Monday, 29 May 2017

Mecha Activated

Continuing the Japanese theme of the last couple posts, I went looking at Mijk Van Dijk again, specifically the Tokyo Trax EP, which is filled with amazingly of-the-era track titles like Little Lonely Otaku. Oversimplified takes on the culture aside, the tunes contained within are quite good. While looking though I found the sequel to the Game Trax Vol. 1 EP I posted not too long ago, and this time it wasn't Ridge Racer, it was Armored Core.



Naturally I was interested, cos Armored Core 2 had a quality soundtrack. Imagine my surprise when I find out that he's been behind that tune all along. Seems that somehow the tune names got swapped on the official release of the full OST, and what's listed as Robo.Com.Bat is actually the theme, and the tunes took a bit of finding as it's not sorted on his soundcloud like vol. 1 too. Not that Robo.Com.Bat is any worse by any stretch of the imagination, I'm a sucker for early 00's 'techy' tune titles as-is, and I absolutely adore those high pitched backing synths.



The final tune, the also 2000's techy titled Robo@Tek is probably the most conventional of the trio, and would be easily at home on the dancefloor as it is on the OST. It actually reminds me a whole bunch of the Ghost In The Shell game OST; Megatech Body Co., which is probably unsurprising as Mijk also appeared on there (though truth be told some of his tunes on that were too minimal for me). Enjoy yet another time capsule back 16 years or so.



-Claude Van Foxbat

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Checking In

Please mind the mess in the in-between period where I figure out how exactly I'm going to take submissions as a one man band without being swamped. That't not deterring some of you mind, here's a recent one that came into my inbox after a bit of a runaround with contact info (again, my bad and I apologise!). I Don't Do Crowds (you and me both brother) got in touch with a little remix for me. I always find it kinda hard to be too critical in cases like this, a remix being your first exposure can be a bit of a boon, you never know if it's a one off style for the remix or whether parts you like or dislike are from the original or the mix but I digress and I'll do my best. It seems to hail from the sweet sounding school of Celadon City and co. which is never a bad thing especially with summer round the bend, always takes me back to the summer of 09's fantastic selection of tunes. Gripes are small; I almost want a hazier Washed Out treatment applied to the whole thing but that's a personal thing, on a similar note The lyrical content gets a little cliche at times but I guess that goes with the territory and isn't a mark on the remix so much as it is the source material.



After last posts 90's anime streak and the above, I went out to see what my favourite future funk fiend Macross 82-99 was up to, and the answer was slightly surprising in the best way. As the genre tag says, Victoria Harbour At Night is a far cry from the disco influenced sweetness of Macross past, and scratches a very specific itch that rarely gets hit; the two examples I can come up with off the top of my head fro reference are the (coincidentally also Japanese) Bran-New Lovesong by The Pillows and Akira Yamaoka's End Of Small Sanctuary. The soundcloud description says Macross is looking for a vocalist for this one, but I think it's near perfect as-is.



And a quickie revisit for those that missed the last time I mentioned Macross, here's the kinda thing I was used to hearing coming out of that camp. As you can hear from the get go, the retro influence is very apparent. Get a load of them drums and machine gun high hats. Although in hindsight even this is pretty far from the more Disco influenced stuff that pointed me in that direction to begin with, I'd recommend checking out the likes of Fun Tonight for that, doubly so if you'd like a fast track back to the days of French Touch and Bloghouse.



-Claude Van Foxbat

Monday, 22 May 2017

Mech Hunting & Hunting Mechs

Remember how in a bunch of previous posts on Synthwave and the like I've said things sound like they could be a soundtrack to a Sega CD game? Well late last night I was treated to probably the most apt example of that yet. I don't have much from Mitch Murder in my library, my first exposure being Hollywood Heights, which embraces the clich├ęs of the retro aesthetic in full earnest (which a friend of mine lovingly described as 'Deliberately crap'). A far cry from the cyberpunk vibes of Perturbator, and even further from the likes of Carpenter Brut's occult laden pieces for sure.



The art was the first thing to catch my eye, that is certainly some co-opted Masamune Shirow art up there, which being a fan of all things Ghost In The Shell and Appleseed isn't a problem at all. Speaking of though, I was going to just jump right in and post some tunes I like from the thing, but I think it would do a disservice if I didn't point you to the teaser Mitch put up on soundcloud for the thing. Not only is it a solid preview of all the tracks, but it's full of lovely little touches from the word go, the little CRT noises splitting the tunes and the digitized "SE-GAAAAA" at the intro making clear this is a love letter to the style, and one Mitch is certainly having fun with.



Going against what I said in the opening paragraph here, we're going to start with Runners, just because you've probably heard the first couple tunes if you listened to the soundcloud player above. Runners is far and away what I call the least soundtrack-y tune on the EP, from the way it's structured it clearly has more in common with Mitch's usual synthwave output than strictly sticking to the 'OST' theme. That's not a bad thing at all however, and though it may stray in structure the sounds remain very Sega CD-esqe, my favourite being that bouncy bass which kicks the whole thing off.

Mitch Murder - Runners [click to download] |HTML5|


It should come as no surprise to longtime readers that I dig the latter half's more down-tempo tunes a whole bunch too, Sneakers sees a return to more thematically appropriate song structure, albeit with a few deviations here and there. After quite the foreboding intro, the tune becomes something more akin to some of the tunes I've posted from VA11 HALL-A in the past, and those little background flourishes definitely give me a little bit of a Snatcher vibe, so mission accomplished on the Sega CD front then.

Mitch Murder - Sneakers [click to download] |HTML5|


And finishing up fittingly enough with the End theme. Which if I was being pedantic sounds more like a N64 soundtrack, or even closer to something like an early PS1 JRPG but I digress. I think this style really has legs and would love to hear more of it, I fear I may have to wade through a sea of low effort vaporwave for that to happen though. If you're into the sounds on show in this post, I'd definitely recommend check out Mitch's catalogue in full, he's got quite a few releases over on his his Bandcamp, and some of them (like Mech Hunter OST) can be nabbed for free.

Mitch Murder - End [click to download] |HTML5|


Regardless, I really dig the idea of imaginary OSTs, it's something I've had a crack at before and think it' a good creative task for any musicians out there, anyone looking for a more high profile example might want to check out Passengers' Original Soundtracks 1, a collab between U2 and Brian Eno which consists of music for films that do't exist. Ironically some ended up being used in actual films, including One Minute Warning as the credits theme to the 1995 Ghost In The Shell movie to bring us full circle.

-Claude Van Foxbat

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Reconnected

Back online after an unfortunate router explosion last Friday. It was cracking on a bit but I never expected it to leave in such a dramatic fashion, still over the years it provided me with no end of material to work with, and I only see fit to pay it tribute with somethings I've been playing in the meantime.

Chicote CFC - Knives In Honor To Love (2012)

There's going to be a running theme of Drum & Bass today, from an unlikely source actually, I loaded up on soundtracks to see me through the period of having no 'net. And as it turns out, Trigun's is still real good. Tsueno Imahori weaves a fine tapestry of all sorts of genres throughout: bits of Blues, Jazz, small touches of hip hop and all sorts crop up throughout. The highlight of the first OST album is by far and away Philosophy In A Tea Cup, the combination of Piano & breakbeat scratches my itch something fierce (although it's usually Omni Trio doing the scratching), it could have easily been something that appeared on an early Ninja Tune comp, it has that kind of DJ Food feel methinks. Which wouldn't be too far fetched considering Imahori's work on the Cowboy Bebop OST, which in addition to having a legit remix of the theme by DJ Food, also had a spin off remix album with the likes of Luke Vibert and Mr. Scruff.

Tsueno Imahori - Philosophy In A Tea Cup [click to download] |HTML5|


Been revisiting the mid 90's drum & bass on offer from Everything But The Girl. Ironically enough this tune doesn't show off any of the melancholic lyrics that I remember the album for, but it's apretty good demo of the overall sound. I do have a li'l bit of a soft spot for tunes like this, I remember thinking they sounded crazy futuristic as a young 'un which is kinda funny looking back, because now I'd describe the whole of the Walking Wounded LP to be pretty par the course for D&B of the era. Not to knock it though, I still really like it and I think that Tracey Thorn's vocal accompaniment works great with the production.

Everything But The Girl - Before Today [click to download] |HTML5|


Swinging back around to my earlier point about Piano & Breakbeat combos, I'm going to give Omni Trio another nod. Even Angels Cast Shadows is chock full of examples of what I'm talking about, and is an album I should probably credit more as it only barely doesn't make my list of 10/10 albums, 16 years on from release and I'd argue it still sounds pretty fresh in the grand scheme of things.. I absolutely adore that combo of deep basslines and twinkling piano and some strings even get involved towards the end which are a treat too. Check it out if this kinda thing is your bag as much as it is mine.

Omni Trio - Higher Ground [click to download] |HTML5|


-Claude Van Foxbat

Monday, 1 May 2017

The Humanz Condition (Gorillaz Album Overview)

Seven long years after we were spoiled with 2 Gorillaz albums in one year, they're back with another offering in Humanz. I like to try and remain impartial when it comes to the look of albums, but I really aren't feeling the art for Humanz at all, the rendering of the characters is treading a little bit into the uncanny valley, especially 2D. While we're on the subject, I'm not big on the title either, but I said the same about Plastic Beach just before that came out and now I don't think twice about it, and this is far from the first time we've had weird looking renditions of the band so I'm going to keep that gripe to a minimum. Let's get stuck in.


From the get go you'll see that the selection of collaborators is a little more eclectic this time. Which sounds funny of me to say coming off the heels of Plastic Beach with the likes of Bobby Womack and Snoop Dogg but the point stands. The second thing that had my attention is the amount of 'Interludes' there are, seven of the 26 tracks to be precise. Seems Damon Albarn's taken a leaf out of early 00's rap albums when it comes to structure.


On that note, Humanz wastes no time getting down to business after the first interlude, with the bombastic trap stylings of Ascension kicking things off with a bang. Not really my cup of tea, but I appreciate Damon's flexibility all the same, and I do dig the vibe it's setting up. I'd always felt that an electropop direction would be the next stop for Gorillaz after the likes of Doncamatic and the Little Dragon features of Plastic Beach, and Strobelite is pretty much what I'd pictured as the result of that, albeit a little more on the house side of the spectrum. I want to say it's quite different so in a blind test you'd have trouble discerning it was Gorillaz, but I think that can apply to all their albums really, at this point in their career the defining feature is the variety on offer. Before we move on, it reminds me a whole lot of MSTRKRFT's So Deep from Fist Of God, which is a gap I've been needing filled since 2009.

I'm going to gloss over some tunes form here on out in the interest of brevity, starting with Saturnz Barz because it's been out there so long I'm not sure what input I could have on it. I will say that if the production is all Damon's he's done a cracking job with it, and I think his vocal style offers a nice contrast in songs like it, I'd like to see him stretch his legs back into the rap world like back in the days of Deltron 3030. On that note it's nice to see De La Soul again on Momentz too.


Submission is doing a bang up job of taking me back to the heyday of late 00's dance in the vein of La Roux and Kelis' brief foray into Electro by way of Crookers. An early highlight, Damon's talent for picking guest vocalists shining through once more, definitely going to be keeping this one in rotation for a while. Charger is a bit of an odd one, a complete 180 form the smooth electropop style of previous. Me and a coworker were talking about it on Friday and both said that it sounds very Blur-y, part of that is definitely Damon turning up the accent up to 11 like on Country House, and part of it is that deliciously crunchy guitar present throughout.

Not going to say much about Andromeda because it's been out for so long again. I will say it's nice to hear Damon mostly on his own here, and I'm surprised it took so long in the track-list to have one. Similarly, Busted And Blue is downright fantastic too. I'm a sucker for downtempo numbers sure, but the combo of hazy, dreamy electronics and Albarn's delivery is a combo that I think is pretty special, something that's a refreshing change coming off the heels of his more acoustically oriented solo LP. Sex Murder Party sounds like it could be remix left off of The Fall, it's got that stripped skeletal sound that was running motif of that album, backed once again with more trademark Albarn vocal delivery.



Segueing to the last 4 tunes of the album: I was expecting a more punky sound to She's My Collar, based on the title and opening instrumentation. I like the tune as is, I think Damon's vocal is on point as usual and I'm in love with the synths towards the outro, but given the surrounding atmosphere and all I'd like to see him get a little shouty like on, well, Punk from their self titled. My opinion of Hallelujah Money remains mostly the same: I am very much enjoying the return of the backing choir, something I've missed from the penultimate parts of Demon Days which made them shine. Benjamin Clementine doesn't disappoint here, his delivery compliments the overall production very well indeed, and is a nice counterpoint to Damon's vocal too. We Got The Power is a slice of feelgood from the usually melancholy Damon Albarn. It's downright fantastic if oddly placed in the track-list, not sure it's what I'd pick for an ending tune (for the basic edition of the album anyway) and it does sort of abruptly end which is a bit of a let down. But it's catchy as all get out, and is bound join the lineups of the songs the crowd sings along to when it makes a live debut.



It seems that my theory of a politically charged album were off mark a fair bit, still there are some pretty powerful verses contained within no doubt. After spending some time with it, I think that the length of the track-list is a double edged sword, while I welcome the plethora of Gorillaz material to get stuck into, it can be quite easy to get lost in the sea of sound, doubly so for any new-coming listeners. My biggest issue is that there was no reason the interludes couldn't have been merged into the tracks themselves, especially in cases like Interlude: Elevator Going Up, making a 4 second voice clip it's own 'track' is a silly move and just ends up looking like padding the numbers. All in all, I'd be hard pressed to pin a numerical rating on it. Not because it's particularly bad or good mind, more that every album post Demon Days has been a grower with some standout tracks for me personally, and Humanz looks like it's going to continue that trend.

-Claude Van Foxbat