Monday, 22 January 2018

๐Ÿ—ž️ 5 YEARS OF LOBSTER THEREMIN EUROPEAN TOUR

London label Lobster Theremin is celebrating five years of existence by embarking on an extensive European tour. Beginning yesterday in at Bristol venue Marble Factory, the tour will see label head Jimmy Asquith and co. travel from the UK to Germany, the Netherlands, Hungary, then Germany again before finishing up in France.

Travelling with Asquith for most dates is nthng and Route 8; Budapest club PAL resident Bobbie* will be at the most important shows. Otherwise the tour is a line-up in constant flux for every date. One of our Lobster Theremin favourites, for instance, Spanish maestro of decayed house DJ Seinfeld will be found at Berlin's Griessmuehle in mid-March.


☖ CHECK OUT OUR ANALYSIS OF DJ SEINFELD'S
INCREDIBLE TRACK 'TIME SPENT AWAY FROM U' ☖

Around the time of the label's actual 5th birthday a bunch of special releases commemorating the half-decade milestone will be announced in early spring. For now let's enjoy the sparkling preview of upcoming release Diamond Dust by London newcomer SONIKKU, part of the label's offshoot ambient and experimental Lobster Sleep Sequence series.


5 YEARS OF LOBSTER THEREMIN EUROPEAN TOUR DATES
20. 01 Marble Factory, Bristol
02. 02 Corsica Studios, London
09. 02 Blitz, Munich
10. 02 Smolna, Warsaw
16. 02 PAL, Hamburg
17. 02 Robert Johnson, Offenbach
02. 03 Shelter, Amsterdam
03. 03 LARM, Budapest
16. 03 Gewรถlbe, Cologne
17. 03 Griessmuehle, Berlin
24. 03 Concrete, Paris
25. 03 Le Sucre, Lyon


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Friday, 19 January 2018

๐Ÿฃ ROBOKID — WORTH IT

Right from its heavenly shining intro, with the gently clomping percussive synth and gradually gleaming chords, 'Worth It' feels like a perfect pop song: the syncopated synth bass that bloops and bops along in this pastel plaintive progression totally bumps the track along, the falling away of that lighter atmosphere into this hook – "I hope you know / how far this goes / it was worth it though / I'm never going home" – in which Robokid evokes emotion and intrigue, the very thought of never being able to go home, to anywhere, being a world-shattering prospect. It's a veritable story told with very few words; it's what's not said that makes it so effective.

"For this track I was trying to keep the lyrics less literal and be a little more cryptic," he explains to us via email. "I want people to make their own conclusions for sure, but it's a lot about everyone in my life however also talking to myself."

And that literal-cryptic mix comes to life in lines like: "I know you've had a bad year / and you keep saying you just wanna die / I think we have the same fears / cause you don't ever go outside." Whilst very literal, the captivating element of these words is their lack of divulgence: they don't tell you everything, just enough to touch your heart, not your mind. The rest of the track is characterised by a lack of lyrics, and an intensification of synth, spreading gossamer trance veils above garbled pitch-shifted vocals as it leads to its end; the whole thing a powerful parcel of music, like a deep and emotional DM sent to somebody but manifested in music form and seeded with upbeat pop accessibility.




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๐Ÿฃ SUSPECT — SAY IT WITH YOUR CHEST

Sometimes it is what's left unsaid that is most powerful, and in the case of instrumentals it's what's left unused and untouched: space. A sense of space can give a sense of majesty and grandeur as well as chilling tension and literal expansiveness. And so it is in 'Say It With Your Chest', the latest from London rapper Suspect—synths glassy and glacial, halfway between a slowed-down music box and a warped gamelan, chime out a haunting melody that adds a calculated coldness to the track.

Between these chimes is space, and lots of it, plenty for Suspect's murderous bars, who breathlessly and growling explains the advantages of not talking behind someone's (i.e. his) back – "bet you can't @ me when you're dead" – and challenging you to "say it with your chest," this hook screaming out guttural with reverb and ad-libs yelping in the void of the track. A huge trap-flavoured beat thumps and rattles, the minimalism and delicacy of the instrumental making the venom and aggression of the words all the more effectively brutal: "all I smell is death in the air / it gets dark in the depths."


  • ๐Ÿ”” This track is out now on RINSE and you can stream it variously here.
  • ๐Ÿ”” The video for 'Say It With Your Chest' was directed by Bafic and Hector Dockrill, who explain the ideas behind the vivid visuals, dark yet colourful: "Suspect wanted to shoot a hood video with colour, so we experimented with lights around Wooly [Walworth Road] — we wanted to capture everything in its correct environment, but within a heightened reality."


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Thursday, 18 January 2018

๐ŸŒ VISITS — SENDAI PHOTO DIARY

Sendai is the largest city in Japan's northeastern Tohoku region, and the country's second largest north of Tokyo. It was founded by famous local lord Date Masamune in 1600, and owes not only many of its sights and history to him and the Date clan, but also the city's comprehensive grid layout is based on his plans. It's famous for grilled beef tongue, the Tanabata festival, its zelkova tree-lined streets, producing a lot of rice, autumn potato stew picnics, Sendai Castle, and being close to Matsushima, one of the Three Views Of Japan, amongst other things. The coastal areas of Sendai, including its airport and many ports, were all but destroyed by the 2011 tsunami; it is here that the wave came furthest inland—up to 10km in some places.

We stumbled through the city in the snow, a whirlwind visit that took us from the station to the castle – where we witnessed a cosplaying Date Masamune help build a snowman with some children – and back again. As a showcase of the country, rather than a travel guide, we want to show you with words and pictures rather than tell you what to do, and here is a day spent on the wide boulevards of Sendai, witnessing not just one of its most popular sights but something more worthwhile: the daily life of the city.

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Wednesday, 17 January 2018

๐Ÿฃ HIDDEN SPHERES — LIANAS

The delicacy of this tropical track is beautiful, charting its namesake – liana, a species of woody vine that climbs to the top of a forest canopy for sunlight – as it twists slowly onwards towards life, glassy synths illustrating the robust nature of these vines with their percussive feel and full-bodied warmth, as well as the clack-clopping of subtle snare-woodblock. Manchester musicmaker Hidden Spheres inches his track towards brightness, gradually adding elements that conjure dappled sunlight, like vital breathy hi-hats, and a simple two-note horn refrain that blasts out low-key triumphantly.

The natural element to this chilled and breezy lounge-flavoured track is more than in the name, however. It begins and continues throughout with a backdrop of the rainforest itself, ambient sounds of insectoid white noise and mammalian hoots and indistinct birdcalls, taken from 1970s documentary Wonders Of The Rainforest. And so with the veil of nature draped firmly over the bumping kicks and skiffling percussion, which includes the tactile rolling of bongos, 'Lianas' is with those gorgeous chords and the aching rise and fall of more fizzing synths, lush and living, playful and paradisiacal: music for the splendour of the natural world.




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๐Ÿฃ MATT SOKOL — THE ART FACTORY [ๅˆๆผ” • PREMIERE]

There is a great deal of urgency in Matt Sokol's 'the art factory', a track brimming kinetic energy courtesy of collusion between breakneck drums and earthy handfuls of synth arranged in robust arpeggios. Melodies cry out in its first half like little robots communicating brightly with chirruping bleeps-n-bloops, evoking the scene assumed by its enigmatic title: an art factory, where art is made; the sound is industrious, cheerful, with dips of intrigue and doom effusing from a couple of key changes within the first minute. Who are these robots on the production line? For whom is this art being made? We wonder.

Talking to us about the track, Matt Sokol – a drummer himself as well as producer – explains the hyperactive beats: "My love for drums and youthful obsession with math rock drumming means I can't help it," he writes in an email to us, "so many of my beats are crazy fast, flying all over the place."

'the art factory' goes through not only key changes, but whole stylistic shifts. At 1:14 the arpeggio falls away leaving a naked footwork beat thumping beneath a new set of spooky, gleaming synths, chiptune-esque (the VGM sound is "ultimately a coincidence" however), signalling a darker twist behind this art factory, a growling crunch of distortion raging till its crescendo at 1:46 summons an overwhelming sinister tone; look at the artwork—is that blood trailing from what we assume is the factory? The track ends with calm and steady beat, gentle guitar riff, with chilled sweeps of the strings—things are back to normal. It is a multifaceted offering. These are more than superficial changes, however, and are reflective of a thought process.

"I think my mind moves faster than average, both in good and bad ways," Sokol tells us. "I can think fast but also sometimes I can think too fast and go down crazy intellectual pathways in my mind that are not useful."

"With music it seems like that aspect of my personality comes out in overdrive."




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Tuesday, 16 January 2018

๐ŸŒ VISITS — MATSUSHIMA

It was January and the Japanese town of Shichigahma was barren, the rice fields turned to a thick mud and the roads steely and slippery with ice. Overnight, as we peered out from the warmth of our floral futon bed, the sky has turned into a whirling white blizzard.

We had followed Basho’s path to the north of Japan and found ourselves in a snow covered paradise. The next morning, in layers of thermals, gloves, and hats, we set off to seek out the famous islands of Matsushima. Passing the next door neighbour as we left we called "good morning." He was busy clearing his driveway of snow and told us to be careful; the houses in the town are built on high concrete structures with slopes down to the road which work as a defence against tsunamis. The slopes were slippery and wet with snow and ice. The neighbour asked us where we were going. "Walking." we replied.

We walked along the empty road, passing some builders who looked at us in blank disbelief and stuttered a shocked hello as we said hello to them. We hiked up to the local Shinto shrine, Tamonzan, with views that overlooked the sea. The view from Tamonzan shrine is the Grand View, number four of the four panoramic views of Matsushima. The famous islands are one of Japan’s top three scenic spots.

From where we stood the islands scattered below spread out beneath us, the pines that grew from them stretched and bent into horizon, etched on the landscape like a Hokusai piece. We sat in the cold on a bench and took in the seascape. The beauty of the famous coastline revealed itself as we watched industrial boats tick on their way to different islands on different bussiness. This is Japan, a view that could not be replicated anywhere in the world, every detail so Japanese in its origin. Even down to the threat of Tsunami, everything of this place is stitched with the centuries of people who have come here to view these islands and who have sighed at the beauty of the pines. Basho, the famous Japanese haiku poet said everything that needs to be said in his travel journal, Narrow Road to the Deep North.

Matsushima ah!
A-ah, Matsushima, ah!
Matsushima, ah!

The following day we caught the train from Shichgahama, ten minutes away, to Matsushima itself to seek out some more of those famous views and explore some of the islands on foot. At the station we left the small crowd of domestic tourists and followed three girls over the road to a stairway carved into some rock.

The steps we coated in ice and the girls we had followed were slipping and sliding their way up them. We followed them in the same manner, unaware of where we were going or where the stone staircase would lead us.

The stairs led to are red wooden bridge which connected to one of the island. The delicate beauty of the perfect islands and their beaches covered in snow was almost unbelievable. Like a scene from a Japanese postcard of times long before. We ran around the small paths made by footsteps epochs before ours, exploring the island with excitement.

It turns out that The Legend of Zelda is actual real life. Well, that’s the funny thing about being in Japan: after playing Japanese games for so many years, everything in the games starts to makes sense and come to life. The paths and the forests, the small statues and the secret holes. It was like entering into an actual Zelda game.

This particular island had home to many different hermits over the years, each now represented by small statues. We clamber through the holes and caves that the hermits had inhabited. We hid and laughed at how we even found ourselves here on snowy islands in a world of such delicate details - we were from grey old England, this isn't where we were meant to be. We stood and listened to the steady drip of the snow melting from the thatched roof of the Shinto shrine and falling to the smell of the carpet of wet pine needles. This was paradise, not the desert-islands-tropical-sunshine paradise but a paradise so perfect and ancient it felt like being back in the past before everything that exists now.

We moved onward, this time further up the shoreline to Fukuura Islands, a more famous and therefore much more touristy island. To get onto Fukuurajima (็ฆๆตฆๅณถ) we had to pay a small amount to cross the long red bridge connecting it to the mainland. There were tourists milling around from other towns that had braved the cold to see the famous view of Matsushima. Once across the bridge we took the long path around the coast, weaving past a cafe where we bought a little daruma doll with a fortune rolled up inside of it and looped around up wooded paths to a view across the sea of some of the 260 islands of Matsushima.

We sat on a bench and, in a very British way, ate the sandwiches we had made for ourselves in the morning. Basho was with us as we sat and looked at the pines in the breeze. We read sections on Narrow Road to the Deep North and looked out at the different hunks of rocks glowing white in the dazzling January sun, the land rising and curving out of the blue like it always had done, like it was when Basho had sat here on his journey and questioned how something so beautiful could exist.

Basho’s land is still here. The perfect scattering of pine-clad islands, the textured blue seas, the sandy beaches, the waving pines and the winding paths are still here. Tourists are here too, but not lots of them and, if you come in the cold of the snow, you can find yourself a spot to be alone. Sit and look across the famous vista of the pine islands, they have survived storms and tsunamis, look across the bay and see Japan as it was centuries ago, see the islands as they were and go on your own discovery of the deep untrod road to the north of Japan.


REBECCA ALICE SAUNDERS
@yesnotravel