Single Review: Meishi Smile - "Pastel"

Meishi Smile - Pastel
(2015 Zoom Lens)

If its lead single and cover artwork are indications of what's to come, Meishi Smile's sophomore LP, ...Belong is bound to be the Los Angeles producer's most human effort to date. Though Meishi's shoegazey synth tone is still as present as ever - frost-tipped, conversely noisy and cozy - the overall vibe of the production has changed significantly. 2012's Lust seemed to exude sterilized forms of emotion, crudely projected by the silicone facial features of advanced artificial intelligence. It always felt to me like the sort of music that might blend into the background as a muffled hum over the PA system in a futuristic Urban Outfitters. It was like the ultra-danceable, Utopian counterpart to the Blade Runner score: one can detect the ghost of humanity behind a steely veil of synths.

The most recent Meishi Smile single seems to be a sort of prequel to Lust; man and machine work as a single unit. Atop a dreamy, 80s-pop inspired arrangement, Garrett Yim's vocals are the most prominent they've ever been, albeit bombarded by a smattering of grainy filters and effects. The combination of brittle shoegazery and vocals that seem to take cues from power electronics is brilliant. Meishi's lyrics are also much more human, but surprisingly depressing, using blood, veins punctured by an IV drip and pale white flesh to paint a grief-stricken soundscape. Pastel's world of flesh and blood is fraught with heartache, but it is the parallel to Meishi's older work that is needed to fully realize his vision of intense emotion and beauty in the digital age.