Review: Krispy Kareem - "Cadillac"

Krispy Kareem - Cadillac
(2015 Third Floor Tapes)

In the age of the internet, geographical location doesn't seem like it should play much of a role in my perception of an album. Music scenes today are more bound by their aesthetic or fanbase (cloud rap, /mu/core, etc.) than by a shared birthplace: by simply frequenting certain websites or projecting the right image, fans can be absorbed into spheres of influence that bring them closer to their favorite bands. If there's one specific location in the United States that I could confidently associate with a certain sound, it's Philadelphia. Home to acts like Alex G, Euphoria Again and Roof Doctor, the city seems to have patented its own strange brew of fuzz-punk that incorporates elements of folk, psychedelia and late 90's emo. Krispy Kareem is one of the newest Philly-based projects to borrow from this pool of influences, delivering a crunchy, slightly country-fried version of the city's signature sound. "Top Hat" floats on math-y riffage while my two favorite cuts on the album, "Hasselhoff" and "Hope + Stoffer's", appropriate elements of surf-pop to supplement their Pavement-esque sound. 



(Self-Released 2015)

Lo-fi elevator-core in the jazzy vein of Mac Demarco, SPILL's debut EP lives up to its title: it's a fun, nostalgic and cozy record that may not be the most filling release on the market, but is certainly a reliable choice that's perfect for those who need a quick fix of twangy slacker-pop. The EP's opening title track is a bit of a throwback to the hypnagogic sound of Ducktails and Julian Lynch. Combining a grainy twee-pop aesthetic with smooth bossa nova rhythms, the song would fit right alongside any of K.K. Slider's instrumentals that are scattered throughout the Animal Crossing soundtrack. SPILL's sound grows funkier as the EP progresses; "Lucky Day" pairs reverby lead guitar with a meaty bassline and skittering percussion while "Vitamin" throws watery organ pulses into the mix. TV DINNER is a brilliant and brief  morsel of fuzz-pop that you can file under "lo-fi easy listening".


Interview: Anime-core label Mecha Yuri

Interview // Thomas Chan, founder of Mecha Yuri

For those readers who haven't heard of Mecha Yuri, could you give a little background on the label and its origins?

back in 2011, i used to frequent an online forum mainly used for discussing nintendo games and cartoon network shows and junk like that. looking back, every member there was probably a bored pre-teen. we had factions, and me and a few other members who all shared the same interest in music decided to form a group called "HarmoniCanadianReckords" or HCR for short. our first release was an album simply named "Skype Sessions", where me and another member attempted to record a live album inside a skype call, occasionally adding another person to the call as a 'guest musician'.

later on, we began to collaborate more seriously, and the idea of an 'online band' took off in our heads. we would chat almost 24/7 over skype and exchange raw recordings through dropbox. the HCR bandcamp soon became a place for all of us to host different mini-projects, albums and eps under different artist names.

How did things evolve from HCR into Mecha Yuri?

somewhere in the middle of 2013, we decided that a rehaul was needed if we wanted to ever be taken seriously. we picked the name "mecha yuri" because it was a deconstruction of /mu/, the music board on 4chan: "/m/" being the 4chan board for mecha, and "/u/" being the board for yuri. "mecha yuri"

at first, "mecha yuri" wasn't all too different from HCR. it was only still the same three core members - Radical McKickflip, the OMNIPRESENCE, and myself - releasing on the label. over time, i decided to invite other musicians i knew either from real life (RLg) or various spots on the internet like tumblr, soundcloud and twitter (i know who you are and you are nothing, tekkaman, etc.) to release material on the label. after a few releases, like minded musicians noticed what we were doing and started to submit projects for us to release.

Do you have any specific criteria for the releases you put out on ur label? What sort of sound or overall aesthetic do you strive for with ur label?

i used to jokingly say to artists who wanted to release on the label that their music just had to be "anime". at first, we were aiming for an aesthetic that was inspired heavily by anime, japanese pop culture, and the "tumblr-esque" image edits you see on the internet.
anime is definitely still a huge influence on the artists on the label and the music we put out. for example, a few of our artists come from the "lolicore" scene; a genre which at it's roots is essentially anime-samples overtop of fast paced breakcore.

HIGH IMPACT SEXUAL VIOLENCE and Cute Fills, two indie rock bands who've released on our label also fill this "anime"-vibe: a lot of their songs are inspired by anime or manga. genre-wise, we're completely open to anything pop or experimental.

How do you come across the projects that you've put out music for? Do you actively seek out new stuff or do they come to you?

it's a bit of both actually! most of the artists we've released for are people i've met previously through twitter or past-compilations or whatever. a few artists, such as cute fills and mock off, i found through soundcloud or bandcamp and contacted personally to ask to release something of theirs. and on super rare occasions, i'll get a message from an artist who wants to offer something for us to release. this happened when Renjā, who i was already a fan of, messaged me out of the blue asking if we'd release their new album. i didn't even know that he'd heard of my label.

Speaking of Mecha Yuri's internet presence, I've seen a few online live shows that the label has hosted. How do you go about organizing one of those?

all of our online live shows were hosted through "tinychat", a video chatroom service. a little disclaimer though, the idea of an online show using tinychat came from SPF420, and the amazing shows they host. basically, all a musician has to do to perform is broadcast themselves through their webcam and microphone. planning is pretty simple: you just have to make a schedule and find people willing to play during a timeslot. all the artist - and the viewer - has to do is visit our tinychat URL. we've hosted a few shows this way, my favorite one being the launch party for the chao garden compilation we hosted with ecchiparty. sadly, i missed most of it, but the whole thing lasted over eight hours. apparently Bo-en and Clover and Sealife (formerly Space Boyfriend), two of my favorite musicians, showed up in tinychat to watch. and my friend goliad dunked some hoops during their set. bummed i missed that, haha.

Have you gotten the chance to see any shows irl?

totally! the last show i went to was teen suicide opening for Alex G right here at the Smiling Buddah in Toronto. it was a bit crazy because my friend rodrigo, who makes music under the name "RLg", played the same venue's basement after being invited by our friend MJ, who makes music as "Five Star Hotel" , who was on a mini-tour coming from Detroit. this summer i'm already planning to see death grips, yung lean and ryan hemsworth.

Hemsworth is so good!


i know right

Tell us a little about your own music!

heck yea! i've recently decided to change my artist name to "for airports". a reference to brian eno's "Ambient 1: Music for Airports" and the crazy nostalgic and sentimental feelings i have about airports and travel in general. i've only released two songs under that name; two tracks for compilation albums from The Worst Label and après-MIDI. i'm still working out a style for what i want my new music to sound like, but if i had to describe it i'd say something dumb like: "layered and atmospheric-feeling lo-fi pop built mainly around altered samples of my own guitar and vocals".

my main musical influences off the top of my head are Baths, who taught me that  electronic music production can be meticulous, melodic, emotional and beautiful and MEISHI SMILE, one of the co-runners of ZOOM LENS label, and one of their earlier projects "nono.". a dream of mine is to release a project on ZOOM LENS one day.

What sort of labels should fans of Mecha Yuri's aesthetic look out for?

definitely The Worst Label!! They're our closest net-label friends; a lot of artists who have released with us have also done releases with them and they're just super amazing overall. Canata Records is a great net-label based in Tokyo that I admire a lot. And we have a lot of close ties and similarities with labels like Pure Aesthete, AMBLIS RECORDS, Magic Yume Label, Hope Sick Cola and Senzu Collective.


Review: A Grave With No Name - "Feathers Wet..."

A Grave With No Name - Feathers Wet, Under The Moon
(2015 Lefse)

I've taken great care to use the term "masterpiece" sparingly. With the overwhelming abundance of music available to me thanks to Spotify and Bandcamp, it can be easy to forget what it really means to be fixated on one particular album, for a band or artist to pull my attention away from all else for the duration of an LP. About once or twice a year, a record will catch me by surprise and remind me what greatness truly means. Over the past week, A Grave with No Name's newest release, titled Feathers Wet, Under the Moon has done just that. It's a captivating listen from start to finish, bringing together the defining elements of each installment in his original trilogy of albums: Mountain Debris' expressionist emphasis on texture, the eerie atmosphere that haunted Lower, and the slick-yet-distorted production on Whirlpool. Adding a substantial dose of dreamy twang that recalls Red House Painters or even Euro-folk acts like Hank Dogs and The Cranberries, Alexander Shields has made the AGWNN album that I've always dreamed of. Hearkening back to Smashing Pumpkins B-Sides like "Said Sadly" and "Blew Away", he coats his fragile, shoegazey lullabies with lush string arrangements that are, at times, tinged with the lovable kitsch of early-80s pop country, especially so on "Waltz", which features some beautifully crunchy lead guitar courtesy of former Yuck frontman Daniel Blumberg. Though sparse, droney tracks like "Your Ghost, By the Lake" and "I Will Ride a Horse" are wonderfully cozy and jarringly powerful, Feathers Wet... shines brightest when it cranks up the distortion, like the intro to "Orion", packed with proto-grunge riffage that takes cues from Dinosaur Jr, circa Without A Sound. Fine-tuning all the elements that have made AGWNN's work great, I can safely say that Alex Shields has created a masterpiece that showcases his talent for creating hazy, ethereal atmospheres that span numerous genres.


Review: Elvis Depressedly - "New Alhambra"

Elvis Depressedly - New Alhambra
(2015 Run For Cover)

"No more sad songs," Mat Cothran whispered over the lead single of his recently released LP, New Alhambra, "I love everyone I've ever known". His November release of the "n.m.s.s." video seemed to indicate a radical paradigm shift in store for his Elvis Depressedly project: out with gloom and despair that saturated his earlier work - in with a slightly more upbeat, (yet luckily no less lo-fi) sound. In the context of New Alhambra, "No More Sad Songs" feels like self-aware joke in an album that wallows in its own self-loathing. If anything, the new album is an updated, more polished version of the signature blend of crunchy, fuzzed-out timbres that Cothran has established over the past six years. 

Though New Alhambra might sound the name of a cult, a quick google search reveals that it's actually the former home of now-defunct pro wrestling promotion ECW. If author John Updike was known for "giving the mundane its beautiful due", then Mat Cothran should be known for extracting a creepy, phantasmal aesthetic from the same source. In keeping with this ghostly vibe, Cothran's material for the new album is airy and hollow: sour, twangy guitars squelch against a backdrop of tape hiss, watery keyboard pulses coat his music like a thin film, and, as usual, his vocals echo and phase into an endless void as if he's cartoonishly contacting us from the great beyond. Strings buzz like insects on "Thall Shall Not Murder", "n.m.s.s" and "New Heaven New Earth". The latter of those three tracks is my favorite on the whole album, driven by an eerie drum machine rhythm and swirling keyboard pads. Though not a radical departure from anything he's done in the past New Alhambra is the finest installment in the Elvis Depressedly discography.


Single Review: Jandergan: "Two Is Glue"

Jandergan - "Two Is Glue"
(2015 New Branch)

For a debut single, Jandergan's "Two Is Glue" feels like the product of a band in its prime. An intricately crafted blend of shoegaze, midwestern-emo and the wiry riffage of late 00's indie rock (Phoenix, Two Door Cinema Club), Jandergan's sound is mature and nuanced, a constellation of spacey dream-pop guitar harmonies that unfurls before the listener on a canvas of reverb. Jandergan's serene, summery brand of psychedelia evokes Cosmic Rough Riders' "Life In Wartime", a hazy slice of folk-rock accented by twinkly harmonics. The Lexington, Kentucky scene is one of the most underrated in the country, and Jandergan, alongside acts like Jovontaes and Idiot Glee, is yet another reason to keep an eye on the woozy psych-pop that the college town has been a hotbed for in recent years.

Review: Hacktivism Records - "Bedroomcore Vol 1"

Hacktivism Records - Bedroomcore
(2015 Hacktivism)

When assembled correctly, there's nothing better than a good cassette compilation of shoegazey bedroom-pop, and Hacktivism's coast-to-coast assemblage of lo-fi anthems and ambient explorations is one of the finest comps I've gotten my hands on. Each tape comes packaged in a turquoise Norelco case that would fit right into Odd Future's signature color pallet. The album artwork really evokes the spirit of the "bedroomcore" revival: primal self-expression that is, strangely enough, deeply rooted in the internet era's remarkable ability to provide a space for artists within the genre to congregate. "Bedroomcore" is both a rejection and celebration of modern technology, using the cheapest, most archaic means of production available to present your music to anyone, anywhere on an easily accessible digital platform like Bandcamp. All facets of the scene are represented on this comp: there's a lovely piece of Wild Nothing-y jangle pop provided by Dear Tracks, Sob Story's haunting shoegaze tune that makes use of Japanese vocaloid software and even a crunchy keyboard cover of a song from Steven Universe that closes out the tape. Every song on Bedroomcore is a hit in its own right, making for an essential addition to any tape-head's library


Review: Kinesthetiac - "Self-Titled EP"

Kinesthetiac - Kinesthetiac EP
(2015 Sad Alan)

In the mid-2000s, Animal Collective introduced a raucous, neo-tribalist aesthetic to the rather sterile, whismsical brand of indie rock that dominated the scene, peddled by NPR-core acts like The Shins, The Decemberists and Grizzly Bear. Dubbed “freak-folk”, AnCo’s fresh, exciting approach to the classic “campfire song” was an experiment in regression. Disposing of any notion of convention, the collective exposed the beast caged within indie-folk’s quaint, soothing aesthetic by stripping it down to stomps, chants and barbaric yawps, a cacophony of pure emotion. Today, Indiana-based producer Kinesthetiac’s new EP is part of a similar revolution challenging the conventions of electronic music. A self-proclaimed “next level gay furry internet persona post-modern expeditionist”, Jared VanMatre produces odd sound sketches that are often minimal in construction but always maximalist in their scope of expression. “Call Me Up” evokes the sonic color pallet of Fisher-Price reds, yellows and blues that I’ve often attributed to PC Music’s GFOTY. It’s straightforward, and jarringly childlike, its bleep and bloops reminding me of sound effects from a late-90s educational computer game, (maybe Freddi Fish, perhaps?). “@TheSarcasmTweets” is the album’s crowning achievement, its unpredictable rhythms accented by vocal samples that seem to have been run through a Slap-Chop. It’s sort of a cross between A.G. Cook and Spinee. Bookended by instrumentals like the funky “Deep Landscape” and “Clubhouse”, a bouncy jingle that features a cute whistle sample, Self-Titled is an undeniably fun album from start to finish and is one of the year's most re-playable efforts.

(excerpt from half gifts issue 13)