12/30/2016

Interview: Chris Gelpi // Nemuri Winter Label Founder


Compelled by the otherworldly chilliness of Nemuri Winter's debut label compilation, I hit collective founder Chris Gelpi up with a few questions concerning the record and his past artistic ventures. Read my thoughts on Nemuri Winter Vol. 1 here and peep the interview below:

Could you provide us with some quick background info on Nemuri Winter? What compelled you to bring the collective together, and how did you go about doing so?

I think it was a month or so after I joined the Tsundere Fan Club collective. I started thinking a lot about running a sister group on the side whenever i got a little bit more of a following.  I jumped on the idea sooner when i did a physical release for See You in May 2016.

As far as the name goes, it's pulled from a wood carving by Hidari Jingorō called Nemuri-neko ("sleeping cat"), that looked a lot like my own cat.  I knew the sound I was looking for early on so I decided on Nemuri Winter as it sounded pretty spot on to that.

The group actually started in a Skype chat with Yen, just kind of kicking around the idea. Yen and I had some thoughts on who we wanted.  Enter Baku and ¿。. We added VALKYRIE, Acounta, and Ocha after that, but none of us were very active for the first few months.

I guess it was September that I noticed that the Soundcloud page was getting a bit of attention and was motivated again to make shit happen, so the rest of the members joined up pretty quickly and Vol. 1 started.

How would you describe the vibe of the Vol. 1 compilation? Who did the artwork? It's a very visually compelling release.

Thanks! When we started working on it I was expecting the compilation to be pretty moody or close to ambient honestly. We were all tossing around ideas on what we wanted to make for our tracks and a lot of us ended up going in different directions.  I didn't want to put restrictions on anyone because I knew that the people I let in already fit the sound I wanted without trying.  What i got from that was a pleasantly surprising mix of genres and energies that still captured the mood I had in mind without getting stale.  All that to say, I wanted sleepy winter vibes.  I wanted the thought of curling up with a book or a hot bath on a cold day.  I got all of that, without really saying it out loud to them.

That said, when i hit up Sarlis (sarlisart.tumblr.com) for the comp art, I actually straight up told her about the winter girl reading a book in her room without hearing any comp tracks first.  I gave her a loose mental picture and she delivered it perfectly.  We spent months looking for an artist we could vibe with and Sarlis nailed it all within a day. I wanted everyone to work freely and deliver their ideas of the collective aesthetic, so getting it all back in a way that came together perfectly is satisfying.

I respect that you all have input into the overall vibe of the music the collective put out! Do you have a group chat for the label that you use to communicate?

Yeah! we were using Twitter for a while but it was difficult to make important announcements for everyone to see since we all have different schedules.  We're on Discord now though and that makes it a lot easier to organize topics.  I wasn't sure what to expect from a group chat mostly, but the amount of enthusiasm from the others about the progress of the group is amazing.  we shoot the shit a lot but we're also crazy efficient because everyone is really excited to work on this

Your personal project, Daki, has had a pretty eventful year of its own. How often do you work on making beats? What tools and sounds do you use to do so?

This year has been crazy for me for sure. I've been on multiple hiatuses for spending so much time on this and being unable to pace myself. I started Dakihttps://soundcloud.com/dxki/tracks back in February as my first project making beats and in a recent total I think I counted 60 tracks this year. There was a while where I think I was posting material almost every other week. The original 5 tracks of Astral Drain were made over 2 or 3 days.  When things are clicking, I tend to stretch myself way too thin to get something out of it because I spend all of my down time feeling bummed about being in a creative rut. I think another huge contributor is that I don't feel that I know what I really want to work on. I get influenced by so many artists that I hear and I end up spending a lot of time trying to learn about composition in different genres. That's a lot of time spent analyzing and not really creating, so it doesn't help my moods. I'm hoping to find myself in 2017.. that feels corny as fuck to say.

 I actually have both FL11 and 12, 12 mostly for when people send me collabs (i'm the worst person to collab with btw). I'm so used to doing things in 11 and it does everything I need so I haven't wanted to go through with learning the 12 interface yet. I don't have many vsts that aren't stock other than a tape stop and a wow n flutter plugin for warped cassette FX.  In the few cases where I composed, I used Massive, Sylenth, Nexus and FL Keys (rhodes for a little lo-fi thing).  Other than that I collect kits.  I narrowed down my current collection to about 37 of my most used kits, so i'll be digging for more soon. I try to have as many options as possible and I'm going to be recording a lot of my own sounds for a future release.

Do you want to slow things down for 2017, or do you have even more material planned for the upcoming year?

My current goal is to do my best to make quality work: 1. I want to be more discrete about my plans and flesh concepts out more. A huge trend for me in 2016 was just saying "fuck it" and posting stuff, jumping accounts, deleting things. Just being indecisive in general. I also want to make sure I'm not shutting out my personal life. I'm getting closer to my late 20s and I have a fairly established life outside of the internet so I think it's important for me to keep in mind that this is an outlet, this is for fun, and getting caught up in the internet side of things, the numbers and all that, can take the fun out of it for me.

But I'll definitely still be working hard behind the scenes. I do have ideas for stuff I really want to work on as well as plans for Nemuri Winter and the other groups I'm in. It'll be busy for sure.

Could you give readers a history of your musical output? I first came into contact with your music thru the now-defunct Haunt Yrself Tapes. What have you worked on since then?

I used to front metal bands from 2007-2010. After that I spent a little time on some bedroom pop projects with GarageBand, Reason 4, and a little casio keyboard, tried playing guitar for a bit, and tried to start some small projects with friends that never really worked out.

Haunt Yrself was my first cassette label started in 2013. After that I worked on Ritual Tapes, doing close to 20 releases in 2014 and hosting a showcase in Los Angeles. From 2014 to December of 2016 I recorded and performed shows as a harsh noise/power electronics act.

I remember being pretty into the whole witchhouse sound back in 2011, and I got really into Balam Acab and Holy Other, etc in 2012. I guess that's kind of where my interest in production started. In the years following I got pretty into internet trap beats, though at the time I didn't know where to start or anything about the SoundCloud scene. I used to find stuff on Bandcamp and in 2014 I got pretty inspired by CHRSBRRY and FRCLN (who I'm in Tsundere Fan Club with now, oddly enough).

Finally in 2015 I started trying to learn beatmaking. I was watching a bunch of anime and stumbling on artists that sampled OSTs and it really drew me in to the whole SoundCloud scene.

Your output has spanned nearly every era of internet-DIY music since you started putting out material. How have your influences and listening habits changed over the years? How have they stayed the same, if at all?

I think overall my influences have stayed the same. qI find new influences all the time in whatever genre I'm learning about but I don't think I've ever fully dropped things that have really impacted me.  My listening habits are kind of obsessive in that I usually latch on to a style and listen to only that for weeks/months and then move on.  However, especially lately, my long-time love for the work of Phil Elverum has been leaking into my production.

I've always been into lots of variety though. Bedroom pop like stuff from Orchid Tapes, DSBM, J-idol music, noise-power violence fusion shit like Water Torture and Kuroi Jukai, new wave, xiu xiu whatever you feel like labeling them, dynmk-type stuff, vaportrap, lo-fi hiphop. I dunno, a lot of things have stuck with me over the years and even though it may not all come out in my music, it's played a HUGE role in how I listen to people I find online and the type of musicians I surround myself with, I think.

Do you plan on putting out any physical releases of your music? I know you've had experience putting out tapes in the past.

I think if I do, I won't be the one releasing it. I was pumped about releasing See You on tape, but I realized how terrible I am with mailorder now. The next EP I do will have a physical release through my friend Zack's tape label Shinonome Labs, and we're kind of discussing the idea of putting Winter vol 1 on tape to see what kind of response we get.

I used to love making crazy cassette packages, but now it's hard for me to make everything by hand and manage stock like I used to, while also working on music and working in general.

I really love the stuff that Shinonome has been putting out recently!

Yeah! Zack's been active in a handful of bands, Junpei Iori being his current main, I think, so he's got a ton of connects in DIY scenes all over the place. Almost a direct line to really solid but lowkey acts. I ordered the tape he did for his chiptunes project, and it's great to see him putting a good amount of effort and care into his physical releases.

What other labels have you been following closely?

This was more last year, but I was super into Aught \ Void and Sol y Nieve both catering to more noise, doom, black metal stuff but doing really great work on packaging.  inner ocean has a lot of cool lo-fi tapes. This has mostly been the year of collectives for me though though. Magic Yume was my go to on Bandcamp for a while. Yume Collective and Computer Ghost are also really cool.  Consul is insane for heavy trap stuff. Got to shout out Rareticuno and Akuma season. Ichigo and Divine Rights also have comps coming in the near future. Future Society just released a new comp. And obviously s/o to Tsundere Fan Club... Haremboys bout to do some stuff tho.

What are you into outside of the musical sphere?

Outside of music, I play video games a lot but I'm trash LOL.  I don't focus much on competitive gaming, so I don't spend a lot of time developing any skill.  I guess I just like to play for story or whatever.  I also really dig horror movies and slice of life/romance anime and manga!

12/23/2016

Top 10 Tracks of 2016: Part 4

1. Chance the Rapper - "Finish Line / Drown"

"And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us" - Hebrews 12:1

Despite the nearly universal acclaim Chance's sophomore effort, Coloring Book, has garnered for its seamless suture of bubblegum-trap and gospel music, the neo-sincere hymnal's most reverential cut has been unfortunately overshadowed by the more secular bombast of "No Problem" and "Mixtape". 

"Finish Line / Drown" is an ambitious, fragmented meditation on the importance of perseverance. Angling their lyrical lens at the New Testament's repeated metaphorical references to footraces, Chance and fellow Top 10 list inductee Noname relay their way through a marathon's worth of life's trials - addiction, parenthood, loss - while keeping their sights set firmly on the paradise that is promised to postdate our earthly tribulation. 

Pasted together with T-Pain's transhuman mastery of autotune and punctuated in with a spoken-word coda delivered by choir director Kirk Franklin, "Finish Line" proves to a be a double-decker sandwich that's tough to take a first bite into. Imposing as the track may seem, its 7 minutes of emotional fluctuation and church-organ swells digest quite easily washed down with the heartfelt positivity that each verse overflows with: Chance's with double-time exultation, Noname's with hushed conviction.

Hurtle toward the close of an arudous year, "Finish Line" blasting through your earbuds loudly enough to block out any distractions.

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." - 2 Timothy 4:7

12/18/2016

Christmas Compilation Out Now!

12/16/2016

Top 10 Tracks of 2016: Part 3

4. The World's Greatest - "Greatest Trick"

Veiled by dreampop optimism, "Greatest Trick" is a fistful of unidentifiable emotions, individually-wrapped and spooned into a mixed-bag like the pieces of saltwater taffy that inevitably make their way into your plastic trick-or-treat pumpkin: oblong, pastel paint swatches, ambiguously flavored. A layer of gluey suburbanite disappointment, their consolidated flavor lingers on your unbrushed palate. This is the last Halloween you'll don a mask and trespass on neighborhood porches. There's nothing particularly satisfying about those cellophane-swaddled candies you just ingested, but they must be consumed on principle. You stuff yourself with the mysticism your young imagination can afford you before the dregs of the tank dry up. Halloween excursions once seemed like they lasted for hours. Time is beginning to pass more regularly for you now: no hour is privileged.

"what a beautiful day..."

Rising from the charcoal ashes of your backyard's tripod grill, Maryland's Teen Suicide has transformed into The World's Greatest - an expression of unabashed self-confidence that paints over the lo-fi collective's former sense of snide nihilism. Sneaking some Pavement guitar twang into the jangle-pop warmth of a Sarah Records 7", the band's first release under their new moniker is just immersive enough to crawl into on all fours. The fireplace has been courteously pre-lit. A comforter is neatly folded, resting against a leather couch's armrest. Leave your Vans Sk8-his at the door and grab a pair of slippers before sinking into the sofa.

"Greatest Trick" is pure hospitality.


3. Promnite x Denzel Curry x Nell x JK The Reaper x Twelve'len - "Gunsmoke"

Occupying the sparsely-populated boundary space between more technical, traditional measures of hip-hop proficiency and the fauvist expressions of 808-infused emotion espoused by fellow XXL freshmen Desiigner and Lil Yachty, Denzel Curry and his Miami-based C9 collective have carved out an alluringly timeless sound within the rapidly-evolving sphere of Soundcloud rap. Capping off a year's worth of sinister, visceral output is the Promnite-produced posse cut "Gunsmoke". Bouncing off of trampoline-taut percussion, Curry and former SpaceGhostPurrp protege Nell trade rapid-fire couplets against sampled shakuhachi trills. Each brings out the other's best: Denzel is as multi-syllabic and agressive as ever; Nell flows with pliant grace, cross-hatching swooping brushstrokes that vary greatly in shape and size. JK The Reaper and Twelve'len contribute brief interludes that act as sonic subheadings - the initial peal of thunder that signifies the lightning storm. 

At a tidy three minutes and fifty-three seconds, "Gunsmoke" is crammed to maximum capacity with fresh ideas and raw emotion. Like Souls of Mischief's "93 til Infinity" before it, C9's group effort juggles humor, narrative, and aesthetic appeal with ease. 

In an ocean of internet waves, Denzel Curry's tides pack the most potential staying power. A fixture on my previous Top 10 lists, the 21-year-old shows no indication of slowing his ascent from underground dominance to mainstream recognition. 


2. Wild Nothing - "Life of Pause"

Wild Nothing's Life of Pause finds frontman Jack Tatum shedding the layer of anorak urgency that so signified his earlier twee-pop discography. If 2010's Gemini was an aimless weekend drive taken to survey the neighborhood's Christmas lights - fluorescent reds, greens, and the occasional flash of dish-detergent blue seeping into the absorbent night - then 2012's Nocturne was the post-drive thaw, its 70s soft rock revivalism melting into nu-gaze dreaminess like purple hands that loiter about q space heater. On his latest, Tatum pours himself a mug of chamomile while spinning old Italo-disco records before hauling himself to bed. There may not be anything particularly fresh or innovative about Life of Pause, but the album more than makes up for the familiarity with polish and skilled songcraft. Most impressive of Pause's 11 cuts is its title track - celebratory synths flash in pyrotechnic patterns to the nocturnal groove of Tatum's rhythm section. Equally drowsy and lively, the tune is a runner's high of sorts: the final stretch of awakeness before calling it a night.

12/10/2016

Top 10 Tracks of 2016: Part 2

7. Moving In - "Water Garden"

The fluorescent yellow, full-body rain slicker Thom Yorke wore to Pinkpop Festival 1996 now navigates the surface of a mercurial pool brimming with reverb. The discarded garment's limp folds undulate against the anxious ripples of fluid that keep it afloat, its waterproof topography cupping puddles of rainfall. 

Moving In's lo-fi folk meditations are as tranquil as the newspaper's stray comics page, a faint, balled splash of faded primary colors nestled cozily in a snow-draped public park. They seem to answer only to the forces of nature, their airy tufts of acoustic chords and hypnotic keyboard drones piloting a dry winter breeze. 

"Water Garden" connects on an abstract, almost spiritual level. No particular sound or riff seems to stand out in its mix. Its stomach rising and falling in slumber to Jordan Fox's strumming pattern, the tune is a single, hibernating organism taking its yearly nap in a warm, analogue den.


6. Father - "Heartthrob"

Speaking of yellow garments and live performances, Father's in-studio performance for webzine COLORS Berlin provides a crisp 120 second primer in the "twee-trap" aesthetic that seemed to dominate Soundcloud's digital airwaves for the better part of the year. Alongside choice cuts sliced by fellow Atlanta-based artists Lil Yachty and Pollari, "Heartthrob" represents the most charming aural emissions that internet rap has to offer. Lounging on a buoyant bed of producer Meltycanon's xylophonic synths, Father flows with the enthusiasm of a plump housecat, freshly awakened from a long nap. 

Smash the snooze button; wile out in kawaii dreams.

"Use your hands, fusion dance, stay in school"

5. Rosehip Teahouse - "No Gloom"


Cut through the post-"Heartthrob" eye crust with yet another sleepy tune: Rosehip Teahouse's "No Gloom" is a somber bedroom pop reverie in the tradition of The Sundays and The Softies, keyboard tones shimmering like strands of expatriate hair revealed by the dawn's glow. The tune exists in the realm of speculation: it points its lens at dates that might be, hypothetical conversations, and a sense of hopeful optimism. Faye Rodgers and her translucent instrumentation feel like phantasmal observers in these imagined dreamscapes: their presence is not quite sensed, but it can be metaphysically detected. "No Gloom" spans the spectrum of emotion before landing squarely in the center: it's the happiest sad song this side of Bandcamp. 

12/06/2016

Top 10 Tracks of 2016: Part 1

10. CANDY - "Hysterie"

Since the genre's inception in the late 70s, post-punk and the timbral tinker toys that compose its brutalist architecture have yet to go out of style. No matter what the decade, a chugging bassline and convincing impersonation of Robert Smith or Ian Curtis will prove timely and somehow fresh. 2016's most successful resuscitation of Thatcher-era gloom comes courtesy of South Korean quartet CANDY, whose latest single "Hysterie" constructs a wall of militant percussion between gales of shoegaze turbulence and the guttural proto-goth snarls of frontman Byun Sungjae.




9. Noname - "Freedom Interlude"

Branching from the same Chicagoan gospel-rap sapling that begat Chance the Rapper's Coloring Book, Noname's Telefone mixtape is an unlikely blossom that clawed its way through the sidewalk's faultline, a harmonic meeting of vinyl-crackled boom bap rhythms and the synthetic exhales of meandering future-jazz riffs. "Freedom Interlude", released 4 months prior to Telefone's midsummer's drop, seems to faintly materialize and fade into obscurity before Noname can capture a well-focused snapshot of her psyche on digital tape. Atop bouyant tides of Rhodes piano, she shuffles through themes and lyrical motifs like a newly-dealt hand of potentially playable cards, considering and discarding abstract forays into social media infatuation, spiritual redemption and breakfast cereal before artfully opting to fold.

 
8. Crying - "Premonitory Dream"

Shouting stadium-sized hooks at whispered stanzas of neo-romantic observation on the other end of the receiver, Elaiza Santos sends a time-travelling voicemail to her former self in the form of a "Premonitory Dream". Her New York-based indiepop trio Crying reports back to the past with a newfound sense of confidence, supplementing the chiptune bleeps of 2014's Get Olde // Second Wind with explosive power-ballad arrangements and a charmingly self-aware lack of self-awareness on the opening cut of their sophomore LP, Beyond the Fleeting Gales. 

"spit in the water / not sure why"
"deep in the heart of this lone bridge / a sudden terror overtook me / continue blindly or turn back?"

"Premonitory Dream" places listeners in the swaying center of a proverbial bridge, providing a quick, pad-synth scored chance to retreat to the cozy twee tunes of Crying's back catalogue before urging them to make a sprint towards point B, a propulsive tailwind of muted rhythm guitar and bouyant 16-bit bass giddily racing them across the divide. Though equally introspective as past highlights like "ES" and "Batang Killjoy", tinged with their Bandcamp emo melancholia, Crying's latest incarnation comes armed with positivity, combating indecision with the uplifting kitsch of early 80s arena rock. 

Flick your Bic lighter, activate your phone's flashlight, or raise the brightness of your 3DS' display. Whatever means of luminescence you have on hand, put it to use and raise it proudly in the air. 

Check your sense of irony at the door.

12/03/2016

Review: Broken Spear - "True"

Broken Spear - True
(2016 Pedicure Records)

A heat-warped 7" single's worth of post-human synthpop augmented by an LP-length collection of plunderphonics experimentation, unzipping your copy of Broken Spear's True feels like inadvertently acquiring a cursed Limewire torrent of a Pet Shop Boys album in the mid-2000s. The latest Pedicure Records release is a pop album in the loosest sense of the word: though awash in Sprite®-fizz effervescence and infectious new-wave hooks, True revels in virtual surreality. 

Broken Spear courteously opens the album with its most accessible offering, True's title cut, a clumslily tender take on 80's club music that attempts to extract indications of the human condition from powdery synthesizer chords and the hollow anatomies of SecondLife avatars. Guest vocalist Maria Ivanova's eurobeat-inspired stanzas are so inundated with digital effects that they begin to resemble the compressed chunks of syllables unconsciously communicated by text-to-speech software. Despite their eerie artificiality, there is still a faint whisper of mortality imbued within Ivanova's delivery: a sense of urgency that still desires to appreciate the glow of a laptop's "sleep mode" light in a darkened room.

"L.E.D. / Cause the blue is all we need" // "it might all be over soon"

Its counterpart, "Julius", snaps a retrospective image of the Human League's aggressively catchy new-romance through the filtered, lo-fi lens of Ariel Pink and John Maus. Mystery-collaborator Julius Metal provides the sneer-supplemented delivery of an 80's teen flick's football-captain antagonist. Arpeggiated synths oscillate wildly like mirrorball reflections to the shuffling of drum machine hi-hats.

Over the course of True's next 14 tracks, Broken Spear drapes macerated Avril Lavigne choruses and CD-skipped post-grunge tunes in a sanitized shroud of glassy mall-jazz synthesizers. Though similar in approach to the skittering sound collages cut-and-pasted by Oneohtrix Point Never, True's caffeinated, decadent demeanor acts as an antithesis to Daniel Lopatin's ascetic avant-techno -  the shockingly anthemic transition from tertiary-toned mid-00s R'n'B to one of the corniest hair metal breakdowns I've heard this side of classic rock radio is a moment of intensely concentrated pop bliss. The pitch-shifted vocal chops sewn into the mix, meant to resemble a stadium-rock outfit's six-string shreddage, are a thick layer of icing liberally applied to an already saccharine cake.

At its core, True is a pastiche of guilty pleasures - a chaotic regurgitation of discarded pop tropes that is surprisingly consistent in its ability to derive vibe-able tunes from the minced remains of bargain-bin discs. Why reach for the car radio dial when Broken Spear can provide a Cubist perspective of all channels at once?

11/28/2016

Review: Melrose - "Melrose"

Melrose - Melrose
(Self-Released 2016)

I cap off my Thanksgiving break with fresh pair of buds in my ears, lapping the track around the high school's decomposing gridiron - moribund brown with offseason underuse. The weather is mild enough to shed my Columbia windbreaker, but the layer remains zipped, phone nestled in its left abdominal pocket. A rubber tendril yoking me to my headphone jack lazily bounces to metronomic footfalls. The Softies, The Sundays, and Melrose score this afternoon stroll, an aural barrier of indie-pop warmth to combat the windchill of November's last Sunday.

Bear-hugged by the compression of a handheld tape-recorder's microphone, Melrose's debut EP is a languid trickle of viscous indie pop transfused from the veins of Portastatic and Julia Brown. Dampened with Midwestern romanticism, ambling leads venture across a blank cassette canvas, occasionally crossing paths en route to nowhere in particular. "Outcomes" and "Dollhouse" are particularly aimless in their excursions, casting minimalist guitar lines into a murky lake and disregarding the nibbles on the other end. Like a quick handful of banana-almond granola scooped casually from its plastic pouch or the final five minutes of a morning shower, these tunes are fleeting moments of comfort that I return to for their cozy concision. Though simple and understated, their beauty is self-evident and accessible. Let Melrose steep in a mug of hot water and sip it through December.

11/25/2016

Accepting Submissions for 2016 Half-Gifts Christmas Compilation


It's been some time since I've curated a Half-Gifts compilation album, but clawing my way out of a sweet potato casserole-induced coma has imbued me with enough holiday spirit to begin work on a new Christmas mixtape. As per tradition, the compilation's tracklist will be entirely crowdsourced - submissions from fans and friends of the blog will be accepted regardless of genre or skill level as long as they fulfill the criteria listed below.

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1. Songs must be submitted to jude.noel3@gmail.com in the form of a .Wav/.AIFF/.FLAC file.
2. Songs must be no longer than 6 minutes.
3. Songs must have some sort of thematic relationship to winter or the holiday season.
4. Cover songs happily accepted.

Submissions will be accepted until Dec. 17th, 2016

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For inspiration, here are some links to Christmas comps past:

  

11/20/2016

Reissue Review: zxz - "zxz"

zxz - zxz
(2009 Going Native)

At some point in my early childhood - around the time I began to attend first grade, I believe - I began to experience long-term bouts of insomnia brought on by nightmares I'd experience almost nightly. The most memorable installment in this Criterion Collection of night terrors was an ongoing conflict between myself and a sentient VHS player. I'd find myself confined in a vacant living room - one with windows locked from the outside and without doors. An unmarked videocassette would protrude from the tape player's parted lips like a jutted tongue, taunting me. As if in a trance, I'd approach the appliance only for it to hastily swallow the magnetic box, its guts churning with the rumble of worn hardware. The television's screen would brighten, and as the shadows of figures materialized, I'd shield my eyes with a forearm in a panic, bathed in the tube's spectral blue light while furiously mashing the EJECT and STOP buttons, only for the cassette's sickly, detuned soundtrack to increase in volume with each press until it reached unbearable levels. I'd never muster the courage to sneak a glance at the TV's broadcast - its bass snarls and fricative synth whispers were enough to spook my young self. 

Perhaps the grainy cover art that accompanies zxz's self-titled effort on Going Native Records, speckled with incandescent bulbs and burnt-orange lens flares, is the dream world's motion picture I'd averted my eyes from all those years. Its tape-warped melodies and minimal constructions certainly do recall memories of the nightmares' soundscapes, sonorous wheezes of glassy keys that leak post-nasal drip onto aural Polaroids of the sky taken at various times of day. Instrumentally similar to Julee Cruise's contributions to the Twin Peaks soundtrack, the record is a spring-reverb comforter with barbed burrs of atonality clinging to its fuzzy surface. It's an after school Halloween special scored by Arnold Schoenberg and John Carpenter - subtly unsettling yet saturated with sadness.

11/16/2016

Review: i-fls - "nightmare is not decade"

i-fls - nightmare is not decade
(2016 Self-Released)

Like a sentence poorly deciphered by Google Translate or a Diet Coke's lingering tinniness, i-fls' transient synth-pop jingles re-create fond adolescent memories that alight sweetly on one's tongue with a tinge of bitter artificiality. The latest installment in the Japanese solo project's 19 album discography, nightmare is not decade, is structurally its most polished effort to date, yet the record is still texturally awash in the same spin cycle load of translucent keyboard pads and subterranean four-on-the-floor kicks employed in previous releases. It's somewhat of a stretch to deem this murky blend of faded electronic pulses "lo-fi", but there is certainly an intentionally muffled tone that pervades nightmare, one that recalls the bruised trickle of ambient drum 'n bass that seeped from the freckled speakers of the block-shaped TV set in my bedroom while I spent grade-school evenings weaving through Super Monkey Ball mazes. Each tune is decked out in memory-foam armor, the impact of their percussive hits cushioned by a wall of warm bass.

It's this conflicting sense of nostalgia that makes me imagine i-fls hovering over Ziploc'ed peanut butter sandwiches at a cafeteria lunch table with American Football's Mike Kinsella and Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian, reflecting on formative Christmas mornings and knees scraped on November playground gravel. Standout track "Erudite Tanida" is dusted with the lunch's residual WonderBread crumbs, these flecks of distortion worming their way into a bubbly house rhythm, phantasmal melodies spread across its surface with a plastic knife. "Witch House Maki" remains at home sealed in twist-tied plastic, its crisscrossing chiptune melodies as crusty as the heel of a loaf. Even the uptempo shoegaze groove of "Sanrio" feels doughier than the plastic Eurobeat that inspired it.

i-fls' ethereal soundscapes are incidental music for the dreams that squeeze between your morning alarm and its snooze-buttoned successor. They are, at times, tough to grasp or remember, but conceal nuggets of great profundity.


11/12/2016

Review: Död Mark - "Drabbad Av Sjukdom"

Död Mark - Drabbad Av Sjukdom
(2016 YEAR0001)

Crashing on the sonic futon of Scandinavian brethren Iceage and Lust For Youth, Sadboys founding fathers Yung Lean and Yung Gud eschew cloud rap sorrow for darkwave conviction. The Swedish pair's latest project, Död Mark ("Dead Ground"), is a weighted vest of strepococcal bass-groans and hammered drum machine beats that pulls the listener towards the dehydrated earth at their feet. Gud's lush dream-pop soundscapes have become arid no-wave wastelands in which Lean struggles to breathe, his one-autotuned flow now a parched yawp.

Död Mark's debut LP - titled Drabbad Av Sjukdom - could be mistaken for an early post-punk release in the sickly vein of Crispy Ambulance or Cabaret Voltaire; Gud's detuned, glassy synths are wrung through a gauntlet of automaton rhythm, hefty kick drums and rattling snares descending on raw melodic ore with the dull, percussive indifference of worn factory equipment. "Misstag" is a particularly industrial track, bolstered by primal drum hits that make me feel as if my inner ear is being probed by their electronic pulsations. Whirring sirens and metallic screeches populate their futurist backdrop.

Midway through Drabbad Av Sjukdom is the record's most traditionally punk undertaking, and its second-strongest cut, "Isobel". Gravelly power chords are poured out onto blast beats as Lean adopts a convincing impression of Britain's late-70s Oi! punk scene, dripping globules of hollow monotone apathy into his microphone. It is only bested by "Min Dag", a gloomy deconstruction of first-wave pop-punk that masks skeletal Blink-182 riffage through a lo-fi filter that recalls that of Dirty Beaches.

"Benzo" and the album's title tune are each indebted to Sadboys' traditional sound. The former laces languid trap beats beneath sludge metal chord-progressions and Final Fantasy string arrangements while the latter shares a deep-fried crunch with Lean's "Miami Ultras".

Though in terms of genre Drabbad Av Sjukdom is a major departure from Sadboys' previous discography, the record is a logical successor to Yung Lean's Warlord - it is cathartic, desolate and distorted-yet-dreamy. Even next to Warlord and Bladee's lachrymal Eversince LP, Död Mark's output stands confidently, a unique take on proto-gothic aesthetics that's just as innovative as the collective's surreal trip-hop ambience.

11/07/2016

Review: Pastoralia - "Demo"

Pastoralia - Demo
(2016 Self-Released)

Angel Hair riffs lie heaped beneath a film of bubbles, frayed like used dental floss by an astringent chorus-pedal effect. Philadelphia's Pastoralia brings pliant stretches of warbly guitars to boil and cooks them to al dente texture. Pockets of breathability are sifted through a sieve of analogue crunch, leaving behind the springy bed of skin-soft shoegaze that forms the dream-pop duo's debut demo-tape. 

Inaugural number "Forget" tiptoes forth on a skittering beat as flautal wisps of keyboard weave their way through mesh walls of twangy chords. Pastoralia's brand of twee is as fleshy-yet-translucent as the disembodied facial features that appear on their demo's cover art; it is intimate, yet brittle to the touch. Vocals are delivered with a sort of hushed conviction, waxing emotive but restrained enough to avoid shattering the fragile instrumental shell that houses them. 

"History"is a slithering mass of reverb slime that moves with the languid griminess of Dinosaur Jr's "Thumb". Overdriven Casio keys grind against folky strumming, this friction leaving the track with a sandpapered exterior. Eerie instrumental "Haze" - which could be mistaken for a vaporous demo from The Cure's Head on the Door sessions - follows. Despite the lack of vocals, it's the strongest tune of the trio, perhaps taking influence from the sweatered sound of an Orchid Tapes compilation.

Graze in pastoral fields of dream-matter.

11/04/2016

Interview: Zack Theriot of Shinonome Labs


Founded just over a month ago, Louisiana-based cassette label Shinonome Labs has wasted no time springing into action. Over the course of October, the imprint has pressed three solid releases ranging in genre from cozy chiptune collages to prog-tinged math rock to char-grilled skramz. To find out what sorts of ideas and aesthetics were driving Shinonome forward, I shot a few Facebook messages to the Labs' resident mad scientist, Zack Theriot.

Did any particular event or conversation spark the idea to start putting your friends’ records on tape? How many cassettes had you planned to press in advance before kicking things off with Sakuragaoka’s All of It?

I guess what really kicked off the idea for a label was when I dug out my tape player after organizing my desk space in late September; I noticed I could probably try recording/dubbing tapes from my PC just by using an aux cable. I had a bunch of old church cassettes my grandmother gave me and started experimenting a little with that, surprisingly enough it worked out really decently. Around the same time I was wanting to do a physical Sakuragaoka release and also had an idea to try to book small acoustic shows at my house and call the space "Shinonome Labs" after Nano and Hakase's house from Nichijou, but then I realized that I'm bad at booking and then little bits of every ideal kind of mixed into an idea to start a small label. My partner runs a small music blog called Short Circuit Media (pls check it out!), so my plan ended up being to make just a small semi-esoteric tape label as a sister project to the blog. I took a lot of influences for the groundwork of how it'd be run by labels like Ritual Tapes, Girlfriend Tapes, Deep Sea Records, and Lo-Fi by Default. Just kind of a small thing, but relay personal and true to DIY and lo-fi ideals. At first I just intended on releasing the Sakuragoaka tape and just ask around about releasing other things by friends or by projects I admired and luckily a couple fell into my lap all in a short time so I've been able to stay decently busy. I really love it so far.



The trio of tapes that forms Shinonome’s current discography is quite diverse in terms of genre. What aesthetic unifies the music backed by the label? 

My aesthetic identity is mostly just to stay very down-to-earth, very informal, and very true to DIY. I want it to be really obvious that this is something I do in my bedroom for fun, it's never intended to be a business model. It's more of an expressive thing. And every release on the label, I feel at least, expresses the same ideals throughout. Like, all these artists have less than 200 Facebook likes. They're not very prolific, but I feel like have sounds I love and feel that need to be expressed and are deserving of release and audience. They're all recorded/mixed/mastered by the artists or by friends of the artists, same with the art or j-card design or even any small promotion or anything like that is handled mostly autonomously by the artist. And that's an ideal I've always identified with. So, even though all the releases may be of different genre or core aesthetic, they stay unified in that they're all grounded in personal, lo-fi, DIY music that stays true to itself and I feel that those qualities unify itself within the staticy lo-fi aesthetic I aim for with the label. The goofy little tagline I use "lo-fi, with love" kind of embraces that as well.



Where do you get your cassettes?

I get them from either tapes.com or duplication.ca
Duplication has a much larger selection of shell colors, but being housed in Canada means it has higher shipping rates and longer shipping times. Tapes.com is a little cheaper and better on shipping but is more limited in colors.
The clear variant of the Sakuragaoka tapes are actually just clear blank Sony tapes I bought from a Walmart in 2012 and found in my closet when I was searching for my player.



My order from your label came packaged with a few Pokemon cards and a sticker - what sort of inserts might customers expect alongside their tape?

I LOVE getting little nifty trinkets from mail orders, so naturally I really wanted to do little things like that when I started the label up. This is my major Girlfriend Tapes influence because I love their packaging and how every order comes with specific little items depending on the order. Every tape will come with a Pokemon card (because I also love Pokemon) and a sticker. Some tapes might have a coupon code for the webstore included to take off 30% of their next order or remove shipping costs or something. I usually throw more label stickers and 2 or 3 more cards in the package and also some other miscellaneous items as well, be it patches or buttons or some other random label/band stickers or something that I find lying around. I also include a personal thank you note with every order.



Where do you plan to take Shinonome in the future? Are any upcoming releases in the works? 

I plan to just keep making more tapes! I currently have a few releases in talks, some coming really soon and some still being completed ranging from noisy post-rock to twinkly emo to instrumental hip-hop.

Could you tell me about the creative process behind the Sakuragaoka tape? The collaged combination of vocal samples and chiptune tones is so cinematic, yet comforting.

Sakuragoaka actually has a really interesting history that mostly just boils down to: "I just kind of fucked around".

I like late 2014/early 2015 a friend made a weird hip-hop EP influenced by Wicca Phase in like two hours where his moniker was "beachsmoke". So a few friends and I kind of took that and made a jokey little aesthetic driven electronic music collective called smokeclan, where every member's name was a five letter word plus smoke. We had beachsmoke, ghostsmoke, glasssmoke, chibismoke, and I was hellasmoke. My plan was to make chiptune with anime voice samples kind of influenced by Slime Girls and the voice sampling The Brave Little Abacus does. The way I do it is, instead of doing it the correct way by using a tracker program like LSDJ, I write all my parts on a guitar and program them using a guitarpro tabber and then export them to midi and convert them to bitsynth sounds using this freeware program called GXSCC. It mostly starts as a drum loop and one repeating progression and then I add and remove layers to it and chop up a vocal sample from an anime and games I like and organize it in a way I find impactful and then mix everything. In February 2015 my only output towards smokeclan was Velvet (my three track ode to the Persona series) and then I never did anything with it for over a year until I started dabbling in making chiptune again around March. I was having a lot of fun with it, so I decided to make it dedicated project renamed Sakuragaoka since the smokeclan joke ran its course. During the summer I played one live show as Sakuragaoka and reorganized the two EPs I had out with some added interlude tracks to make all of it entirely seamless and that was the order I used for the tape so that way I could release all of the material I had all in one swoop instead of releasing the two EPs separately. It's honestly bullshit because I just make tracks one at a time when the mood hits and it only takes me two hours or so per track but I find it super fun.

What music outside of the Shinonome universe are you spinning these days?

My go to listening since June has been going back and forth between Friend Edit's "Your Favorite Songs" and Passing a Starfighter's "Duplex". Friend Edit is like The Killers type post-punk revival stuff and Passing a Starfighter was super good local Louisiana emo (rest in peace). It's gotten to a point where I have to listen to them in succession because they've both been such essential releases to me lately. I've also been rediscovering my love for Japanese alt-rock lately so I've been listening to a ton of The Pillows, Number Girl, noodles, Judy and Mary, Asian Kung Fu Generation, Bump of Chicken, Mass of the Fermenting Dregs, and Kinoko Teikoku.



What do you do when you’re not composing music and/or pressing tapes?

I mostly just watch cutesy anime shows and play JRPGs, which, if it isn't blatant, is where most of my naming sensibilities come from.  I've been doing a rewatch of Non Non Biyori lately because it's super comfy and really brings in the coziness of the fall season for me.
I've also been getting back into Runescape so anyone hmu if you wanna help me compete Shield of Arrav.

Also, if I can, I'd like to give a shout out to Cass Carlisle, Jonathan Hope, Conrad Gagnon, and Chris Gelpi aka Yung Daki aka Chris Chris aka DJ Yuri Fanfic for being my infinite inspirations and to all my friends for being my support.

10/31/2016

Review: Fear of Moose - "Green Lions"

Fear of Moose - Green Lions
(2016 Self-Released)

There's much capacity for chaos in the fallible physical realm. Free will and feedback make it so easy to distort a once-sterile tone, to extend a leg and trip up a 4/4 beat's steady stride, that it's disappointing to watch supposedly trangressive genres like post-punk and no-wave struggle to catch up to the dissonant contortion of post-internet projects like Arca and Oneohtrix Point Never. As satisfying as Institute's hypnotic drone and Captive's frosty gothic synthscapes can be, no post-punk release in recent years can match the brain-kneading abstraction of Fear of Moose's Green Lions in terms of sheer originality. Smearing discordant textures and swampy hues across a misshapen canvas, the record injects the trebly aggression of early Factory Records output with Animal Collective's penchant for rhythmic overlap and the danceable atonality of Autechre.

Green Lions opens inconspicuously - the first half of "Elevator" is a rollicking jangle-pop tune that recalls the rickety rock 'n roll of New Zealand's early 80s Dunedin Sound scene. Grumbles of chunky power chords stumble over snare drum speed bumps, chirping melodies circumnavigating bass lines like the figurative birds that circle the skull of a concussed cartoon character. Midway through the two-minute track, the crunchy morsel of sunshine pop gives way to a spacey post-rock jam in the vein of Built to Spill that gradually melts into a pitch-shifted fondue. 

As the EP progresses, things get increasingly weird. "54 Cards" hides behind the facade of a wiry new wave jam, later revealing itself to be a char-grilled blob of swirling synthesizers. "Suspension", the record's most successfully quirky cut, recalls the jazzy flutter of Minutemen and Talking Heads. Two guitars battle for space on either side of the speaker system, volleying twangy riffs like table tennis smashes atop cymbal splashes. Green Lions reaches peak surrealism on "Dream Room", drowning out its Twin Peaks avant-lounge groove with ear-splitting layers of screeching amp interference.

If you're seeking some post-punk to keep you in spooky spirits post-Halloween, then look no further than Fear of Moose.

10/28/2016

Review: Cycling - "Release"

Cycling - Release
(2016 Self-Release)

Even the sweetest twee-pop tune becomes a knotted morass left sheltered beneath a favorite winter hat for too long. For Cycling, acquiring a day's worth of harmonic hat hair is all part of the creative process. I like to imagine the anonymous individual behind the Massachusetts-based solo project incubating the embryonic tissue of dreamy folk soundscapes beneath a knitted cap while bored at work or school, then struggling to keep the wriggling mass of inspiration firmly planted atop his head while making the commute home, a December frost blanketing a windshield or Greyhound window. He ducks into a secret passageway concealed by inconspicuously stacked stones in a city park, descending a makeshift wooden stairway lit by torches that leads to a warm burrow, furnished by an already-stoked fireplace, a plush recliner and a tape deck that sits on the side table adjacent to the chair. Cycling collapses onto the leather seat, then removes his headwear to reveal a tortuous tangle of woozy freak-folk ambience. He produces a Rubber-Cushion hairbrush from his left hip pocket, and attacks his snarled follicles, forming manicured fragments of bedroom pop bliss in the process.

While many songs within the genre begin as minimal singularities that expand into impenetrable walls of fuzz, much of the content on Cycling's Release mirrors the reverse of the Big Bang - tracks like "Sappho" and "Sunshine" are born as chaotic galaxies of sound that are gradually squeezed into whispery folk molds. The former is a short 30 seconds' worth of fingerpicked guitar that feels like a re-arranged cover of Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car" while the latter is a bustling six-string cityscape cradling cute keyboard swells that inflate like birthday balloons attached to a helium tank. "Trace" buzzes like a sleeping appendage that refuses to move after a midday nap, its shoegaze chords twitching to the rhythm of an awkward drum machine's stumbling strides. Xylophone riffs loom benignly in the distance. Closer "Keep Bleeding" is a heart-wrenchingly tense re-imagining of Leona Lewis' "Bleeding Love" that acts as a satisfying, cathartic coda to the EP that houses it.

Release is the cataclysmic heat death of its own solar system, an explosion of warmth and sincerity that's as hypnotic as the bluish glow of a newly-stocked fridge. 

10/24/2016

Review: Toon Town - "The Great Dissolve"

Toon Town - The Great Dissolve
(Self-Released 2016)

One might expect a band named after Disney's now-defunct MMORPG venture from the mid-aughts to fall more in line with the polygonal, artificially flavored bubblegum bass of PC Music, but such presumptions will be instantly obliterated upon streaming Cincinnati psych punk duo Toon Town's debut EP release, The Great Dissolve. Despite Midwestern origins, Toon Town funnels muscled Texas blues riffs through a garage rock sieve that lends much of its waterlogged warble to Thee Oh Sees. 

At the top of the order, "I Don't Wanna Lose" emerges from its ominous dust cloud as a single serpentine riff that writhes with increasing violence, a jittery snare shuffle in tow. This dehydrated tension quickly comes to a head, erupting into Byzantine tangle of arid riffage and basement-show blast beats. The tune adopts the form of a Gothic outlaw country tune, splattering a sanguine canvas with the sickly forms of Bela Lugosi and a sun-like moon. 

The country-fried couplet that follows "I Don't Wanna Lose" scales back the aggression to conjure a more desolate atmosphere. The record's title track is filled with angular, yet ethereal guitaristry: the residual stain of regret left behind by the crepuscular murder scene that opens the EP. "Cha Cha to the Moon" leaves things unresolved - its eerie dissonance serves as a dangling intermission, a sinister sunrise that promises a new day's worth of sweltering DIY punk.

10/20/2016

Review: More Future Suffering - "(Unsend/Untitled)"

More Future Suffering - (Unsend/Untitled)
(Personal Escape 2016)

Despite the project's name, More Future Suffering's ghostly lo-fi atmosphere is quite suited to the Midwestern weather of the present, a chilly Autumn shower of late-90s emo riffage that's as comforting as the rattle of rain on vinyl siding, tacit guitar phrases forming hilly protrusions in a cheesecloth veil of reverb. The solo outfit's latest venture, (Unsend/Untitled), takes the form of a chapbook left on the bus stop's bench, its construction paper pages bound with a strand of red ribbon and covered with post-rock prose poems. The tape's untitled opener rolls the wistful indie-pop simplicity of Suicide Squeeze Records' earliest pressings into a Play-Doh sphere in soft palms, a compact ball of dreamy haze that appears textureless, but is eerily gritty and squash-able to the touch. Blustering acoustic guitar chords float past one another like languid clouds on their morning commute, yawning Major 7ths curling up next glistening add9s. From a picnic blanket below, a single snare surveils their migration, imagining a sky full of avian Michelin Men. 

Track 2 kneads the Play-Doh into crust while the snare naps in the shade. Tufts of chords are spun into threads of buzzing ambience, knit into a sweater dotted with fingerpicked nubs. This pullover is later tossed into the dryer on the following cut as about 40 cents worth of loose change rattles around in the spin cycle. The bathroom floor rumbles to the beat of a somber freak-folk groove. 12-minute outro "Sailor Song" captures the faint howls of distant construction equipment descending on the nearby stripmall as the afternoon sky fades into darkness. 

A sleepy throwback to Sentridoh's Winning Losers and Modest Mouse's Sad Sappy Sucker, (Unsend/Untitled) is an aural space heater that oscillates, leaking nostalgic vibrations into the living room air.

10/16/2016

Review: Moon Racer - "Moon Racer"

Moon Racer - Moon Racer
(2016 Self-Released)

Named after the winged lion who governs The Island of Misfit Toys, Durham's Moon Racer composes effervescent keyboard melodies that stagger about on wobbly footsteps like those taken by the stop-motion puppet cast of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Her self-titled tape release is a haunting, understated affair: 3 tunes worth of gritty casio chord progressions dotted with warped melodies that peek from the sand like pink bits of beached clam shells. Reverb-soaked vocal harmonies salted with Tascam fizz wash ashore, turning stretches of coastline to gloomy mush.

"Starry Up" plows a traversable path through a blizzard's deposit of cottonball snow on the morning roads, a drum machine loop's snare splashing through fuzz like a tire that sends a swell of slush onto the sidewalk.

The spoon exhumes a mummified square of Shredded Wheat from its burial mound of added sugar piled at the bottom of a milk pond.

"Song of the Mogwai" looks to the mid-80s for its influences in puppetry - it's sleepy and minimal enough to have been parroted by one of Steven Spielberg's animatronic Gizmo marionettes, huddled around the keyboard that sits on the desk in your dimly lit room. 

Channeling the spirits of two family films set during the Christmas season, Moon Racer's new tape is a rainbow string of incandescent bulbs whose light ricochets off of the surface of the crust of ice that blankets your front lawn.

10/12/2016

Review: Bon Iver - "22, A Million"

Bon Iver - 22, A Million
(2016 Jagjaguwar)

Many thanks to my university's  newspaper, The Northerner, for hosting my latest review - you can peep it in full here!

10/10/2016

Review: Night Auditor - "Midnight Cultures"

Night Auditor and the Fam - Midnight Cultures
(2016 Kerchow! Records)


SIDE A:
Parked beneath the watchful glow of a ketchup-red Arby's sign, you spy on your friend through a transparent window as he asks the Circle K manager for a restroom key and a roll of powdered Donettes that resembles a white, shrink-wrapped caterpillar in his closed fist. The headlights of station wagons huddling up to gas pumps fill the mid-October night with a warmth more imagined than felt. Each parked car is an astronaut tethered to its rectangular craft by a black, rubber rope, floating in a weft of crisscrossing beams that span the visible spectrum of light. Midnight Cultures rattles the passenger seat you've tilted back with the recliner handle. 

Night Auditor is the experimental pop project of California's Hilal Omar Al Jamal, his 4th release and first full-length project Midnight Cultures taking the form of a genre-bending mixtape that's as grime-caked as it is gaudy.  Its A-side is a woozy, undulating mass of viscous funk, tinged with fluttering improvisations and the screwball sort of lo-fi potpourri produced by Kerchow Records labelmates. Night Auditor slaps a watery, fuzzed-out filter on Of Montreal's bookish brand of post-RnB, traps it in a subtle, shadowy border of Memphis horrorcore production on "Bebe" and "Wonder", then highlights the soundscapes with optimistic twee-pop vibes on an atmospheric cover of Karen O's "The Moon Song"

SIDE B:
Your gaze traces the sinister pen scratches etched across the face of the bathroom stall. Webs of exposed hardwood peek from the blue paint, their angles and splinters as sharp as the blinding light of an artificial bulb from above. It claws against sleepy eyes that struggle to stay opened. A JanSport slumps against your left calf, the unwrapped pack of powdered sugar pastried jutting from its front pocket.

Midnight Cultures' B-Side assumes an anthemic aesthetic that recalls the blog-rock of the late-aughts while still holding firm to the mixtape's off-kilter beatcraft. Opening track "Lovelslaves" funnels distorted Dinosaur Jr. riffage through the bouyant maximalism of Arcade Fire circa Reflektor. "I Get Lifted" evokes a more dissonant incarnation of Prince, threading twisty-straw melodies around meaty chunks of raspy rhythm. "Need That Dough" and "Heart of Grime" close the set with a one-two punch of skeletal jazz pop.

Midnight Culture is an innovative and ambitious effort that's just as easy to appreciate in an ambient sense as it is to lose one's self in deconstructing and understanding. Fans of Lil Ugly Mane, Prince and Madlib alike will find Night Auditor's strange concoction fascinating and/or satisfying. 

10/05/2016

Single Review: Thought Tempo - "I Can Fila"

Thought Tempo - "I Can Fila"
(2016 Zoom Lens)

Slot machines are programmed to play the three notes that make up the C major triad, (C, E, G), and no others. To shake the hand of the one-armed bandit is to become a single percussionist in a symphony of strangers, neatly arranged columns of shoulders and obscured neck-napes hunched over spinning fruits like Cistercians in the Scriptorium solemnly transcribing their texts. Whether sinking coins into a cruise ship's slots, filling an empty hall with the scrapes of a pen's tip against vellum, or even adding the rumble of an engine to rush hour traffic, entering into a state of technological communion with those in close proximity transforms the self into the unwitting instrumentalist in an industrial dronescape. 

I imagine Thought Tempo's "I Can Fila" to be the concentrated tones of mass-transit clamor and unheard earbud transmissions broadcast within it captured by a yet-to-be invented vocoder, then re-arranged into an imposing construction of stainless steel footwork. It's the fossilized remains of Kraftwerk's "Autobahn" discovered within an outer wall of your local Internal Revenue Service branch's new cyberpunk office building.

10/01/2016

Review: Happy Doghouse - "Above the Stars"

Happy Doghouse - Above the Stars
(2016 Secret Songs)

While much of the internet's DIY scene works to carve out their own intimate lo-fi crawl spaces as a means of combating the sense of smallness that streaming services' glut of choice can impose on fledgling projects, Korean shoegaze outfit Happy Doghouse combats the vastness of the Web with stadium-rock grandiosity. The self-proclaimed puppy-punks' sophomore EP is spaciously arranged, a low-gravity chamber housing milky trails of space debris, muscled right-and-left hooks of colloid guitaristry and resonant trap percussion that wouldn't feel too out of place on a Bones mixtape. Leadoff tune "don't give me grapes" is sturdy and skyscraping, a slow-burning anthem that plays like the festival EDM remix of a track from Beach Fossils' Clash the Truth: despite its timbral roots in twangy twee-pop, Above the Stars is a record that fits snugly alongside the airy future-bass aesthetic of Ryan Hemsworth's Secret Songs label.

"Throw My Ball" exudes the whispered fragility of a particularly contemplative scene in a Rankin-Bass Christmas special, breathy vocals piercing a translucent layer of strings and glassy keys. It feels as if a janitor had unwittingly placed a large space-heater in the center of the icy, vacuum-like installation that is Beach House's Bloom. Happy Doghouse's sound is colossal in scope, but as inviting as a stoked fireplace and the smell of muffins in the oven. 

Above The Stars is a shoegaze void that's anything but void of warmth - it's a leap of faith into an eternally hot shower. 


9/26/2016

Single Review: Cosmic Neighbourhood - "Elf House"

Cosmic Neighbourhood - Elf House
(2016 Kit Records)

The inflatable witch keeping watch over your neighbor's front yard, (standing about eight feet high with traditional green skin and pointed features), keels over on its jointless limbs and lets out a final wheeze before curling up in a mattress of unraked leaves. Its shed shell, limp and rubbery, is prodded by the curious paw of a leashed Labrador making a pit stop on a queasy patch of arid lawn. It is dragged a few feet by a brief bout of violent wind, but remains tethered to a post hammered into the earthy flesh of the suburbs. A few squirrels burrow their way beneath the deflated blanket, hiding beneath its wrinkled folds. The whole block anxiously awaits the emergence of a human figure from the shadows of the home's front porch to resuscitate the fallen Colossus, but the moment never comes. For the rest of October, and through the winter months that follow, the witch preserves its prostration in the snow-draped foliage. On New Years' Eve, when the balloon has been all but forgotten, a trio of elves tiptoe through the yard and hoist the pile of drenched latex onto their shoulders, whistling this tune as they ferry it to the nearest landfill.

Cosmic Neighbourhood is the whimsical musique-concrete project of British illustrator Adam Higton, his latest effort, "Elf House", employing the same unadulterated color palettes and safety scissored constructions that accent his visual pieces. The new tune, which is slated to appear on his upcoming Collages II LP via Kit Records this October, feels like a field recording conducted from the inside of a particularly optimistic picture book, buzzing synth chords billowing like smoke from tape-reel chimneys while springy sound effects litter the aural backdrop. Imagine Beat Happening covering Eno's Music For Airports on a Fisher-Price tape deck.

9/22/2016

Review: hypercyute - "sugar solution"

hypercyute - sugar solution
(2016 vore music)

Like the stream of a hot shower on frostbite or a styrofoam cup of coffee sipped a few seconds too early, hypercyute's sugar solution hits one's eardrums with the euphoric numbness of slightly singed skin. Heating saccharine samples on a bunsen burner of violently loud sub-bass, the Chicagoan noise necromancer assembles murky footwork constructions from the carbon remains of powdered synth melodies. The EP cordially invites the listener to remove their jacket and get cozy, opening with a glissando sweep of chimes that might have instructed young readers in the 80s to "turn the page" of a book on tape. This moment of nostalgic tranquility is quickly proven to be a facade, however, as intro cut "nxjnn e e a## red red rib cage" bursts out of the starting gates on a lumbering kick drum blast beat and the squeals of .wav files mangled beyond recognition.

hypercyute's frenetically fractured production gives the sensation of watching an Autechre DJ set on a glitched-out VideoNow system. Shreds of discarded data scrap for superiority, piling onto a scrum that grows increasingly unstable as time moves forward. Following the Amen Break barrage of "kish^^3^^//" and the impenetrable "mesenchymal stem cell waltz", the one-two punch of "zone transfer" and "yellow yellow blue eyes green" creates a sense of emptiness as hypnotic as the pocket of darkness hidden near the foot of a candle's flame. The former pairs surreal, urban ambience with the steady pulse of a kick drum while the latter spins a dizzying Tilt-A-Whirl melody about rattling hi-hats. Stuffed full of harsh emptiness, sugar solution is a work of maximal minimalism.

9/17/2016

Review: Ferdinand - "What To Do"

Ferdinand - What To Do
(Self-Released 2016)

Each inhale sticks to your soft palate like an individually wrapped pack of stale peanut butter crackers and the wallpaper is floral. The notations to four short songs are printed on the yellowed inside cover pages of the Heathcliff comics anthology that's spent a few decades wilting in your great-grandmother's basement. What to Do, he third EP release by Nashvillian bedroom pop outfit Ferdinand, is an intimate crawl space outfitted with a leather recliner, the flickering warmth of post-rock pulsations, and a hint of mildew in the air. It's the spare room you ducked into as a child to dodge chattering relatives at a family reunion, a grape Kool-Aid Jammers stain watercolored on the off-white carpet.

Amoebic blobs of feedback and minimal riffage glide across a microscope slide on "Opener" while frontman John Lewandowski whispers glossolalic observations into a tape recorder. There's a sense of organic construction to the tune, as if each translucent guitar note attained sentience and crawled along the song's shuffling marching band beat. "Underbed" is a halftime show performed in secret on the high-school gridiron after midnight, its stray melodic twangs lapping up against the bleachers like firefly flares while the drum line marches into the abyss. Closing cut "Right" is a surprising burst of retro emotive hardcore energy, a sturdy base for What To Do to stand on - its Beach Fossils six-string harmonies tie a Christmas tree to the station wagon while sleety cymbal splashes melt on the windshield.

A cherry Fla-Vor-Ice drips into the grass, a shed reptilian skin in your hand.

9/12/2016

Review: Elemantra - "Foreign Breath"

Elemantra - Foreign Breath
(2016 Self-Released)

Unlike 90s-revivalist acts before them - Yuck's delicate wefts of sparkling guitar and early Wavves' walls of incomprehensible fuzz, for example - Elemantra don't craft minimalist deconstructions of late 20th century alt-rock tropes. Rather, their sophomore full-length excursion, Foreign Breath, is an aureate re-imagining of the best that the decade has to offer, all crammed into a blender and poured into an insulated thermos. The first quick sip of this bountiful smoothie, "Peach Fuzz", is instant evidence of Foreign Breath's carefully calculated depth of flavor - tangy proto-emo riffage is threaded around swooping chord changes, tinged with Pavement eccentricity in the form of a twinkling jazz-pop breakdown. The New York quartet channels a vast breadth of influences on a track-by-track basis, yet they're skilled at preventing clutter - beneath the layers of revivalism and ornate instrumentation are solid pop tunes. Case in point: "My Friends" juggles The Cure's citric acid-tinged guitaristry, whispery Smashing Pumpkins bombast, and a few bars worth of J Mascis noise-rock to concoct a cohesive bedroom pop anthem that's cinematic in scope. Even the interludes are memorable - "Boltok", clocking in at a minute long, is an elegant piece of post-rock trip-hop that hearkens back to the shuffling shoegaze groove of Chapterhouse's "Pearl". Foreign Breath is a smorgasbord of hooks and familiar retro-rock textures that refuses to let its listener get too comfy within its borders - the record is constantly shifting focus and mood to brilliant effect, its linear song structures serving up fresh ideas at every turn. It's a musical haunted house that hits you with unexpected bouts of nostalgia instead of jump-scares.

9/07/2016

Review: meltycanon - "soft and wet"

meltycanon - soft and wet
(2016 Self-Released)

I've scheduled all my classes for the evenings of this current semester. The tranquility of my weekday morning routine is just too cozy to give up for an 8 AM lecture - hop out of the shower, play some Earthbound on my Wii U, then smooth over the rough patches of reviews I'd left unfinished from the night before while warming my hands on a mug of meltycanon's meditative brand of twee trap. Alchemically fusing King Krule's spartan jazz arrangements with weightless dancehall vibes and a sprinkle of Yo La Tengo eccentricity to taste, his first proper LP release, soft and wet, is best experienced in a state of crusty-eyed drowsiness. It's a watercolor augment to the half-conscious mind, a long soak in a tub filled with languid major seventh chords and frothy tufts of bubbly synth leads. At its best, the record is a fully immersive cloud of late-teenage melancholia, vaporous cuts like the bubblegum-ambient "behelit" or "budew" and its spearmint sting sinking into the listener's aural tastebuds like candy melted on the tongue. A holy union of bedroom pop humanism and the automaton bliss of PC Music, soft and wet is the soundtrack to a laptop's cat nap.

Premiere: Braeyden Jae - "Two Mirrors Looking"

Braeyden Jae - "Two Mirrors Looking"
(Whited Sepulchre 2016)

- crawling on hands and knees through miles of Mario Kart pipeline -

Braeyden Jae's video for "Two Mirrors Looking" (directed by Curtis Whitear) is an excursion to a planet beyond the reach of our own solar system, one whose vast oceans border oxidized shores. The aquatic dronescapes that populate Jae's Fog Mirror LP, tinted with rust and the piquancy of salt, make the perfect incidental playlist to transmit over the PA system of a sinuous system of tunnels that stretches out undersea. Globules of oily feedback float quietly at the water's surface, distorting this alien sun's light as it slices through their amber bodies. "Two Mirrors Looking" records the shimmer of warped luminescence as seen from below sea level.

Enter the bass wave aether via Whited Sepulchre.

9/06/2016

Interview: Rei Clone

Rei Clone // Denton, Texas Shoegaze

What brought Rei Clone together as a band? Did you have a clear idea of the sound you wanted to strive for when first starting out?

Yes, we did have a set sound that we wanted to achieve. From the outset we were heavily influenced by 90's shoegaze like Slowdive, Chapterhouse, and mbv. When our violinist Nirmal joined we realized that we could kind of put our own twist on it though. We also knew from the beginning that we wanted female vocals in the mix so that was a factor in selecting members.



What was your first completed composition? Which installment in your discography are you the most proud of? How do you feel you've evolved artistically since your self-titled debut?

Our very first composition for the band was "Junketsu." That one was written and more or less completed before we had a final lineup. As far as which one we're most proud of, I can't speak for everyone (this is Zach speaking) but I think we're most proud of "Ready to Die." It's a simple song but everybody's individual contribution made it the uplifting and dense piece it is now. Artistically we've become more experimental from our first ep. Tracks like "Dreaming of Nagato" and "Facehugger" are examples. We try to have a balance of noise, punk, and dense layering on all releases but we try and experiment more with structuring and harmonies with each song. We also are trying to do more things with synth as of late. We sort of established that with "Sleeping Christian" and "Cat Planet Suicide" which both have some synth parts on them.

"Cat Planet Suicide" is such a solid cut! Very gelatinous. Rei Clone is pretty outspoken on the 'web about their love for anime - you're self-described "otaku shoegazers", your titles reference various series and characters, and you've even included a sample from K-On (I think) in the intro to "senketsu". Do you feel like anime influences your music as much as it does the band's visual aesthetic?

Abe speaking. That sample is actually from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, and yes, watching anime really inspires me when I write music.
I take a lot of influence from j-pop and j-rock, even though I don't think it is super evident in our music all of the time.



Hmm, I could have sworn I'd recognized that clip! I do see some of the J-rock influence in the density of the music and swooping chord changes. 
How does your sound translate to a live setting? What bands have you shared bills with that have really impressed you?

We try to sound as good live as we do recorded, though our live shows have their own special qualities to them. As far as our favorite bands to play with, the list goes on, but to name a few:
Smith + Robot
Bad Times
Whimper
Ghost Data
Big Hand//Big Knife
Better Now
Chris Lopez
Ringo Deathstarr
All bands we have played with/adore.

Also, when playing live, we really want an ocean of noise. It should really surround you.

How were you able to get in contact with Smoked Cheese Records about putting out Wet? Smoked Solid Dairy has been a favorite hardcore outfit of mine for some time.

Ive known Alec (ssd front man) since I was in high school. I used to write concert reviews for his website (txpunk.net). He has supported me ever since my first real project, Anger House. Once we discovered we both loved anime, it all exploded from there. I am very grateful for his support and friendship.


What series are favorites among Rei Clone's members?

Still Abe replying, I can't speak for everyone but:
Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
Beck
Kill La Kill
Steins Gate
Desert Punk
Evangelion
Dragon Ball
Cat Planet Cuties
Squid Girl
Seinfield
Ghost in the Shell
Akira
The list could go on

Seinfeld is essential 😎
Any plans in the works for future Rei Clone material?

Absolutely. We are very far from being done. We have more EPs and a full.length coming out in the future. Probably sometime next year. Touring as well.