Saturday 14 November 2020


I've for a long time voiced my issues with algorithms when it comes to discovering new music. Partly because I'm slightly jaded from every 'you might like' system not being as good as Grooveshark's (RIP), or at least as good as I remember it being with rose tinted glasses and all. That and getting stuck in a perpetual loop of 'Albums you might like' recommends from discogs too, though I will admit that they have gotten better with time. And that's really the crux of this post - I've changed my tune a bit when it comes to the algorithms, whether that be them getting better or me just having less time to take the deep dives that I used to I can't say. Here's a selection of tunes I've found via automated processes.

Ellsworth Kelly - Spectrum Colors Arranged By Chance VI (1951)

A lot of this music comes from Japan, and the reason for that is multi-layered. Firstly I've been on that kind of mode for a while so it's only natural the machines learn that and send similar stuff my way (see my previous posts on Rei Harakami et al), but secondly because it seems to be a big scene in the world of YouTube. And the reason for that is interesting in and of itself, word in the industry is that it's diabolically hard to license Japanese music for release elsewhere - though labels like Light In The Attic are doing their best to rectify that, I highly recommend their compilation Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990. There are exceptions to this, most of Rei Harakami's work is easily accessible via Bandcamp now for one, but often things just get lost in the interim.

Enter Susumu Yokota - an equally prolific name in the world of Japanese electronic but unlike Harakami's works, a lot of his discography is not simple to get your hands on. The album I found via the 'rithms, Cat, Mouse & Me, is one such example: released in 1997 on the Harthouse label, never re-pressed or re-issued beyond the original releases in Europe and the US and the label is still around but has been defunct several times throughout the years - the first time being actually in 1997. And that's before we introduce the complications of Yokota's death probably making managing the rights a real headache. But enough background, onto the album itself! Credited to just 'Yokota' on the sleeve, it's a different flavour to the House and Ambient stuff I've posted of his before. Here we take a trip to the more downtempo side of things, some of these tracks are straight up Trip-Hop and I love Yokota's interpretations of the genre. The whole thing has this lovely late 90's feel that as you all know by now I really really love. I picked this track in particular for that very reason, for a little while we dip our toes into Drum & Bass territory and if you're at all like me and love Soichi Terada's D&B work - this one will be extremely up your alley. Taking a few cues from the like of Omni Trio as well, Few is packed with lush ambient pads backed with breakbeats, Yokota gives the tune plenty of room to breathe with extended breakdowns focusing on those delicious synths. I've been wearing it out for well over a week now with no signs of stopping.

I've also discovered a lot of compilations this way - one I've mentioned very briefly in passing, Hamburgeins has given me a chance to once again open my borders to more minimal stuff. I'm incredibly picky when it comes to minimal as longtime readers will know - which often makes it hard for me to pin down why I like some tracks over others and this one is no different in that respect. At it's most base level its just a simple loop and a 4/4 for 8 minutes with the occasional vocal chorus - on paper it sounds like I wouldn't much care for it but it's probably one of my most listened to from the compilation, though it is an alias/group of Alexander Polzin so that might explain it a bit. I think it really captures that hi-tech smoothness that permeates that compilation, and maybe it's just the menial work I'm doing these days but it's been a great one to pass the time with.

And a roundabout one to play us out, and the oldest example of this here. This one's a cross-media tale - VA-11 HALL-A was first recommended to me by Steam thanks to my interest in any and all things with the 'Cyberpunk' tag. It was the artwork that caught my eye first of all, but like so many people's Steam accounts I essentially wish-listed it and promptly forgot about it. A few weeks later a streamer I follow mentioned they'd be playing it so I figured I'd tune in, and it was one of those moments where I couldn't stick around - not because of timezones or I had something to do - no, this was one of those times where I had to leave the stream because I knew I needed this in my life. The artwork, the music and of course the game itself absolutely nail their aesthetic and I'm having to stop myself from writing multiple paragraphs on it once again. Simply put: if you like Synthwavy stuff at all, definitely consider picking up VA-11 HALL-A or it's soundtracks - Garoad's music is impeccably twinned with it and makes the whole experience that much richer, it runs the gamut from full on synthwave club tracks, to borderline ambient and twinkling downtempo slow jams like this one. Absolutely gorgeous.

And so ends another weekly post, I'm going to try resurrect some old posts this weekend if I can make heads or tails of the spaghetti html with the new blogger layout, I may republish a couple of them as 'new' posts at some point during the week as well. Apologies for the re-runs in advance but I'll try and balance it out with new ones too! And as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


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