Monday, 29 January 2018

๐Ÿฃ CRAPFACE — ALONE

https://soundcloud.com/markredito/better-off-alone-alice-deejay To hear this modern classic in such a new vessel is like the spirit of a pharaoh oozing inside a brand new Maserati, escaping the dust of death, transferral from one set of wrappings to another. Whilst Alice Deejay's original 'Better Off Alone' was in itself a major earworm of the late '90s, it was a Eurodance sensation of the time and was tempered with the trappings and tropes of the genre. It has been given a new lease of life in 'Alone' by Crapface, an homage to a track for which a certain segment of the online music community is eternally grateful; we're talking things like nightcore, PC Music and its peripheries.

The plaintive, haunting vocal melody of the original is played in on intricate medley of tuned percussion and synths in Crapface's version, replete with sound effects and irregular beats, wildly juxtaposing against the pogosticking dance of the original with a focus on space and texture, the clinking-clomping chimes sounding stark, monumental, lonely against a voidsome backdrop. These are then twisted and warped on a bed of booming bass before the "talk to me…" section rolls in, which is more of a direct successor to the original than the rest of the track. It is an exercise in celebrating a classic without being a straight cover, or a remix. Instead it has been painstakingly transposed, the essence of the original encased in crystal in a continuation of cultural preservation.


  • ๐Ÿ”” This was released courtesy of label, collective and brand, Palettes.


๐Ÿ“ 
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Friday, 26 January 2018

๐Ÿฃ MEISHI SMILE, LLLL & U-PISTOL — ALWAYS FEAT. CALENDULA

We heard from a pairing of Tokyo producer LLLL and Manila-based artist U-Pistol quite recently, on the happysad trance-pop-gaze of 'Falling', but now the musicmaking team extends, including Zoom Lens label boss Meishi Smile as well as sometime vocal collaborator Calendula lending their voices to a brand new song: 'Always,' — with a comma, like an unfinished sentence, the miasmic spirit of it hanging there unformed, waiting for the right words to emerge.

From the extensive introduction – a building of excitement with twinkling lights (reminiscent of the marimba arpeggio on The Who's 'Baba O'Riley') above a propellant house beat, exploding into the spaced apart synth chord hits synced with the drums this triumphal showstarting prelude quality to them – from this a spark for the rest of the track is lit.

Calendula's vocal sings quietly but swims in close-to-your-ear intimacy, vocodered layering courtesy of Meishi Smile giving the lyrics a futuristic feel, a sense of distance that fits the lyrical content of two people grasping at mirages of each other as they drift apart in their relationship, the present hammering down in the crashing snares of the beat; U-Pistol's vocals croon the story in juxtaposing upbeat pop fashion: "Slowly we've become two entities / used to be as one, which was you and me."

The track goes through a zippy synth solo, a progression that oozes positivity, heightening the feeling of this song as something "happy", the glitter and soft focus of a cherished memory, before reaching its coda; everything quietens down, the chords summon this sunset melancholy, the happiness of knowing that it happened, looking back, twinned with the all too real feeling of loss. It is romantic, sentimental, looking tentatively ahead, evocative of days gone by, the closing credits of your life.


GO TO SPOTIFY AND STREAM THE TRACK AND ALL THE REMIXES OF IT* BY CLICKING THIS HYPERLINK

  • ๐Ÿ”” The track is out today (!) on a partnering of Zoom Lens and Maltine Records. *It also comes with remixes by: Kristofferson (slow gossamer synths and bass above a house beat in a nebulous reworking); ใƒ‘ใ‚ฝใ‚ณใƒณ้Ÿณๆฅฝใ‚ฏใƒฉใƒ– (a synth heavy remix with a barrage of footwork-ish beats bumping the track along); ANAMANAGUCHI (faithful to the original, though even more a pogosticking dancefloor of noisy pop); Yoshino Yoshikawa (hefty and cute at the same time with clonking percussive elements and a tumbling beat); Sayohimebou (clattering experimental breakcore remix that fulfils our desire for speed and noise and glitch). Purchase it all as a nice bundle over here.
  • ๐Ÿ”” The artwork for 'Always' was created by FANGRRLZ, and it really evokes not only the spirit but the content of the song: with melancholy yet neon lighting it reflects the bittersweet feeling, the setting of the Japanese train with its sort of end-credits placement, the way the couple sits in different positions facing away from each other, their face sadly reflected in the windows of the train. Plus an easter egg—the Maltine logo as a sticker stuck below the seat on the right; and the girl is wearing a Zoom Lens badge. It's perfect.


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Calendula Internet Presence ☟
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๐Ÿ’ฟ ANTONIO MENDEZ — HIGHLAND DRIVE

The legacy of Lindsay Lowend's Wind Fish EP continues on almost five years after it first appeared: Maxo's bootleg of 'GT40' for a 2017 Christmas treat, for instance, shows that it's still lodged in the psyche of online music. But something had happened between then and now. Comments were disabled on LL's SoundCloud, the plays-like-repost numbers invisible, his Twitter account disappeared. The type of music moved well away from the VGM-juke of his famous Zelda-inspired EP, and onto a snappy sorta house music focused on texture, as in 2016 track 'Downtown Mannequin'. Lindsay Lowend appeared to us again Spring 2017 with a remix of 'Paused Parade' by Young Summer.

It was around this time that we learned Lindsay Lowend was pursuing endeavours in the realm of sound design under the name Tony Mendez; we'd discovered his Vimeo channel, and in particular an impressive video in which he redubbed music and sound effects from a Breath of the Wild trailer. In the description he commented:

Practicing foley. Explored all over my neighborhood and some woods nearby to get a lot of these sounds. Super fun.
The precisionist thinking required in first of all finding and documenting various sounds is itself vast, but to then chop these up into the best parts and set them to images is a process that must tune an ear to the finest details or, more likely, reflects a fastidious mind. This itself is evidenced in (now known as) Antonio Mendez's surprise new self-released album called Highland Drive, part collection of experiments with textures both recorded IRL and synthesised, part seasonal journey of music in which winter is illustrated in its superficial coldness and the feeling it evokes.

Synths, often soft (reminiscent of snow as much as wrapping up warm), describe this frosty temperature for much of the album with long stretches of lonely reverb, signalling with the expansive feeling both a more rural setting than urban and with its thin, almost harsh nature, the cold itself: being able to see your breath on a chilly day. Opening track 'Too Cold For Slugs' introduces this atmosphere, and the album's second 'Cordell' develops it with a thirty second section that evokes the bittersweet feeling of a winter sunset, whilst later the title track begins with wintry chords.

But final track 'Shovelling Snow' both in its title and sound best sums up the feel of the season. First heard in 'Cordell', that winter sunset-feeling snippet comes back as a motif and refrains for the whole track, soaked in dazzling icy reverb like a snow flurry. There's a sense of contentment tinged with melancholy, an emotive happysadness that evokes not only the title – the purposeful yet pointless act of shovelling snow – but also and more generally winter: its stark beauty, the freshness of the cold, how glorious it can be on a blue sky day, but how freezing it can be, how isolating. Stretches of decayed trance sound siphon an uneasiness, a yearning, into the seeming normality of the melody, creating this dual feeling.

This uneasiness also appears in other tracks that feature a more experimental, sometimes decayed synth sound, like the scratchy and clattering synth leads in 'Cordell'. 'Junkyard Drama' shows off an ultra-distorted intro before modulated acidic synths twang elastic atop sheafing white noise chords; zesty electronics shaded with bitcrush ping throughout 'Too Cold For Slugs', whilst rapid-fire staccato bloops ping-pong in the speedy 'Ghost Notes'. Conversely the album also harbours warmth in its some of its sounds too: the feeling of a comforting hot meal or a well insulated coat; thick chords bubble at the start of 'A Perfectly Common Accident', foam and charge ear-massaging throughout 'Highland Drive', fuzz along in 'Cordell'.

They have this moderate temperature in Earthbound-flavoured 'City Place', first evidence of glitch sensibilities on Highland Drive, sounding with its oddly warped chords and glomping subtle bubbles of bass like a homage to the SNES classic, the decay of it all like the internal workings of a computer. Similar computerisation exists in the fizzing crackling circuitry sounds at the beginning of the title track, the beat here possibly the most substantial on the album, following a robust breakbeat pattern with this beautifully phantomatic tract of uzi hi-hats midway. Beats play a large part: they're experimented with throughout the album, from the garage-flavours of the delicate percussion in 'Cordell' and pseudo-garage beat pattern of 'City Place', to the breezy house beats that bookend the album in its closer and opener.

But it's in 'Ghost Notes' that we see Antonio Mendez erupt into an exposition of breakcore, a real world sound on loop below the glitched-out twizzling and speeding up of snares in an Amen-style drum break; there's a vocal sample taken from a video by infamous drummer Bernard Purdie teaching people about advanced drumming techniques, fitting for a song with such dopamine-firing beatwork. 'A Perfectly Common Accident' is similarly breakcore in style, the bpm increasing even further around 1:40 for breakneck velocity, bitcrushed cymbal and tight snare joining a panning blanket of found sound around its midpoint, ending on a delicious fade-out of soft-fuzzy wah-wah chords.

The speed of those two makes the album's general focus on the minutiae of sound most impressive; to be so precise with the amount of percussive sounds going on very quickly is no mean feat. However since both tracks are essentially high-speed experiments, they don't overshadow the rest of the Highland Drive, nor do they seem out of place as the precedent for attention-to-detail in texture, quality, variety was set in the very first track. Antonio Mendez's efforts in sound engineering gleam brilliantly not just in the nuanced percussion and beats – each bristling percussive hit and insectoid rasp different from standard beatsets and most definitely toyed-with – but also in how the synths sound, from wobbly and elastic to twanging metallic, trance-like to thickly gurgling. It's another release from the brain that gave us Wind Fish, but this time the roots are in reality and not variations on a theme; it feels mature, subtle, an evolution in sound through the demonstrable progress in a skillset.


  • ๐Ÿ”” You can download Antonio Mendez's wonderful Highland Drive in its entirety for $5US from his Bandcamp. You can also stream it variously via your favourite service by clicking on this hyperlink.


๐Ÿ“ 
Antonio Mendez Internet Presence ☟
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Thursday, 25 January 2018

๐Ÿ“š VIRGINIA WOOLF LECTURE: CRAFTSMANSHIP (1937)

Today, 25th January, is the 136th birthday of Virginia Woolf. It's not something that we celebrate, nor know off by heart, but something that the Google Doodle told us about. We're big fans of Woolf though; So it was with the same sort of feeling of unbridled discovery and excitement that we unearthed, or simply stumbled upon, a rare recording of the author herself speaking. In fact, we learned that it is the only recording of Virginia Woolf.

It was recorded on 29th April, 1937 on BBC Radio, as part of a series called Words Fail Me. Woolf's lecture for this series was called "Craftsmanship", but unfortunately the recording encompasses just under 8 minutes of the whole thing, which is no doubt much longer. But the content of this fragment is intriguing and inspirational without hearing what was said before or how it was concluded. She explores words: where and how they live, how and why we use them; the way we talk to each other, especially with today's climate of endless yet compact online rhetoric, owes much if not almost everything to words and how they are perceived by everybody.

We have uploaded the fragment to SoundCloud. You can listen to that below. Alternatively, or simultaneously, you can enjoy the transcript we painstakingly completed of Virginia Woolf talking, which is located below the SoundCloud embed and includes a couple of annotations for your reading pleasure.



Words, English words, are full of echoes, memories, of associations. They've been out and about, on people's lips, in their houses, in the streets, in the fields, for so many centuries. And that is one of the chief difficulties in writing today. They're stored with other meanings, with other memories. And they have contracted so many famous marriages in the past. The splendid word "incarnadine", for example. Who can use that without remembering multitudinous seas? ¹

In the old days, of course, when English was a new language, writers could invent new words and use them. Nowadays it's easy enough to invent new words; they spring to the lips whenever we see a new sight or feel a new sensation. But we cannot use them because the English language is old. You cannot use a brand new word in an old language because of the very obvious yet always mysterious fact that a word is not a single and separate entity: it is part of other words.

Indeed it is not a word until it is part of a sentence. Words belong to each other. Although of course only a great poet knows that the word "incarnadine" belongs to "multitudinous seas". To combine new words with old words is fatal to the constitution of the sentence. In order to use new words properly you would have to invent a whole new language and that, though no doubt we shall come to it, is not at the moment our business. Our business is to see what we can do with the old English language as it is. How can we combine the old words in new orders, so they survive, and so that they create beauty, so that they tell the truth? That is the question. And the person who could answer that question would deserve whatever crown of glory the world has to offer.

Think what it would mean if you could teach, or if you could learn the art of writing. Why, every book, every newspaper you pick up, would tell the truth, or it would create beauty. But there is, it would appear, some obstacle in the way, some hindrance to the teaching of words. For, though at this moment, at least a hundred professors are lecturing on the literature of the past, at least a thousand critics are reviewing literature of the present, and hundreds upon hundreds of young men and women are passing examinations in English Literature with the utmost credit.

Still: do we write better, do we read better, than we read and wrote four hundred years ago when we were unlectured, uncriticised, untaught? Is our modern Georgian literature a patch on the Elizabethan? Well, where are we to lay the blame? Not on our professors, not on our reviewers, not on our writers, but on words. It is words that are to blame. They're the wildest, freest, most irresponsible, most unteachable of all things. Of course, you can catch them and sort them and place in them in alphabetical order in dictionaries. But words do not live in dictionaries, they live in the mind!

If you want proof of this, consider how often in moments of emotion, when we most need words, we find them. Yet there is a dictionary, there at our disposal are some half million words, all in alphabetical order. But can we use them? No. Because words do not live in dictionaries, they live in the mind.

Look once more at the dictionary. There beyond a doubt lie plays more splendid than Antony and Cleopatra, poems lovelier than the "Ode to a Nightingale", novels beside which Pride and Prejudice or David Copperfield are the crude bungling of amateurs. It's only a question of finding the right words and putting them in the right order. We can't do it, because they do not live in dictionaries, they live in the mind.

And how do they live in the mind? Variously and strangely, much as human beings live, ranging hither and thither, falling in love, meeting together. It is true they are much less bound by ceremony and convention than we are. Royal words meet with commoners, English words marry French words, German words, Indian words, Negro words, if they have a fancy. Indeed the less we inquire inquire into the past of our dear mother English, the better it will be for that lady's reputation for she has a-roving, a-roving, fair maid. ²

Thus to lay down any laws for such irreclaimable vagabonds is worse than useless. A few trifling rules of grammar and spelling is all the constraint we can put on them. All we can say about them, as we peer at them over the edge of their deep, dark and only fitfully illuminated cavern in which they live – the mind – all we can say about them is that they seem to like people to think before they use them, and to feel before they use them. But to think and to feel not about them, about something different. They're highly sensitive, easily made self-conscious. They do not like to have their purity or their impurity discussed. If you start a society for pure English, they will show their resentment by starting another for impure English, hence the unnatural violence of much modern speech as a protest against the puritans.

They're highly democratic too. They believe that one word is as good as another. Uneducated words as good as educated words. Uncultivated words as cultivated words. There are no ranks or titles in their society. Nor do they like being lifted on the point of a pen and examined separately. They hang together in sentences, paragraphs, sometimes for whole pages at a time. And they hate being useful. They hate making money. They hate being lectured about in public. In short they hate anything that stamps them with one meaning or confines them to one attitude. For it is their nature to change. Perhaps that is their most striking peculiarity: their need of change.

It is because the truth they try to catch is many sided and they convey it by being many sided, flashing first this way, then that. Thus they mean one thing to one person, another thing to another person. They're unintelligible to one generation, plain as a pikestaff to the next. And it is because of this complexity, this power to mean different things to people, that they survive.

Perhaps the one reason why we have no great poet, novelist or critic writing today is that we refuse to allow words their liberty. We pin them down to one meaning, their useful meaning, the meaning which makes us catch the train, the meaning which makes us pass the examination.

*
  • ¹ Woolf relating "incarnadine" to "multitudinous seas" is a reference to Shakespeare's Macbeth, specifically this part of Act 2, Scene 2:
    [Knocking within]

    Macbeth:
    Whence is that knocking?
    How is't with me, when every noise appalls me?
    What hands are here? Hah! They pluck out mine eyes.
    Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood
    Clean from my hand? No; this my hand will rather
    The multitudinous seas incarnadine,
    Making the green one red.


    ² This is a reference to a traditional sea shanty "The Maid of Amsterdam" (~1600), which in part goes:
    She placed her hand upon my knee,
    Mark well what I do say!
    She placed her hand upon my knee,
    I said "Young miss, you're rather free."
    I'll go no more a roving with you fair maid!
    It is also said to have inspired Byron's poem "So, we'll go no more a roving".

• Photo at top by George Charles Beresford, 1902 • Photo above by Gisรจle Freund, 1939



๐ŸŒ PHOTO DIARY — SOUTHEND-ON-SEA

It's January and in the UK that means it's dark, cold and wet. At this time of year it can be en effort to try and peel yourself from the sofa and make yourself do something actually constructive. On Sunday, after having a week that felt like we had done nothing more than work, sleep and then work some more we decided that instead of slouching around the house all day we would get up and get out and go explore somewhere in our own country we had never seen before.

Southend is one of those far off places we've always hear about mentioned by market sellers in EastEnders but it seems as though nobody has actually been. When we mentioned we were heading there for the day to people we know, the response was often, 'oh I haven't been there in years' or 'oh your Grandad used to go there!'

We arrived mid-afternoon after an emotional hungover drive which was fulled by coffee and a multi-pack of croissants and a few tense moments of trying to get into the right lane for the Dartmouth tunnel, but we were so glad we had made the effort. The sun was shining making the the sea and the sky perpetually reflect each other in shades of blue. We paid £1 to walk along the longest pleasure pier in the world (what a claim!) all 1⅓ mile of it. We did the British thing: drank tea and ate cake at the cafe on the end of the pier while we watched the sun sink into the horizon and turn the water a lighter spectrum of metallic colours.

On the way home we took a detour and explored a bit of Canvey Island, one of the many islands in the Thames estuary. This one has been in the spotlight recently after a BBC documentary followed the community of Charedim (ultra-Orthodox Jewish) that have moved from Stamford Hill, London, to the island. It felt like a strange place with a classically broken down and rusty feel to its seafront, perfect for taking pictures.


REBECCA ALICE SAUNDERS
@yesnotravel

๐Ÿฃ OSO LEONE — VIRTUAL U

Both sexual and sexless at the same time, 'Virtual U' by Spanish band Oso Leone pushes robust breathy basslines and cold drum machine beats – the continuous white noise of an icy analogue cymbal giving it a sense of pace as it slowly unfolds – alongside slinky licks of liquid guitar, chords clanging and chorused, warm timeless synths. Naked groove crawls beneath reverse guitars before it falls away and luscious synth chords play ahead of the song's languorous coda sprinkled with a palm-muted guitar riff that drips with retro tropicalia, the vocals – aching throughout, telling secrets the whole time – soothe themselves in a falsetto mantra till the end.

This whole track is a slow and blissful freefall into a kind of contented nocturnal oblivion, a passage of music constantly in flux, each new change in course or sound presenting yet another face of beautifully soft experimental R&B pop. This realm of organic and synthetic merging, each sound caressing the other like dyed oil and water nebulously embracing in a psychedelic light show. And in relation to the track's title, it is touching from afar, this hazy atmosphere of longing yet remaining inactive, waiting and procrastinating, the song's changing nature a reflection of conflict and deep human desire lost online oozing through fibre-optic cables.


  • ๐Ÿ”” Oso Leone's 'Virtual U' arrives as a single on 16th February via Barcelona label Foehn Records and El Segell del Primavera (the record label associated with Primavera, the festival). It will be available digitally and as a limited edition 7".


๐Ÿ“ 
Oso Leone Internet Presence ☟
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Wednesday, 24 January 2018

๐Ÿฃ LINDSAY LOWEND — GT40 (MAXO BOOTLEG)

Wow. Jumping off the back of the moving vehicle that is his October-released Skyriser EP, Maxo flies through the air somersaulting as he does and forward rolls landing very safely, spots something glinting in the sky and sprints to catch it as it falls – ping! It glows as it's caught, this object. Oh it's a USB! Maxo turns gold all over and spins off into the clouds. Centuries later he returns with it shining ever brighter: a bootleg remix of the classic 'GT40', opening track on Lindsay Lowend's pretty legendary Wind Fish EP, an ancient tome in the realm of internet music.

Though it runs along the same lines as the original, Maxo's version has of course had some magic infused; it's 20 seconds shorter and 500 times as fast. The breakcore values now imbued in this track give it a constant gleaming uzi-fire of hi-hats, the original lounge chords now rapid-fire and jolting, smeared like paint, rewound, scuttled and rebuilt; an intense keepsake of glitch. The bridge in the middle, usually a moody tract of VGM-juke, now has its sample mysteriously slowed-down as the beat continues its neon gallop to the finish. And Maxo on the back of a smaller flying whale uses the USB and opens a portal to the next area.


  • ๐Ÿ”” Maxo's amazing track arrived at that tricky time of year to be noticed for anything other than a Christmas song: Christmas. So it may have been slept on by many. Including us. But don't worry because, well, just don't–it's bad for your health.


๐Ÿ“ 
Maxo Internet Presence ☟
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Antonio Mendez (fka Lindsay Lowend) Internet Presence ☟
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๐Ÿฃ COMPUTER DATA — STRESS

The very sparing nature of this track is partly what makes it, the purposeful holding back on how many elements should be used and where, and secondly it is the sense of decay that eats around the edges of its sounds, providing you with a glimpse into what it might sound like transporting a feeling or a general mood from the afterlife into the waking world via digital means, or vice versa. The atmosphere in 'stress' is cold, computerised, voidsome even, yet shot through at all times with a continual warmth.

COMPUTER DATA follows in the vein of broken house purveyed by producers like DJ Seinfeld, except with a notable veil of chill at work: the synths are constant and wavy, deep hypnotic streams of robust texture that call to mind something in the realm of vaporwave. Streamers of fluid fuzzy melody ring out gleaming against that warm plasma modulation, ghostly samples waft in and out, the beat in its drum machine glory crackling with rapid-fire handclap fills and the synths swell with bass, absorbing you into its swell of cool vacancy.




๐Ÿ“ 
COMPUTER DATA Internet Presence ☟
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Tuesday, 23 January 2018

๐ŸŒ VISITS — ONSEN

"So... onsen?" Michiko said. An awkward shifty silence filled the room as we looked at each other and giggled. We replied that we really wanted to go to an onsen but it was scary for English people to get naked with other people. We had moved on from Honshu, taking the ferry across the icy channel to the frozen winter island of Hokkaido and into Siberian temperatures where snow coated everything and Russia was just on the doorstep.

"You want to go to the onsen? We can go now?" our host Michiko was gentle and smart and she knew that she had to push us to go. We scuffled around upstairs getting towels and clothes together in a panic. What would we need?

On the way to the onsen the car crunched along corridors of thick snow that had been falling for weeks before our arrival on the island. The town felt like a homely place despite the bleak winter. The onsen appeared in our sights, wooden and glowing with warmth.

Stuck to the doors at the entrance, stern posters advertising jobs in the Japanese Self Defence Force welcomed us and made it clear that this wasn’t an onsen used by tourists. Michiko told us to take our shoes off and put them in a special shoe locker and then showed us how to pay using a vending machine. There were buttons for all different types of treatments. We put coins in, pressed a button and our change and ticket came clinking out. We then had to hand the ticket to a man perched a foot away, behind a wooden panelled counter.

A big round clock sat above the entrance between two doors: men through one, women through the next. A time was confirmed for meeting up and we split off into two groups. This was it. Time to get naked. We were scared.

Walking into the onsen changing room was like walking into a swimming pool changing room, there were lockers and hairdryers and mirrors, mothers brushing their daughters' hair, old ladies, young ladies, fat, thin, wrinkly, pubescent. All types of females were there getting changed and so we got changed too. Feeling rather pink and out of place, tall and stupidly western I walked through the curtains and into the main onsen with a towel wrapped around me to hide my modesty.

Michiko told me to sit on one of the small stools and wash. There were ladies sat in rows, crouched on these small plastic stools looking into mirrors. In front of me were taps and a shower head and a plastic bowl to use for washing. I was blindingly out of place, crouched on my stool with my little towel attempting to cover the good bits. I looked for cues from Michiko out of the corner of my eye, she washed her hair and her body, I copied her. I was mindful of the ladies around me, watching in the reflection of the mirror women shaving their legs, cleaning their ears with cotton buds and brushing their teeth. This was all a ritual of cleaning; spending time making sure your body was clean and looked after and reminded me of the process of washing hands and mouth before visiting a shrine. After the cleaning it was time for the onsen itself.

My towel was off and I walked naked and very self-consciously across from the new safety of my small stool and swiftly slipped into the first pool. Nobody was staring at the Western girl in their onsen; everyone was simply enjoying their own time. Two older ladies sat at one end speaking slowly with towels wrapped up on their hair. Another lady had her child and a small baby floating around with her. The baby wailed as it was dipped in and out of the bath water.

We moved on to the next pool, this one was outside in the snow. I hot-footed it, naked and brave, into the icy cold Hokkaido night and sunk deep into the hot dark waters of the pool. This hot spring was much warmer. Heat and energy rushed through me from the exhilaration of the temperature change and the cold air on my cheeks.

I laid my head back and looked into the ink of the night, steam plumed out of the water and up high into the cold of the icy air. I could see a river of steam rising from over the fence on the men's side of the onsen. Snow started falling and twirling from the blackness and landing on my face but I wasn’t cold. The waters filled my skin as, feeling much more relaxed, I floated and chatted with Michiko. We spoke for a long time. Other ladies did the same, in family groups or friends. People relaxed alone and children played. It was a social scene with health benefits.

Michiko invited me to try the hottest pool. A group of three teenage girls were hogging it in a gossip session but we got in anyway. It was really hot. So hot that we could only stand it for five minutes, and then back into the other pool. We sipped water that streamed from a bamboo pipe. I looked around at the different women and felt at ease, at home almost. When everyone is naked, I supposed, everyone is the same.

Our time was up so we got out, showered off in clean cool water and went back to the changing room to get dressed. As liberating as it was to bathe naked with other people I was happy to be getting dressed again.

We congregated in the main communal area, where people sat around chatting in armchairs or reclining on tatami smoking lazily and watching dramatisations of manga on television. We were buzzing with excitement. The onsen was invigorating, enjoyable and relaxing. Taking time to just be and to float in the hot spring water and to appreciate the company of the person you are with.

Michiko drove us back to sit in the dimmed lights of her closed cafe. The blackness of the winter's night seeped heavily through the large cafe windows. We were all really, really thirsty, Michko must have known this was a side effect of the onsen as poured us a glass of cool beer each. We glugged at it insatiably. We felt incredible, full of energy and a peaceful relaxation. I was so happy to have been brave enough to go and so thankful to Michiko for pushing us to try the onsen. We were so happy in fact that we asked if she could take us again the next night and we went again. This was the start of our onsen addiction in Japan.


REBECCA ALICE SAUNDERS
@yesnotravel

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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