Monday, 14 December 2015

EEVEE – FORGET YUR NAME

The first I heard from this Netherlands-based (is it Netherlands or the Netherlands and if so WHY does it need a definitive article, like Ukraine and the Ukraine, what's the difference? Is it an area? Is it a country?) beatmaker was a track called 'Opium'. And I was gonna write about it too; the gloomy rain-washed synth sounds of its Japanese scale melody really sounded like the theme for the Ruins of Alph in Pokémon Gold/Silver, though I don't think they're exactly the same. But I was totally hooked on the watercolour dripping half-decayed evaporating quality of the synth sounds, like listening to an ancient cassette tape with fresh beats laid beneath it for support and clarification.

That was until I heard 'Forgot yur name' and then I knew I had to write about this one because it's just so ... wow. It's a tract of minimalism in beatmaking, an exercise in polished antiquity in music, of creating fossilised music from a fresh mind and body and giving it those hairline fissures and lo-fi anti-gloss of authenticity.

[The beatmaker is stylistically called E e v e e but I'ma type Eevee; also I think it's short for Eveline but there's no surname, and it seems that she's from Dordrecht, Netherlands and that's all we know.]

The beats on this track thud with authoritative intensity, the kicks full and dust-disturbing, the snares clacking and crushed, with the hint of other percussion haunting the spaces between sounds of this track the whiff of golden age noir nostalgia permeating the air like rare perfume balmy nights balcony the nearby seashore whispering in the luxury-lit gloam surrounding the white stucco walls of the hotel. It's that kinda vibe you get me?

Then there's that sampled string insturment, a romantic tone and melody but played with as if listened to when high or drunk or both, the frequency dropping in and out of perfect pitch, the speed also fluctuating minutely, both adding to a sense of reality but as viewed through a film, of the romantic setting of 1950s Tangiers (forgive the colonial overtones) and live music and cocktails but as heard through a radio, life, but viewed through memories. All of that sort of thing maybe. Maybe.

But the point is: the beat is real, it is soaked in atmosphere, is emotive, and cleverly reflective of its title (which a) suggests that a memory of past love has finally faded, b) suggests some sort of intoxication or laissez-faire nonchalance with the misspelling of 'your' as "yur") with the old-school sounds further warped and wobbling out of sight and out of mind. A haunted and inspired too-short-too-sweet number; luckily Eevee makes a lot of music a lot of the time.



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Saturday, 12 December 2015

FADED GHOST – TALK TO ME

Disclaimer: this song is three 3 years old. But since it's only been played on SoundCloud just over 900 times... well, you know, u kno. It feels and sounds new to me. Not fresh necessarily because that's a sound in itself, but it is still in terms of fruit or vegetables "fresh" yes it's fresh. I found it when looking up some of the people/artists/acts who played at this year's JUE | Music + Art festival in Shanghai I liked the name Faded Ghost so that was one of the first musicmakers I checked out but then I just ended up trying to find the sounds of the entire lineup. Faded Ghost is the alias of Shanghai-based singer ChaCha.

Anyway! It was an immense surprise to find something so tantalising tucked away a bit of scroll down Faded Ghost's SoundCloud, a lovely gratifying surprise to discover the Ghost Ark EP which is yeah, 3 years old. But it's so experimental and searching forth for new sounds with inquisitive tendrils of exploration yet so stylised and cohesive in the atmosphere which it creates that for me it deserves for a few more people to know about this music, to hear it and breathe it in.

That is what the first track on this EP is like. It's called 'Talk To Me' and from its first wooo-eee-oooooooooo soft misty eerie chords gliding from note to note, cool and spectral, it is entering a new world, a portal of simultaneous chill and psychic reverberations. Ghostly glittering sounds, cracklings and sumptuous rainstick percussion, humble sub-bass rounding things off, those icy chimes throughout sharp and shivering, the vocals of ChaCha suddenly lancing up through the fog of sounds – growing more intense, more intense, more layers to the voice, vocodering and alarming – the synth chords taking a more abrasive turn, sawing the heavy air and seemingly echoing everywhere, all of it by the end fading out, evaporating slowly into nothingness.

You're sitting lotus position (cross-legged) in the middle of your bed browsing the internet on a notebook. You like a tweet, feels too much to retweet. You never retweet anything.

Your phone hums by your left knee. Picking it up, you note its weight: you always like the weight. Someone's liked a photo on Instagram, the picture of your cat half-asleep in morning sunlight draped over the floor, a study in light and shade. More likes than usual. Notebook forgotten, you trawl Instagram, liking only the crisp, the intentional lo-fi and the well positioned. More likes pour in – pride wells up in you. The cat photo, perfect.

Checking your notifications, it's not the cat photo that's getting all the likes, but all of your photos. Every single photo gets liked in the space of a minute, all from the same account: @ – just @. Blank. Nothing. Your photos are being rapidly liked and unliked, turning on a switch of panic in your mind. You can't block the account. It has no profile.

Your notebook screen has gone black. You press a key, but nothing happens. The power button, mashing the keyboard, nothing, nothing. The phone buzzes uncontrollably.

Locked in position you feel your stomach rise, the feeling of free-fall, your mind fogs, eyes glazing, panic terror panic. The notebook screen now on but dim shows the vague outline of a face, floating. Its eyes unable to keep a steady gaze you cannot help but stare into it, your head getting closer, closer. Drawing nearer, your forehead nearly touching the screen, the woozy eyes of the ghostly face suddenly lock hard on your own eyes, force power strange. Nothing else now, nothing else but these eyes. The buzzing phone is a steady drone louder not only in your ears but everywhere, all around, in your mind, remembered and anticipated and experienced all at once. Still cross-legged somehow but face down pushing your nose and forehead into the notebook screen, straining its hinges, snapping slowly, still the face, still the face – the eyes saying something. So much loneliness, permeating your skin, seeping into your blood, mind saturated, so lonely, no friends, talk to me please PLEASE talk to me please tell me who you are what do you like doing...

A knock at the door and a muffled voice and someone enters. They see a notebook snapped in half and bedsheets in a mess and have no idea.

Or at least that's the kind of scene I envisaged when listening to this one track. The other tracks on Faded Ghost's Ghost Ark EP are well worth your time, too: there's the piano and double-bass of 'I Remember' and its spooky dark dub atmosphere; and last but not least is the eponymous 'Ghost Ark', a subterranean rumble of sub-bass, plinking purring synth glistening into the dark and night noises reverberating, muffled distorted kicks coming in later as the glitter fades and the track dims.


  • Faded Ghost is the project of Shanghai-based singer ChaCha, who is much more active under her original moniker than this one here, so check out her SoundCloud.


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Friday, 11 December 2015

MR OIZO – HAND IN THE FIRE EP

Mr Oizo, oh Mr Oizo, it's Mr Oizo. I saw a tweet from Mr Oizo at some point in time before today (let's just say this one to be done with it) that said this Charli XCX collaboration called Hand In The Fire was going to drop sometime soon and well, yeah, it's today. It's arrived today, 14 days before Christmas, ho-ho-ho.

The headline and USP of this EP is the Charli XCX-featuring bit and it's what everyone's gone with:

  • Pitchfork: Mr. Oizo Teams With Charli XCX for "Hand in the Fire"
  • Stereogum: Mr Oizo – “Hand In The Fire” (Feat. Charli XCX)
  • Pigeons & Planes: LISTEN TO MR. OIZO AND CHARLI XCX’S “HAND IN THE FIRE”
  • The FADER: Mr. Oizo And Charli XCX Share "Hand In The Fire"
  • Idolator: Charli XCX Returns To Springy Electro-Pop On Mr. Oizo Collab “Hand In The Fire”: Listen
  • Beatport: HEAR MR. OIZO’S CURVEBALL COLLABORATION WITH CHARLI XCX, “HAND IN THE FIRE”
  • The 405: Charli XCX features on Mr Oizo track, 'Hand In The Fire'
  • NME: Charli XCX teams up with Mr Oizo – 'I was inspired by Ed Banger'
  • Paper: LISTEN TO MR. OIZO'S WARPED TROPI-LEANING TRACK FEATURING CHARLI XCX
  • DIY: CHARLI XCX IS WORKING WITH ED BANGER’S MR OIZO
  • FACT: Stream Charli XCX and Mr. Oizo’s ‘Hand In The Fire’

And so on and so forth in different languages on multiple sites and blogs around the world (one of the middle ones, The 405, I wrote that one). Oizo and Charli XCX, boom, ruling the world and whatever. It shows that MR OIZO can produce for pop, that's one thing that it shows, and very well at that, of course of course: bass booms and cold skeletal low-end melodies and skiffly swaying beat with orchestra hits exploding, raw tom rolls for extra flavour, plus the hook in FX'd vox wah-wahing in the appropriate places.

Mr Oizo has collaborated with singers before, twice on Lamb's Anger (2008): with Uffie on 'Steroids' and with Carmen Castro, whom Oizo calls "a mysterious person", on 'Two Takes It'; and more recently with Marilyn Manson on 'Solid', which scared and worried me but it was fun nonetheless. None of these, however, overshadowed a whole release, which is the case with the Charli XCX collaboration – three other tracks appear on the Hand In The Fire EP, one of which is an instrumental version of the Charli-featuring title track so what's up with that?

What is up with that? What is the actual problem here? Is there even a problem? Maybe, maybe there is. Like, the instrumental version, although it's a nice instrumental like I said a couple of paragraphs above, does not excite me a great deal, like it's definitely been made with a conscious effort of leaving space to putt a vocal on top, making it with a cyclical formula in pop song format. The actual song 'Hand In The Fire' feels weird: here's a different scenario: This is a Charli XCX track and then it's revealed that the producer is Mr Oizo, nice yeah, it's a catchy tune, jostling and slithering — somehow that feels cooler and more natural than this in its actual obvious collaboration state. Why?

Because the other two tracks on the EP are sooo Mr Oizo you'd be a fool to miss how typically Oizo-sounding they are, and how similar they are in feel and speed, which many publications indeed seem to have overlooked, drooling instead over the "curveball" (misfit???) collaboration itself because Give Pop A Chance and because Pageviews Mean Prizes and because Dat SEO.

I mean, there's 'A Rekurd', which with all its unrelenting repetition of the eponymous sample – "a record, a record, a record" – and mad sirens is an intense dance track, ending with a simple juggernaut of overdriven crunchy kicks and the vocal sample itself, filled throughout with familiar creeping atonal arpeggios. But sitting above this both actually in terms of track number on the EP and also in my esteem is 'Being Flat': yaaaaa! This one is nuts, perfectly nuts, wtf does nuts even mean, it just came out, I'm sorry. It's that blaring dissonant menacing groove that is so comfortable and yet so nerve-singeingly body-affecting that you can almost feel the tiniest hairs on your body vibrating with it.

It's those little ad-libs to the beat, a slicing hi-hat thrown into the pattern; it's that ambient soaring synth break providing liquid gentle oasis between the hard jittering notes of the second part and the delicious substantial bass patterns of the first half. It's the robust sounds in the beat, thumping and full of texture. It's the crowd noises in the background, which add depth and effuse the placebo effect of feeling like you're at an actual party.

When these two tracks finished, and the instrumental 'Hand In The Fire' began to play I paused it. I PAUSED IT. Now all I have in my head is the Charli XCX collab and I'm confused at why I don't like it all that much if it's in my head? I guess labelling things really does change your opinion even before you've sampled such things.

"The medium is in the message": in this instance the message is Charli XCX song, clearly that is the case. The medium, however, via or as part of a Mr Oizo release, loads it with meaning and expectations. Association kicks in and, being a human being, I cannot help but be influenced by how things are packaged; everyone's perception of something changes depending on its delivery. If you don't know Mr Oizo, then cool, Charli XCX is working with someone; do a little google, oh yeah, this Quentin Dupieux, he's done some cool stuff, he's pretty well known – therefore Charli is held in even higher esteem. But for those who know Mr Oizo, or know and like Mr Oizo's music rather, having a Charli XCX song delivered through his musical output feels jarring, even wrong.

This leads me to conclude that this song, this EP with its typical and more digestible Oizo sound outside of the title track, is meant for those who are not well acquainted with the French producer or his music. At the same time, it's sort of fan service because both these tracks do not exactly push new ground for Oizo, serving as a nostalgic vessel for pre-existing Oizo-lovers; indeed as of this current moment, 'Being Flat' has had more plays than 'Hand In The Fire', showing that fans will find their way to the morsel they like the most and play it maybe a few times cause they love it and they gotta show someone else, too. Oizo fans get to see Oizo tackle pop production, and he does it well – perhaps the reason why the instrumental version is also included.

Charli XCX fans, on the other hand, get to hear a new and unique somewhat Santigold-sounding song and then, hidden behind the cover story, there's these other tracks from the same producer, buzzing but not too abrasive and instantly addictive for those with an ounce of dance-leaning tendencies in their souls. Everyone's happy.

Quentin Dupieux aka Mr Oizo also created a short film (seven 7 minutes) for RBMA entitled 'Being Flat' which is funny to watch, stars Flat Eric and Steve Little (from comedy series Eastbound & Down) and features the track of the same name, you can also watch that with your eyeballs below these words.




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Wednesday, 9 December 2015

FLOPPIE – TOMATO'S PAST

Breaking beats! Break beats! Bbeats! It's a lovely spot of this sort of breakcore-y thing from an Aichi-based musicmaker and purveyor of soul-lifting break beats floppie. Recently well I say recently but this is like four months ago back in August, back when the days are long and the nights are short and intrepid and wrapped in insomniac warmth, floppie released an EP on lolicore-affiliated label The Worst Label. The title? A Tomato Supreme. I found this a couple of months ago and I was hooked by the name of the EP and the nature of the songs - it all seemed to be about tomatoes. I have or had or harbour the ghost of an obsession with tomatoes. I like them in ketchup. I like them in pasta. I like them in curry. I like them in many forms except raw. I cannot begin to describe my aversion to raw tomatoes. My skype name even features the word "tomato" so that just about seals it - this is an EP for me. But what was it all about?

"whats with tomato?" somebody asked in the comments. floppie answered: "I was inspired by the word tomato. There is no deep meaning ^u^)/"

"I do not like Tomatoes :P" said one commenter; floppie replied "Me too... >_<"

Me too, I typed just now, glancing quickly at the cat curled cutely under the table. So without further ado let's just listen to probably the most heavenly cut from this tasty lil EP, 'Tomato's Past'.

Somewhere along the line, it seems that "Tomato" is the name of every whimsical love or crush you've ever and never had, embodied in the various SoundCloud track artwork for the EP in the form of a red-haired girl, effusing lolicore aesthetics.

But but but, where were we? 'Tomato's Past' – a whooshing leftover from previous more futuristic track 'おやすみTomato-Chan' leads us into delicate droplets of piano like lingering on sweet memories, glistening key touches that morph and merge into warmer more urgent piano chords forming the emotive backdrop on which floppie spins hyperactive undeniably virtuosic clusters of breakbeats at breakneck speed, the percussive drillings accompanied by an occasional yammering vocal sample just about audible and a dynamic whoosh of noise that separates the song's parts.

Things become more intense in its second half, split from the first with a cute glockenspiel melody and then jumping into the impressive cavalcade of percussion in the next section, strings subtly rising up, sumptuous cymbals crashing into the empty space behind the piano-and-beats combination. How sweet is this song, how jittery and excited like the thumping heart and gentle nausea of love and first romances and even the urgency to live and experience life in light of painful nostalgia telling you that the distance between the more idealised portions of your past and your present day ever-hurtling-to-tomorrow is slowly becoming more and more sizeable. It's that winsome love of life and gentle kindness and excited passion that floppie celebrates with this addictive track and it's totally believable.




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Tuesday, 1 December 2015

SHIGETO – NEED NOBODY

It is time for some music by Zach Saginaw aka Shigeto. I heard this a while ago and thought mmmm yeah definitely need to write about this look how tasty it looks. But sometimes just because you can see something's tasty doesn't mean you run up and eat it right away. In hindsight I was lazy.

Recently I happened upon this particular track again and found myself with it gripped in my mucky trembling hands gut wrenching hunger and headful of loss and oozing pain and I bought it up to my mouth without hesitation and snacked upon it so gladly so succulent and running down my chin in rivulets of luscious opulence teeth stuck with its phantomatic remnants. I basically like it a lot.

"It" is 'Need Nobody', taken from a new EP by Shigeto called Intermission. It is so called because Shigeto sees them less as a "strong message" and "more a taste, like a halftime show of sorts," presumably between 2013 album No Better Time Than Now and whatever album might come next. And I say: Well well if this is the halftime show then please allow me to crash all subsequent events and demand their halftime show no matter how far through because this halftime show is... The point is that despite being an intermission in name as well as in its feel, sound, and intent, the tracks still shine as brightly as any other tracks in the world that don't come with this modest and somewhat self-deprecating disclaimer.

And 'Need Nobody' is the perfect perfect example.

The first thing to notice is the analogue synth sounds scorching out from the track with a fabulous flow of melody lines: this is the ominous fantasy music from Zelda: A Link to the Past twinned with music from Super Metroid in all its lo-fi space loneliness, seeming to gulp in sadness and broadcasting it out with soft sounds, a heartbeat attached to a mind wondering if there might be another heartbeat-mind combination nearby. That's it— it's like a plaintive living-and-breathing sonar song scanning the horizon, beautiful and sad.

This floats above a rough escarpment of giant earth-moving bass (picture this gargantuan contraption trundling through stark countryside) punctured with a sharp lightly ornamented and edited beat, through which flows a stream of clopping clack dinging chimely percussion sumptuous and magical-sounding summoning beads of water still and perfect on intense green leaves – the rhythmic and more delicate version of that satisfying feel and sound of searching through a chest of loose Lego for one particular piece but at the same time for the simple action of doing so.

It is a past-and-future sound, a moonscape of yesteryear modernly framed, casting forth into tomorrow laden with memories and experience a voyage in a wellworn vessel, with its lamenting beacon flashing a siren song into the unknown desolation of it all, searching, searching - relaying, relaying.




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Monday, 30 November 2015

HYPERJUICE – CITY LIGHTS (PARKGOLF REMIX)

PARKGOLF's moniker no longer appears in all caps on his SoundCloud page so I'm really not sure how to address him anymore. For ease (since I am not much of a caps lock user and can't be bothered to hold down shift every time I type his name) I will refer to him as Parkgolf. Eeesh, but it doesn't look as good, does it? It's ok. This is change and progress probably.

If you don't know: PARkgolf is a musicmaker from Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan. He first caught the attention of YES/NO after he remixed 'I Don't Care', a brash and sweltering iridescent reworking of the Tofubeats original that appeared on the latter's remix version of his album Lost Decade back in 2013. Since then he's been dropping ever more electrostatic pearls of plasticine playfulness, sometimes in the form of originals, other times in the form of remixes, always jittering with untetherable energy.

And with that, here's his latest: a remix of 'City Lights' by Tokyo duo HyperJuice; maybe I'm just a sucker for a Seinfeld-esque bassline, maybe this is just the kind of music to sate my overstimulated mind – either way: expect nerf gatling gun bass popcorn laced throughout.

It's safe to say that this is an out-of-control ferris wheel of fun, turning the original track into a fireworks celebration of the vocals by EVO+ (unless they have exactly the same name and I've got this wrong, she is an utaite, which means she's predominantly, or at least started out by, posting cover versions of mostly VOCALOID songs on Nico Nico Douga), with gentle piano belying the jet takeoff that awaits with Parkgolf's mastery of plasma beam chords, a decoction of pulsing rhythmic-explosion dynamism and crystalline fluidity.

The drums are full-bodied, thick, like the sound of that thing astronauts train in as it spins WHOMP! - WHOMP! - WHOMP! The scree of bass notes jumbling with complexity, a wonder of virtuoso sonic storytelling and summoning energy in the listener – who with each phantasmic blast of synth sound sets our minds and bodies aglow with rainbow frequencies, careening dopamine hailing from neurone to neurone in orgasmic succession.


  • There's a free download of the track via Dropbox right here (clicking).
  • 'City Lights' appears on recent HyperJuice release, Lights.


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Friday, 27 November 2015

CM88 – HIGHWAY OF BYGONE MINDS

  •                          The Moving Finger writes: and, having writ,
  •                          Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
  •                          Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
  •                          Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it

This is what sprang to mind when I began writing this post. It is the Quatrain 51 from The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, a translation by Edward FitzGerald of poems by Persian poet/mathematician/astronomer Omar Khayyám. Something about it relates both to the track which is the subject of this post and also to the long, desolate and pointless hiatus of YES/NO these past weeks.

'Highway Of Bygone Minds' is by a Belfast-based producer CM88 (irl: Charles Mullan). He's originally from Limavady which amongst other things is famous for being the place where the tune for 'Danny Boy' ('Londonderry Air') was collected from a fiddle player in the mid-19th century. But this is all beside the point. 'Highway Of Bygone Minds' as a title suggests loss, loneliness, a lament for something long fallen by the wayside: and the beautiful ambience of the music itself helps to illustrate this sentiment further.

Beginning with the sound of cars streaming up and down a road, the undulating synth at the heart of this track rises up like an all-encompassing fog, rolling along unrelentingly until it meets a steady, lightly bouncy, gradually more-and-more shuffling beat with ticking hi-hats that drives it onwards. Screaming distorted abrasions of synth lance out of the dank mind-melting fog like lightning from clouds, occasional ornamentations in the form of chimes ringing out like something half-forgotten at the back of the mind. It's a slice of intense, living-and-breathing electronica that reminded me of something Jon Hopkins might make.

The mood is wholly and wonderfully elegaic, almost triumphally so, conjuring stretched-out landscapes hemmed in by iron-coloured clouds, heavy monochrome days, endless rain; the condensation of inside blurring the drowned world outside the window. Bass booms and grinds, thickening the inescapable hubbub of the track, robust, more concrete patterns taking shape from the initial, thinner sweeps of sharpened noise that cuts through your mind. This is a huge Turner-esque oil painting, stamping and storming as much as it bursting with sadness to such a degree that it has become vague, indistinct.


  • You can download the track from CM88's Bandcamp.
  • It's taken from an upcoming EP called V which will arrive in January 2016.


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Friday, 16 October 2015

KALKO – I'M SO GLAD I FOUND U

If you waltz away from this song without feeling even a tiny bit of emotion – ok, even if you can discern the emotion in this, that's ok – but if you can't feel or detect a single thing either after or during listening to this… well, I don't know what to say.

It's not that this is dripping with obvious emotion, that it epically drops with standard sonic epithets, that it explodes with feeling. It's that it just touches the heart somewhat, and that is enough. "It", "it it it" – it is called 'I'm so glad i found u' and it is by a musicmaker called kalko who says they're from Texas, so let's go with it: Texas it is.

Anyway… 'I'm so glad i found you' is simple enough: a set of melodies, a bit of a beat. Simplicity and complexity doesn't really come into it when we're speaking about emotions – you hear, see, taste, smell, touch something and feel stuff as a result. That's how it is.

And that's how it is with the plaintive melodies of thanksgiving and innocent pleasure that swirl at the heart of this little song, which, beginning soft and muted, gradually become sharper, glittering, come into focus previously blurred, a sense of true happiness, body-warming gratitude sweeping through your soul, the skin-tingling shimmering-sun-dappled-through-bright-green-leaves feeling of utter contentment (see the artwork above; sounds like that).

Skiffly shakers and zipping hi-hats and scratchy snares and fuzzy kicks, a lo-fi beat that develops and grows as the song progresses, the sense of positivity expanding outwards and encompassing you, as you listen there from your laptop, aglow with the same feeling as kalko's track, ebbing away after saying its piece, not taking up all of your time: just stopping by to express happiness, ending beautifully.


  • Don't miss a free download of this cutely shimmering ode to warming happiness.


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Sunday, 11 October 2015

GUEST MIX 028 :: STEVE SANDBERG

A couple of months ago, I got an email from somebody promoting a music project of Steve Sandberg, the composer of Dora The Explorer and, by extension, Go, Diego, Go! Fast-forward to now, and I'm happy to present the following interview and guest mix from Sandberg, whose Just The Tip EP, under one of his monikers Elastic Plastic Generation recently arrived via Teknofonic.

Sandberg is a three-time Emmy-nominated composer, and besides scoring the music for Dora and Diego has also made music for educational apps by Literary Safari, toured with David Byrne and Bebel Gilberto as keyboardist, arranger and vocalist, as well as composed music for Broadway. His own music, as Elastic Plastic Generation, is self-admittedly "crazy and uninhibited," (he's placed a few of these tracks in the mix) whereas a new project under the moniker Alaya is more world-music-oriented, wherein he's crafted "music from a country I’ve never been to but always wanted to visit." He's placed

See below for an interview with Sandberg; underneath that you'll find the mix he has kindly contributed to YES/NO – it's filled with house, Motown flavours, and a sprinkling of samba, showing the musical influences at work on this musicmaker.


When did you first start making music? What inspired you?
My parents bought an upright piano for my older sister to learn on. I had a ritual - every time I passed it, I had to reach up as high as I could to touch and play a key. I must have been 2 years old then. Then I started taking classical piano lessons from a local piano teacher. I guess I just loved sound and was inspired by having an instrument that could make beautiful sounds that I could play.

How did you get to be a composer for Dora the Explorer?
Through a friend I met walking my dog in the park! She was doing some temporary sound editing for Dora before it started airing, and was in the room when the musical director quit. She called me - "Steve, this is your gig! Call this number in 5 minutes - she gave me the number of the executive producer - and tell him you're a composer." She thought I'd be right for the show because I had spent many years playing with NY salsa and Latin jazz bands, and also knew how to score to visuals.

What is it like making music for something like that?
It was a lot of fun because I had never written for a TV show before, and I actually thought I'd be really good at writing for animation. It was something I wanted to do. So I had a great time making up themes for the different characters, creating a musical palate for the show - which turned out to be a mixture of Gil Evans, classic cartoon scoring and salsa - and basically forming a whole style and vibe for the underscoring. I also worked on songs, which was more collaborative. Of course we were all very happy when the show became such a big hit and it went on for many years and spun two sequels. It becomes a bit different when you write season after season - you have to invent new things to keep yourself interested and keep it fresh.

Who are your favourite artists right now?
Me'shell Ndegeocello; Gil Scott Heron; Harry Partch; always Stevie Wonder from Music of my Mind to Fulfillingness' First Finale; Pedrito Martinez live are a few. It's hard to say because I tend to have favorite songs at this point, not favorite artists. And I love old school. Today I was really enjoying listening to Bobby Womack, If You Think You're Lonely Now.

What do you think has influenced the sound of your EP?
That EP came out of a lot of different musics that I love. To name a few:
Old School House Music
Salsa
Samba Reggae
Sly Stone
Stevie Wonder's keyboards
That EP was a labor of love. I had a block of free time and just played around with my DAW and made music I thought I'd enjoy moving to. It's pretty crazy and uninhibited.

How would you describe your own music?
I actually write many different kinds of music. This project, Elastic Plastic Generation, is a kind of iconoclastic world house dance hiphop or something like that? But I also have a worldtronica project -Alaya - coming out in September on the same label, Teknofonic, that is very different - it features breath-controlled synths, my own vocals, and eclectic writing inspired by Eastern European, African, Latin, and other world musics with an electronic palate. Kinda jazzy too. You can hear excerpts on my website, stevesandbergmusic.com.

• T R A C K L I S T •


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Friday, 2 October 2015

EVM128 FEAT. OLMO CASSIBBA – TREATMENT

Wooowww, well well well. This captured my imagination a great deal when I first heard it. A month or so later, it's still teetering on the borders of my memory like a candy wrapper glimmering in sunlight, or like something else that might draw your attention – crystals strewn across a beach, finding a prize (plastic funny-smelling figurine) in your cereal as you pour it into your bowl. That sort of thing.

It arrives from EVM128, real name Luke Meads: Bristol progeny who now dwells in London. It's called 'Treatment'. Heralded in descriptions and press releases as a revival of another Bristol product, broken beat, it's easy to discern the fragmented nature of the beat through your own ears: irregular patterns in the alternating kick and abrasive-fluid snare, jangling tambourine cut and placed between these, hi-hats skiffling in unusual order, additions of flighty cymbal bell-hits, assertive hyperactive snare rolls, other percussive syncopations, all offbeat in a style that fits rhythmically between house and hip-hop. People 'in the know' will say 'ah yes this broken beat rite here'. Sounds broken – simple.

Hmmmm, well, actually, thinking about it… it seems less simple the more you think about it. Despite knowing about the style beforehand, despite listening to 'Treatment' on repeat, the pattern of the beat feels fresh every time. Is it its seeming irregularity that makes it harder to pick up on? Are there genuinely predictable and unpredictable rhythms in music? I suppose you could become used to it after a long while… These are questions for a neurologist.

But it's not just the beat that makes EVM128's track so salted-caramel-delicious; add to the neurone-stimulating skiffle-thump a modulating wobble of airy ghostly synth – woo-oo-oo-oo, like that – the occasional singular soft chord simply asserting its existence in the midst of the beat thicket, the drippy-splash melodic synth painting chilled lounge melodies in miniature; add all this and you have a special sound, seemingly effortless and wonderfully basic.

And that's not forgetting Olmo Cassibba, the Sicilian-Scottish alto saxophonist and person-of-percussion, whose blissful work on the flute completes 'Treatment', making it a great clashing together of these fractured even garage-lilting beats, these trip-hopping future-facing electronics, and horizontal lounge exotica sunshine pouring in, jungle-beach-cosmopolitan-hangout jazz flavours, the phantom of cigarette smoke hanging like a thin veil in a basement club, nocturnal car-driving under illuminated palm trees.




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Wednesday, 30 September 2015

MINCHA – BEING WITH YOU

What first struck me about this track is its delicious noises – the sumptuous tongue-twizzling ear-tickling sounds at the upper end of the spectrum trickling and bouncing, eye-poppingly alive and full of the essence of found sounds: actual real world sounds put into music.

What is it? It's called 'Being With You' and it's by Mincha a musicmaker from Bordeaux, France. Aside from the noises I mentioned above – the subversive opulence of broken glass, running or maybe even boiling water, a crunchy noise that sounds like someone taking a huge bite out of an apple, little insectoid metallic noises, sharp ticking hi-hats – it is propelled forward by a broken garage-flavoured rhythm, offbeat thudding kicks working alongside syncopated cleanly clacking snare hits, supported by the constant cascade of percussion, resulting in a highly kinetic vibe.

On top of this shuffling beat we alternate between icy, atmospheric feeling – with cymbals shimmering silver into the void, slivers of synth providing cold singular hits, gentle phasing sounds, soft muted bloops, the occasional smart jazzy flourish of double-bass, unintelligible vocal samples echoing in the freezing expansive frame of the track – and something more intense, with just-as-icy synths skirling with slow trance flavour, piercing the cloudy atmosphere with angular sides

The whole thing ending with rich piano to round off what has been a voyage into a cosmos of unknown twinkling objects, an outpost of cleansing energy in cold, dark space; a tale of deeply nocturnal dance music, highlighting the unknown echoes of the night and thoughtful introspection with a collision of styles and an impressive inventory of imaginative ornamentation.




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Monday, 28 September 2015

LULU + MIKENEKO HOMELESS – WATERMELON

三毛猫ホームレス or Mikeneko Homeless (that's "homeless tortoiseshell cat") is a musicmaking duo from Tokyo composed of Tokinori Kakimoto, a double bassist and composer who also makes music as mochilon, and Masahiro Oba aka hironica. These two have teamed up with singer Lulu to come up with the instant infatuation of 'Watermelon', a supremely bouncy and immediately likeable musical morsel that speaks of … how funny; I was just about to write that it speaks of crisp autumn days and the continuance of the early days of a developing romance, a tale begun and spun during the hot and humid hours of summer, when I read in the description of the track on SoundCloud: "Where you and me will be when autumn comes?"

And really, since this sort of sentiment is what came to mind when listening to the song – even without understanding the lyrics – you can say that the trio have achieved certainly asked the above question with their music.

In fact, it is a story told in different parts; firstly beginning with a cascade jazzy synth chords and tumbling rapid-fire acoustic guitar arpeggios; secondly launching into a jaunty upbeat chorus with fluttering synths soaring up to meet it, playful vocal melodies skipping over the dop-dop-dop-dop of chipper chords; thirdly we skim into a part where chords cushion a scorchingly modulated bleepy solo melody, the beat slow and evocative with virtuoso hi-hat rolls; fourthly, the realisation part – where perhaps what went before in summer will not carry on as days become chilly and leaves curl and crisp, falling orange and red – Lulu's melody is slower, emotional, the chords softer, gentler, rippling vacant and numb, you especially notice it in the song's final part, with Lulu singing wordless "ahhh-aa-aa…", a slight lament at unforseeable futures, unpredictable circumstances.

Even without paying this much attention, this is a sumptuous slice of electronic-flavoured, atmospheric, sunny-meets-chilly atmosphere-summoning music, the vocals by Lulu compelling, subtly harmonised at times, flustered with romance and uncertainty against the virtuoso nu-shibuya-kei city pop vibe effused from Mineneko Homeless; it seeps into your head, inspiring happiness as much as a pang of doubt in the heart.



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Friday, 25 September 2015

MUHROCHKA – TEARS THAT LED TO OUR END

'Tears that led to our end'. It's a very sad title, a six-word micro-story that tells you everything you need to know: there was sadness – hence the tears – and there was an ending of what we can assume was a relationship. Instantly there's a snapshot of long talks, grey skies, the dullness of the world from the perspective of the speaker, the impending doom of it all, the hours stretched out ahead in unending fathoms of solitude.

Very melodramatic, I know I know, but that's how it feels – and that's just going from the title of this track by Muhrochka. It's difficult to get much information about this guy, but we can abduce that he's from Russia somewhere, thanks to a link (albeit not working) to a profile on VK, which is basically Russia's Facebook. 'Tears that led to our end' is eight months old but it's of no consequence: the track sounds how it sounds regardless of time.

So what does it actually sound like? It's chiptuney, that's for sure – "fakebit" as it's been tagged. To a flailing set of hi-hats, marshy snares and pulsing kicks, a muffled tide of droning, damaged synth sounds judders in a fuzzy whirlwind: an immediate landscape of hardy metallic greyscale, dark teal waves cresting and crashing in a storm of static. Decaying clusters of bleeps play fluid notes over the top, alternating with sparse and plaintive booping sounds soaring in the bright murk of it all, like a brave face in the wake of anguish.

Melancholy, gloomy, introspective – these words would all fit Muhrochka's song, but there's something other than that, something vital about the track, something alive and beating at its core. Though it spins a sad orbit in your mind, this song is by no means downbeat – as much as it charts an unchangeable series of events, it also serves as a record of courageous acceptance, an illustration of hope.



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Tuesday, 22 September 2015

BUDDHAHOUSE – PUBLIC ENEMY

Ready to go on a journey of jostling energy, drink a cup of urgency pressed and bottled in the chilly Japanese city of Sapporo, elbow your way into some space on the dancefloor and buss out the hardiest and most robust of your two-stepping prowess? Because that's what you're gonna get with 'Public Enemy' by BUDDHAHOUSE.

I've already mentioned the city, but yes, BUDDHAHOUSE is a self-professed "DJ, beatmaker" from Sapporo, which is on the "wild frontier" island of Hokkaido, Japan. And this track, like I mentioned, is a wonder of energy and urgency, of no-nonsense, no-frills, wild dance-only music.

Dissect it and you'll find – within a dynamic ebb and flow of drops and build-ups – its punchy punchy kicks, its marching snare drums urging you abrasively into rowdy dancefloor formation, rolling toms adding warlike pugilistic flavour, jangling jingling scathing hi-hat noises crashing together like a box sharpened swords going down a slide, its cutting synth chord pattern sweeping over the bustling bang of the beat. Shuddering galloping aggressive house with retro ornamentation; imagine someone breakdancing to this in the snow at the side of a road as confused cars slow down to watch.

Two great parts: at 2:53, a turntablist record scratch bookends a slice of slow amen beat bustle, before the shout of "Somebody in the house say 'yeah!'", which is sampled from Public Enemy's 'Caught, Can We Get A Witness?' and thus giving BUDDHAHOUSE's track its name.

And from 4:28 onwards, where there's this tiny rising-and-falling bleepy melody that really really reminded me of the tiny bleepy melody in the breakdown bit of the theme for Stage 2 from Streets of Rage.




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Monday, 21 September 2015

IN THE BLUE SHIRT – IN AND OUT

Sampling. Love it or hate it, morally and ethically against it or freespiritedly laissez-faire about it all, when it's done well it's as impressive as any outstanding virtuoso performance on any other pre-existing instrument. So there.

As such, it's fitting to introduce In the blue shirt, a musicmaker and sampling-er of supra-decent proportions who is from Kyoto, Japan. Real name Ryo Arimura, this producer is certainly a big deal, or at least that's what I can gather from listening to his recent track 'in and out' over and over again, gluing it to my ears, injecting it into my brain like a syringeful of dance-inducing nanites. ha ha.

I'm currently listening to it in a semi-busy café and this is the kind of atmosphere that 'in and out' not only fits but also exudes itself; the rapid-fire sliced 'n' diced samples – featuring everything from chopped up wibbling vocals and what sounds like dialogue from an anime, to snippets of guitar and string strains in a jostling mélange of sound, creates the feeling of hubbub, the merging voices of a crowd, cut up chatter chatter chitter chatter.

But you add to this ruckus of samples a groovesome bassline, deep and rounded, plus an uptempo unrelenting kick 'n' snappy disco hi-hat combo, jangling percussion for garage-esque syncopation and you get a rainy-night-in-the-city (brake lights glowing, neon signs twinkling, buildings inching like columns of stars in the half-darkness) vibe. Flashing retro dancefloors live in the essence of this dynamic song, moving through different sample clusters and beat patterns – most obviously at the 2:25 mark, sweet pastel-coloured alcohol, sleek dressed chirruping feel-good crowds two-stepping all the way home with this track lodged in their hearts.




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Friday, 18 September 2015

ERIKO TOYODA – SEDUCTIVE EYES / BECAUSE YOU WANTED IT

Here is a lovely slice of music courtesy of Eriko Toyoda, a Japanese artist whom I stumbled upon a couple of years ago. Her previous work has been marked by glitch-laden production, which makes this relatively stripped-back song, 'Seductive Eyes / Because You Wanted It', a surprise refreshment for the ears.

It is characterised for the most part by a guitar chord progression played on loop, muted tones in a bossa nova rhythm, soothing and soft, though tinged with a certain empty sadness, like looking back on heartbreak or unrequited love from a perspective of lonesome calm.

One of the song's tags, alongside "loop station", is "broken microphone" – and if this refers to the actual microphone being broken, well, it's a great effect; Toyoda's voice ends up with this thin, metallic quality which, whilst giving it a stylised delicacy, also gives it the sense of being recorded in a very DIY fashion, adding endless romance to the song. She lays down arresting harmonies as she sings the song's refraining lyrics – "I try to forget those seductive eyes" – which by the end of the track becomes a cloud cushion of ear-satisfying richness, occasionally different lines weaving through one another in an impressive show of polyphony.

Add to this ornamentations in the guitar parts, gently sweeping, lightly plucked arpeggios, giving it a dreamy and expansive feel, as well as softened lines of sparse just-discernible guitar melody, and decorations in her vocals – with a brief moment of subtle delay added later in the song, as well as it ending with an ebb and flow of wordless duetting as the guitar pauses playing random ambient notes – and the song is complete: a languorous poem painting a far-off memory of romance, told with a simple and evocative looping guitar accompaniment.



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Saturday, 12 September 2015

CAPCHII – SOMETHING

Here is a nice new bit of music from a new musicmaker called Capchii. They are ostensibly from Tokyo – there's no way to verify that, of course, so let's just go with it. Tokoyo-based musicmaker or let's say producer called Capchii. The katakana given on SoundCloud for the name is カプチー, which I'm presuming is just a shortened form of カプチーノ which is the katakana for cappuccino. Coffee, especially in its foamier incarnation as denoted here, has a homely, cosmopolitan feel about it, and connotes being something like fluidly urban. Truncate cappuccino to Capchii and you add an extra dimension of cuteness – fitting for someone whose Twitter bio says "I like bass and cute music."

But aside from these thoughts spilling without much care onto this keyboard and typing these words, the morsel of music that has been created by this coffee-themed producer for a lil spotlight today is called 'Something'.

Something! Pulsing kicks drive this along throughout its duration, a bassy beat also featuring a combined snare-handclap that sounds like a watermelon being smashed, or maybe a heavy hardback book bellyflopping into a puddle, specifically a puddle glittering in the wet sunlight after a rainstorm. Bubbling sounds pop in the background. A simple looping piano melody, something unmistakably jolly and upbeat, is a sign of things to come.

Gradually other instruments join in to form a cavalcade of positivity; soft sub-bass begins to ebb and flow beneath it all, acoustic guitars play chirpy arpeggios, jaunty strings singing out, high pitched synth melodies intertwine with one another, weaving in and out like little birds zooming around together on a sunny afternoon, the inexplicable heavy haze of distorted guitar providing strips of abrasion here and there, which adds a confounding element to what is otherwise a lesson in the progression of different instruments in a semi-classical setting.

It's a compound of sculpted percussive parts and of whimsical melodies, resulting in a winsome piece of music with clear direction; seemingly untainted by genre or pretence, it's fresh and lively, like catching a glimpse of a small dog trotting happily along. Cute, but not obviously so – not the collective vision of cuteness, but a personal one, illustrated for our own hearts to enjoy.



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Tuesday, 8 September 2015

MARK REDITO – 3AM APOLOGIES

Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee… and more specifically, it tolls for Spazzkid. Hear the clanging knell kneading the air like vast clouds rolling through valleys, the ding dang dong of another musicmaking moniker moored at the banks of the ever-flowing river, never to plough through waves again.

But don't worry, Mark Redito is still around. After much consideration, the man himself decided to shed his Spazzkid moniker and just stick with his irl birth name. Specifically, aside from artistic growth, new directions and feeling as if what he's making now is quite different to what he's making now, it's to do with the offensiveness of the very name "Spazzkid", and "undergoing scrutiny" because of it – even if he was originally just named after a band.

"After careful research into the various uses of the word “spaz” as a derogatory term," he writes via email. "I no longer feel comfortable representing my music and art with a term that has the power to hurt a large group of people. While it was never my intention to offend anyone, I owe every person aggrieved by my old moniker a heartfelt apology, and this is just that. I’m sorry."

To mark (haha) this change we have a new track, heralding the turning of a page to a new chapter in the story that is the music of Mark Redito. It surfaced on Ryan Hemsworth-run, friends-only, not-a-label-but-a-SoundCloud-platform Secret Songs and it's called '3am Apologies'.

The first thing that sprang to mind whilst listening to this was festival music. Not any old festival music, but traditional music from the Japanese festival of Obon (or just Bon), held in summertime across Japan to honour the dead. What took me there? The swaying feel and dizzyily offbeat melodies of '3am Apologies' match those of the music that goes with bon odori i.e. "bon dance" – I say the music, but there are as many different variations of this dance as there are major regions and cities in Japan; perhaps it's akin to the awa odori of Tokushima on Shikoku, or maybe it's closer to Kagoshima's ohara bushi. Either way, there's a fair spot of considered delirium at work in '3am Apologies', which made me think of Bon.

Added to this inebriated festival atmosphere is a heavily swaggering dub-flavoured rhythm, further highlighting a decidedly beat-themed foray for the first venture as Mark Redito, and ornamented with countless drum ad-libs that roll and rollick with virtuosic energy, yet that feel blissfully restrained by the slow, oozingly oscillating rhythm. Swathes of fizzing synth cushion piercing lines of melody, all of it rising together in a richly layered crescendo that takes previous elements and arranges them in a model of harmony, each part slotting where it should having been individually introduced earlier on. Mark sings on the track, too, his voice sprinkled with emotion and far-off, as if a dream or previous introspection being reflected upon.

We dream with him, in the giddy ambience and half-crazed steadiness of '3am Apologies', swept along by sheets of synth – sometimes airy and ethereal, sometimes buzzing and intense – bouncing onward with the skillfully-crafted elastic organic beats as if being jostled through a crowd.




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Monday, 7 September 2015

FORK AND KNIFE – DUMFUN

I'm writing about this track because it is good and it made me feel happy when I first heard it. Maybe it's more that the track sounds happy and so swathed me in a metaphysical cloud of happiness whilst I listened, and also: is it even possible for any music to be qualitatively, objectively "bad"? These are my thoughts.

What is this track? 'Dumfun'. It's a fun name, isn't it? I don't know what it means, perhaps a neat contraction of a sentiment akin to "mindless fun" but what's in a name? Huh? What's in a name? Sometimes a lot, sometimes not so much. And it's by the well-named Fork and Knife (maybe named after the Brand New demo of the same name?), a musicmaker from London who is also a co-founder of collective/label Not Like That.

And you're wondering, what's so damn fun about 'Dumfun'? It's the whole journey, the whole humble odyssey of the track, that makes it not only interesting on a musical level but also, yes, a fun listen. It keeps you on your toes. Even after a few listens I'm like, "oh this part?" Its spontaneous structure is a good thing indeed.

It begins with squiffy far-off synths that equally could be the intro to some big trance song, yet it grows and graduates through glassy, popping decorations, adding big reverbing snares – rapid-fire droplets of which serve as ornamentations later on – and thudding kicks, then jumping up into a side-to-side head-tilt kinda rhythm; very bouncy, and supplemented with blooms of sub-bass. Cutesy synth vox spin simple melodies throughout sprinkled with wah-wah, and gleaming streaks of synth chords sweep steadily beneath, spreading their heartwarming glitterations alongside the occasional sample of children cheering, further exemplifying the feeling of joy that dwells at the heart of this track.

It's not exactly dancefloor-destined, not precisely pop, not wholly videogame music, but rather Fork and Knife has meted out a combination of all three. There are minor changes you could make to it to attach it more extensively to each one of those labels, but why think about that? Why think about the potential when it already exists in the state in which it exists: as a composite, genreless slice of electronic fun.




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Friday, 4 September 2015

LOTO RETINA – PREMIÈRE SÉANCE

ATMOSPHERE. Atmosphere is a big deal. Without atmosphere, or ambiance if you will, cocktail lounges would not feel chilled out yet classy at the same time, forests would not effuse as much peacefulness as they do, a spa would not be as relaxing, theme parks would not be as exciting — put simply, atmosphere is important. And, if you didn't notice, the link between all those aforementioned places is sound. or MUSIC. Music creates atmosphere. One might just like singing along to music, or dancing to it, but, perhaps unbeknownst to the singer or dancer, these things are being acted out in the midst of ambiance or atmosphere conjured by music; it affects not only an individual mood, but the mood of an entire locale, wherever the music is in earshot. It is the particular character of our surroundings.

Why am I talking so much about atmosphere? Because of nice morsel of music I stumbled across over the weekend. Le morceau est creé par un producteur français qui s'appelle loto retina, et le son s'appelle «première séance». Alors, l'anglophone pourrait assumer «séance» en le sens de «séance de spiritisme» – en fait, je fait exactement ça! Donc je l'ai écouté, attendant pour quelque chose fantasmagorique, mais plûtot j'entendis des sons beaux ondulant, des melodies flous répétant – l'atmosphère divine de la musique lo-fi.

Whoa, what happened there? That was weird.

But anyway, loto retina has shared his "first session" not his first "seance", which would have been decidedly more spooky than a session (of musicmaking). It's a little old, 4 months says SoundCloud, but that's neither here nor there. The sounds of 'première séance' are hypnotic, a combination of lightly undulating melodies soaked in dreamy delay, and one-note bassy rumblings beneath these fluttering sounds, all of it soaked in gorgeous soft lo-fi aesthetics.

The first section, for there is one – marked by a strange dinosaur screech or synth-made scream – is brighter, rising higher than the second goes, which for the most part follows a mesmerising loop (except for one cutesy melody standing out at the 2:19 mark) all the way till this sweet little track's end, where it is beset by monstrous scathing mechanical noises, metallic analogue vocal chords shouting, and where the sounds become slightly distorted, muffled, mangled, finishing up a relaxing and intriguing sojourn into a world of pure, innocent atmosphere.



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Tuesday, 1 September 2015

CRYSTAL – MIDI IN THE CLOUD

Last we heard from Japanese musicmakers Crystal they had just released their Get It EP on Sound Pellegrino. Comprising Ryota Miyake (aka Sparrows), Keita Onishi and Sunao Maruyama, the trio make collage-like sounds, forward-thinking sonic explorations with retro sensibilities; they've even done VGM-flavoured versions of traditional Japanese songs before – for instance, check out their version of 'Haru no Umi', an ubiquitous song played around New Year in Japan.

Crystal's latest EP Monsoon arrives courtesy of friendly Tokyo-based label, flau – perhaps since music made under Miyake's Sparrows moniker has been previously released by the label. The tracks on Monsoon, says flau, "embody that fun 2D summer feeling with distinct video games aesthetics," and really, this is for the most part an excellent description. The four-track EP contains jostling gems reflecting different facets of summer; there's the delicious horizontal tropical beach feel of 'Low-Pressure', the uptempo billowing fun-fest of 'Typhoon' (sounding a lot like the music from the Bonus Stage in Sonic 2), the manic galloping-tumbling sounds of 'Monsoon', summoning the seeming irrationality, unreasonable heaviness, of a monsoon, with an aesthetic and general feel that reminded me of the music from Dynamite Headdy.

But then there's also 'Midi In The Cloud'.

Rather than focus on different aspects of the weather and its effects, like 'Typhoon', 'Monsoon', 'Low-Pressure', this one instead whisks us up into the sky, into the clouds – true to its name; both in this sense, and in that it paints a picture with predominantly MIDI-leaning sounds. From bubbling, glitchy computer-like noises, the chirrupings of insects and animals in trees, we float higher and higher, up into a contemplative gently soaring atmosphere whilst serenaded by a metallic disembodied voice. Supported by robust foundations of slap bass and swaying-ship bass, and decorated with nuanced bloops jiggling around with portions of steel pan, expansive all-encompassing birds-eye-view string sections provide giant dynamic wings on which we softly fly around the sky. (Imagine if the boat from Super Mario 64 level Rainbow Ride got loose and floated into the big blue of a midday horizon).

The VGM influences here on Crystal's Monsoon EP, given the two games its been compared with above, are not only ever-present, they are subtle. It's not like these are exact copies – they are made with the same spirit; the same desire for the creation of different atmospheres, the use of non-serious, playful sounds, the joy of experimentation outside of regular song structure. The EP artwork, with the Chaos Emerald-esque jewel, the palm tree, the crystal rods and spheres of rain, the skewed crossing, tells a similar story — combined with the sound, this music stands not exactly between fantasy and reality, but more firmly in the former, still with eyes trained on the real world as if it were the true oddity in the twoness of our modern day existence.




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Monday, 17 August 2015

KODAK CAMEO – EVER COME BACK

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

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

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

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

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



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Thursday, 13 August 2015

AUSCULTATION – PROMISE YOU'LL HAUNT ME

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

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

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

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


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


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