Single Reviews: chocofriendz / i-fls

chocofriendz - "goodbye"
(2017 Self-Released)

Today's doubleheader review catches up with two artists who are no strangers to this blog. Though they may hail from opposing lateral hemispheres of the globe, chocofriendz and i-fls are equally cloaked in digital mystery, coating their instrumentals in emotional longing, woozy synths, and the .jpeg artifacts of DeviantArt illustrations long-forgotten. 

The alphabetical former of the pair, chocofriendz turns in his most texturally enticing effort yet in the form of "goodbye", a track that culls back the New England bedroom popster's ambient keyboard pads in favor of acoustic guitar and fluttering melodica. In 2016, I imagined choco's oddly capitalized hi ANGEL LP as a dream set in a suburban simulacrum. Sustained chords stood still as mown grass collected dew overnight. Lyrical references to cartoon characters and heroes of children's literature loomed like ping-pong ball eyes, peeking out from inside a shadowy shrub as if to assert their magical-realist presence in the dreamer's mind. It wasn't the cool on the other side of the pillow. It was the placidity flowing through the down -- the threadcount -- and transferring into your skull via osmosis. 

Choco's new stuff isn't as philosophically complex as what's in his back catalog, but it doesn't need to be. On "goodbye", the composition speaks for itself. The notes land with more grit than they used to, plucked steel strings flopping against snares and errant keys. This track's the swamp behind the woods that surround hi ANGEL's suburbs. Here, what seem to be modular synths suck sloppily against the mud like shoes with extra grip. They croak like frogs in urgent need for flies. Choco is frugally cosplaying as Animal Collective circa Hollinndagain, muffling the harsher edges with quilted fabrics. He roughs it, setting up his blanket fort on your living room carpet, inviting you beneath the lean-to to roast riffs over a tin-can flame. You don't need an eclipse or cliffside view to get in touch with nature, you learn. You can let nature into your home -- let it ransack your fridge and crash on the futon. Flick the light and wish the track good night. It's too subtle to take in all at once -- this is the kind of work you need to sleep on, only to wake to an epiphany.

i-fls - no start point / earphone song
(2017 Self-Released)

Japanese producer i-fls dabbles in more polished textures than those that Choco employs, but his latest single release titled no start point / earphone song proves that the unlikely duo draw from the same wellspring of sentiment. Following the release of the project's twentieth album(!), the three-song record delivers a visual and aural aesthetic that i-fls fans will find familiar, but always welcome: layers of filmy Garageband synths creep across the surface of shuffling house rhythms, crisp and capacious as the blue photos that frame each cover artwork but raw as the ballpoint doodles pasted onto them.

Bonus cut "earphone song" is the strongest showing here. It's the most moderately-paced of the bunch, bouncing on quiet kicks and claves as a melody slowly-but-steadily finds footing while navigating the beat. Imagine ascending a shopping mall's massive escalator -- no top floor in sight -- surrounded by glass walls on either side. It's snowing, but the flakes melt against the ground, and somehow despite precipitation there's not a cloud in the sky. The atmosphere just erupts with flakes that dot the surface like cotton nubbles in a baby blue sweater. And outside the mall with plastic bags hanging from your forearm you absentmindedly twist the knit lumps in your pullover.

And your cheeks are red and cold.