Friday, 23 May 2014

KOLOTO – MECHANICA EP [FREE DOWNLOAD]

This has been a long time coming, or at least in my mind it's taken quite a while. Nevertheless nevertheless I am very glad that it's appeared, even though I'm the one who's late writing about it. I'm the worst one. Please allow me turn to dust in this corner over here. But before I do that, shall we listen to Koloto's Mechanica EP together?

If you're a frequenter of this ramshackle blog then you may have seen that I've written about Koloto before. Real name Maria Sullivan, from Canterbury, UK, she creates percussive rhapsodies that effuse flavourful atmospheres and leap around with progressive dynamism. Hard beats sit alongside intricate glitchery, marimba melodies and waves of synth swirl in cyclones of sound. Third song on the EP 'Antares' shows off the punchier side of Koloto's music for sure, mad prickly percussion doing its insectoid heart-racing thing whilst movie-punch snares and plosive kicks hammer at your skull with dubstep singularity, a flotilla of marimba chords summoning a tribally futuristic backdrop. The drum edits are as satisfying to the ears as sour sweets are to the tongue, and as gorgeously addictive.

Similar aggression crawls out from the depths of final track 'Kill Screen', a cascading VGM-inspired waterfall of bleeps – fugue-like – that craze their way around the ruins of some evil spot in some ruined castle. Knife-cut percussion rends the air with its icy harshness. It's the delectably evil final boss.

'Cedar Shed' is perhaps a race-to-the-finish-type affair, the final furlong before the murderous intent of 'Kill Screen' – it's ominous, billowing with things to come, a warm masterpiece of comfort teetering on the edges of risk and downheartedness. There's a choral intensity to it, a blanket of atmosphere set to ever-progressing live-sounding snares and various drumkit sounds. Likewise in title track 'Mechanica' there's a familiar pattern of sounds that seem to be hard at work in Koloto's music; a kind of downbeat sadness which is hauled upwards by armfuls of stuttering pinprick percussion – grey nothing on one side, glorious opposition to that nothing on the other.

It's kind of in opposition to the softer, upbeat glistenings of 'Fox Tales', whose string-like bass plays plaintive notes, and whose marimba steers away from baroque minor-key menace but rather plays simply and organically – a majestic kind of sound, like looking out at the world through the window just after it's stopped raining and things are still dripping with the remnant progeny of the downpour.

One things is a given with Koloto: insanely talented manipulation of drum sounds. Monstrous beats sway in essentially slow rhythms but whirling all around them like flocks of birds are these glitched-out sounds buzzing, scraping, scratching, whirring. In them is the same tangible satisfaction that you find in wind-up toys – gears, springs and cogs work together in organic mechanical harmony; it's the contented perfection of these mechanisms that Koloto uses, except these wind-up toys are exploded in lip-smacking fireworks of various metallic components. Add to this a clear penchant for the atmospheric, picture-painting nature of videogame music (not only do some of these songs sound as if they'd be right at home in some action-adventure RPG, but 'Kill Screen' is a direct reference to a certain stage in an arcade game where a software bug causes unpredictable gameplay and glitches) and progressive layering of sound: here you have Koloto. Unique, impressive, fascinating, the Mechanica EP is nothing short of brilliant.



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Tuesday, 20 May 2014

JAWS – THINK TOO MUCH, FEEL TOO LITTLE

Where am I? What? Huh? Oh right. It's 2014. May. Tuesday. It has been sunny but it is not sunny today – major bummer. But it's ok. I found something a month or so ago that was on a little list of 'Things To Definitely Keep An Eye On' so I kept my eye on it and nothing happened so I'm just gonna write about their newest song.

Oh I've done it again haven't I? Just carried on without giving a mention to what I was writing about. They never taught me how to do that in journalism school. Actually I never went to journalism school, can you tell? Ha. Ha. Haaa—. Anyway, I'm writing about JAWS, a band from Birmingham (UK not US), and part of the fabricated/joke scene 'B-Town' (incl. Peace & Swim Deep) – though it's always the way that, without approval from artists purportedly "in" the scene, all scenes, all genres, are just fabrications – but I can see how it's a joke: I live near a place called Kingston and we call it K-town, jokingly. Not that I'm in any sort of band or anything.

But with writing about music you kinda have to dig for clues, make connections & assumptions, and come to conclusions – if they're widely accepted enough, they become gospel. For instance, none of these B-town (I even hate writing it, ok?) bands have a very similar sound, yet NME was able to see that the scene "seemed to roll out of bed, insular and uncontrived, smirking at its own in-jokes." Fine. Yet there is a waft of irony in the use of "uncontrived" – finding these differences, purposefully looking for them, is a journalistic contrivance in itself. How we are endlessly at odds with ourselves.

Now, I would like to forget about that and say hello to 'Think Too Much, Feel Too Little' by the eight-legged JAWS.

First thing that struck me was its vague similarity to something else, and I couldn't quite put my finger on it, till I realised it was 'Every Breath You Take' by The Police. It kinda follows the same chord progression and has that same plinky palm-muted pattern, though in the JAWS song its a twining of two guitar patterns that seem to shimmer-glitter in the lightbulb-heavy flavours of a post-party mood. Indeed, the song's lyrics, sung with a nicely reverbing nonchalant lilt, spin a tale of dimly lit dancing interrupted by the end-of-the-night's awakening; a romance dream with splashes of colour and the syncopated bassline oozing groove with the slow-sway fruity drum crunch and blissful anti-triumph in this half-lament of a track – "We get it, we get it, it's over / I'll go back to being alone…" – full-stopped with a crescendo of reality, drowning out the star-dots of hazy memory and love-in-passing.

Lovely stuff. If I'm late on it then pffffffffft whatever, but I'm glad that I found this song, whose title is quite similar to a line from Charlie Chaplin's speech in his film, The Great Dictator.

  • Some comments on the song mentioned an album or EP or something soon, but I don't know anything. Best thing is to follow these guys on the links below – if you like what you hear, of course.



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Friday, 16 May 2014

KIDKANEVIL – MY LITTLE GHOST

From the first ambient whirrings into life on 'All Is Lost', the opener – and more of an electronic dawn than a big bang – to Kidkanevil's brand new album My Little Ghost is in essence a sojourn through soundscapes; it's a walk through the woods, through your city at twilight, down a countryside lane at early evening; it's a lazy afternoon watching TV with sun bulging through the windows, a rainy day spent watching a rainy day go by, a snooze on a beach. At the same time, these are spacey, fantastical, cosmically charged pieces that conjure as much unreality as your mind can imagine.

Songs with titles like 'Escape Pod' take us away on journeys; in an escape pod, or rather, the song itself is an escape pod. A cute menagerie of bleeps and bips great and small gives way to nebulose sounds, shooting through space on a hopefully homeward yet lonesome trajectory, mechanical percussion skittering all the way. Next track 'Dimension Bomb' (presumably named after the short animated film of the same name) starts with a boom, which pockmark the track later on as explosions in other planes of existence felt here & now, then follows an arpeggio as it mutates through thickets of ever-frenzied cymbal, kinetic fizz and organ-like synth. Fantasy atmospheres arise in piano-flavoured 'Shunkanido' ("Teleportation" in Japanese), whose melody seems fittingly in a Japanese scale of some kind; I imagine somebody trying to teleport somewhere – and nearly getting there, with the exciting clatter of cymbals and sub-bass bulges – but ultimately finding themselves in the same room. A very persistent image of persistence and hope in light of frustrating failure.

Playful yet serious vibes arise in the glisteningly FX-laden beats and relentless arpeggios of 'Keroro Dub', inspired by Keroro Gunso, the least perhaps "atmospheric" of the tracks. It's almost in direct opposition to Japan-only track 'Tales Of Moonlight And Rain', whose hip hop tilted beat harbours videogame sounds, clusters of invading glitch, and a final third that glows feel-good with electronic watery burblings and gurglings and warm synth chords like the sun peeking out just before rain finishes. Likewise 'OG San' (a pun on the Japanese for uncle, 'ojisan') commands its fair share of atmosphere, feeling like a dim and nowhere house with all its domestic noises of fridge hummings, distant TV sounds, contented breathing replicated by insectoid percussion, warm synth and snippets of tiny piano.

This comes after the pair of tracks, 'Ohayo' ('good morning') and 'Oyasumi' ('goodnight') – the first opens up with warmly stumbling successions of spherical tones, echoing a clumsy body and slow state of mind in the morning; the second is more structured, running on an insomniacally ticking beat, and restlessly reverbing marimba, a vocal sample nestled nonchalantly in there, breezy squelch synth following the marimba all the way to the chaotic ending. Given its busier setting, it's as if Kidkanevil (who gives his location as "Tokyorkshire") is trying to say it's more exciting being a night owl than an early bird.

'Earth to G San' is the first of a few collaborations on My Little Ghost, working on this classically glitchy track with Tetsuya Hikita to produce rippling arpeggios (that put me in mind of the Final Fantasy VII prelude) over scratching hiss snare and random noises. Next up, the organic-meets-synthetic bustle of 'Inakunaru' co-stars experimental hip hop producer Phasma, and is a shapeshifting song, changing form and tack a few times as it goes on. The ever-welcome singer/songmaker Cuushe appears, twice, once in arguably the album's strongest song, 'Butterfly/Satellite' – which, also featuring the beatmaking prowess of London's submerse, shows off the breathy richness of Cuushe's vocals and provides an addictively synthetic juke rhythm to bop along to; later on, Cuushe lends her composition skills to the glockespielic, music-box-like, touching toybox sounds of 'All Is Not Lost' – the direct antithesis to starter track 'All Is Lost'. Glitched-out beats underpin plumes of bass and organesque synth, melodic percussion flitting in the air alongside bleeps and buzzings, gloriously and fluidly transitional from start to finish. Whereas 'All Is Lost' is a drizzly, despair-filled morning, 'All Is Not Lost' is a golden afternoon with promise of more to come.

Also lending her talents to 'All Is Not Lost' is Cokiyu, who also features on 'Tomie' (named after the manga of the same name, maybe) – her ghostly voice adds a phantomesque quality to what is possibly the most minimalist track on the album. Its transition from worrisome breezes and xylophonic platitudes to a second half of plaintive singing and simplistic melody alongside disturbed white noise panning from ear to ear is not only effective but clever and beautiful too. It's a good illustrator for the album as a whole: with electronic noises and organic percussive sounds arises two feelings, one of cuteness and playfulness – with all its titular references to otaku and Japanese culture – which fades to one that's kind of a blank, directionless hope.

That's not to say it's negative, or even melancholy; My Little Ghost, in its very title, summons a more diminutive, more romantic, less threatening yet just as omnipresent and affecting version of "the black dog", a euphemism for depression. It might not be that, exactly – it could be more that a particular memory or another feeling, maybe even just curiosity, is the "little ghost" – but it's certainly a thoughtful, beautiful title for a thoughtful, beautiful set of songs. It's something to put on, leave on, listen to, walk in and out of, and lie back to.



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Monday, 12 May 2014

YES/NO GUEST MIX 013 :: COMANCHE

A particularly large HAPPY SPRING emanates fragrantly from the latest guest mix or Guest Mix for YES/NO, arriving courtesy of Comanche. Named after the Plains Indian tribe, he's actually called Keegan (though I thought Comanche was a duo but… well, maybe it is?) and he's from Minneapolis. When I stumbled upon Silicon Basilica, his debut album released on supercool label Astro Nautico, I was majorly impressed and have been itching for new stuff ever since; so I'm very happy to present this lovely guest mix from him.

"It's finally spring, and some of these songs have been on repeat, bringing warm vibes and the like," he says. "I've also really been getting into a lot of old scores and movie music, which have been increasingly dominating my playlists." How does the mix relate to him as Comanche, though? "A sign of things to come!" he says. "I'm always looking to enjoy & create from rich source material, be it inspirational or otherwise, and am often drawn towards instrumental music. Both of these truths are evident in this mix, and they help guide me in the creative process."

And you hear just that all the way through; from the beginning, with 82-year-old composer Isao Tomita's spacey arrangement of Debussy's 'Arabesque No. 1' from his 1974 album Snowflakes Are Dancing (which reappears later in the mix), through Chrome Sparks' arpeggio-ridden electro rainforest of a track 'Your Planet' and German pianist and composer Horst Jankowski's soft lounge classic 'Pink Balloon' with its kitsch "la-la-la-la-laaaa...", to the main title from the Taxi Driver original soundtrack, a moody piece for saxophone that summons a kind of deluded heroic romance of nocturnal isolation, which builds to a glittering bellicose fantasy, composed by Bernard Hermann – it was the last film score he composed before his death in 1975, the year prior to the its release; previous works include Psycho and Fran├žois Truffaut's Farenheit 451.

Anyway. That's enough of words. Just sit back and enjoy this voyage through a bright and varied collage of sounds.


• T R A C K L I S T •
Isao Tomita – Arabesque No. 1
Chrome Sparks – Your Planet
Handsomeboy Technique – A Walk Across The Rooftops
Daedelus – You've Heard
Horst Jankowski – Pink Balloon
Les Loups – Paradisco
Jan Driver – Empathy
Dirty Art Club – Into the Night
Taxi Driver OST – Main Title
Isao Tomita – Arabesque No. 1 (contd.)
Bibio – Polycoulrophon
Bullion – Pressure To Dance
Todd Terje – Preben Goes To Acapulco
Bot'Ox – 2.4.1



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