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.