not typically known for its outpourings into the world of grime. Scrufizzer has impressed a lot of people, not least Kendrick Lamar (<3) whom he opened for across many of his UK tour dates.

His first single, 'Rap Rave', was released by Ministry of Sound in January this year and is a loud explosion of a song. It oozes dirty distorted storms of synth and bass as well as this beat that's heavy and menacing.

It has this nice chorus refrain that's more of a true statement than a lyric: "Cause I when I rap / I make you rave" - pretty much, right? Also, the song is pretty much a rap rave. Despite the heightened attitude on this one - perhaps it's cause he's actually making space to let the music's production speak for itself without him - he remains modest, but passive-aggressively so: "I never said I was the best / the fans made their own assumption". Fair point, no? Grime typically likes to include a little bit of humour as well, so the polite advice, "You - should - stop" is a silly cuss that only English hip hop could muster.

But it's 2011's 'Fizzy Flow' that actually shows off his distinctively fast spitting style, however. Yes, whatever, it's two years old, blah blah blaaahh.

Just listen to him go. Endless rhymes in a stupidly fast barrage of bars - seems even as if he's probably more comfortable spitting faster than he is at a slower pace. That's just what I reckon though. But wow. I mean, often you can't really hear what he's even saying but I'm definitely sure that there are English words and sentences in there. One that stuck out was, "I will crush you / something like an an Irn-Bru can" - what a reference. Irn-Bru, by the way if you didn't know, is a Scottish fizzy drink that tastes of... I don't know.

Again, in true grime fashion, the humour of the scene comes to the fore in the shape of the oddball chorus in 'Fizzy Flow'. The music takes on a more lighthearted, even circus-like, vibe. It's good to know that someone genuinely talented in his field is getting the attention he deserves. Yes indeedy, his even more recent song, called 'Kick It' was released at the end of August.

Again, it seems as if the production takes a front seat whilst Fizzer himself is in the background. The trademark "fizzy flow" has been replaced by quite a slow tempo rap, in comparison to his regular sonic-speed spitting. But this is a party song, really, not one for showcasing the rap itself, but for showcasing the rapper in a fun-filled party environment - skankin' all over the shop an' that. But that's fine. Cause everyone needs a song like that. And it's not too shabby either. Of course, this shift in dynamic brought a bit of hating but Fizzer replied himself to these comments on YouTube:

i didn't sell out .. i just done 'grime legends on sbtv & i got a part 2 coming out in 2 weeks' you lot must have lost ur mind #fizzyflow

So there. Anyway, this guy is one to watch. He's up-and-coming, that's for sure, but where he will end up in a year's time will be interesting to see. Whether he will do the Wiley-style party anthems every summer or stay at least a little more "legitimate" in the sense of NOT letting the production, and inevitable female-voiced choruses, get the limelight instead of his own actual talent. But what do I know.

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