Monday 31 May 2021

A Love letter to soundtracks

I got the itch to do another mixtape type dealie once again. I was looking over my past ones and saw that more often than not there were more than a few soundtrack pieces bleeding onto them, I'd conciously been trying to avoid it in the past but this time I went all in and embraced it. This time we focus on soundtrack work coming out of Japan - inspired by a coworker linking me to another mixtape of a simialar theme by Mac DeMarco over on NTS - though his is firmly rooted in the videogame sphere. I have considered it before, there are some legitimate amazing tunes out there - the electro/dubstep vibes of Sumire Uesaka's Pop Team Epic to the seedy spiritual successor to Electroclash in the blog house stylings of TeddyLoid's Fly Away there's plenty to go at. And that's just the super upbeat stuff!

There is no J-Pop this time but there's a remarkable amount of varitey on show in this small selection. From jazzy conventional soundtracks like the opening trio that takes a breakbeat turn with the soundtrack of Racing Lagoon to thumping techno courtesy of the soundtrack to the PS1 Ghost In The Shell Game, before coming back into land with some ambient, trip hop and straight up hip hop in the final quarter. And I didn't even end up using some of the stuff I had planned, originally I wanted to chuck some D&B in there from Soichi Terada and Shinji Oritio, and even some of the legitimate 1980's stuff from the Bubblegum Crisis soundtracks. It didn't come to be this time, but that's all well and good because that just means I have more fuel for if I decide to do another one of these! Tracklist follows after the player:

Ryuichi Katsumata - Sileighty Toujou (Initial D Extra Stage Original Sound Tracks, 2001)
Taku Iwasaki - Police Woman (Angel Heart Original Soundtrack, 2006)
Yoko Shimomura - Arise Within You (Parasite Eve Original Soundtrack, 1998)
Noriko Matsueda - Loop Demo (Racing Lagoon Original Soundtrack, 1999)
Shinji Orito - Empty Space (Clannad Original Soundtrack, 2004)
Rei Harakami - Pone (Boogiepop Phantom Original Soundtrack, 2000)
Kensuke Ushio - Boogiepop And Others (Boogiepop And Others Original Soundtrack, 2019)
Kensuke Ushio - Fire Witch II (Boogiepop And Others Original Soundtrack, 2019)
Takkyu Ishino - Ghost In The Shell (Megatech Body.CD.,LTD. - 1997)
Kenji Kawai - Nightstalker (Ghost In The Shell (Original Soundtrack), 1995)
Akira Yamaoka - The Day Of Night (Silent Hill 2 Original Soundtracks, 2001)
Akira Yamaoka - The Reverse Will (Silent Hill 2 Original Soundtracks, 2001)
Masafumi Takada - So That The Forms Of Heavenly Maidens Linger Before Me Yet More (Samurai Champloo Original Soundtrack [Hip Hop Samurai Action], 2006)
Force Of Nature - Just Forget (Samurai Champloo Music Record - Impression, 2004)
The Seatbelts - Space Lion (Cowboy Bebop, 1998)

It might not be the best mixing I've ever done, but overall I'm OK with it, I got the variety in that I wanted and even some deeper dives like Racing Lagoon to boot. If the MIDI sax of the opening tracks is turning you away, I understand, but try and stick it out to the Boogiepop section of soundtracks, they're some really beautiful pieces and the Rei Harakami one is potentially my favourite of all the things he ever did. I've got somethin else lined up to post fairly soon, but hopeully there are some tunes in here that will tide you over for a day or two. And as always - Stay safe and enjoy the music.


Friday 28 May 2021

Techy Turn

Another return this time - back to basics with a slightly thematic rundown of 'things that came up on shuffle' like I used to do. Focusing on one of my favourite niches in the electronic music world, that brief period in the early 2000's where everything got a bit techy, with stuff like the minimal glitch of microhouse becoming fairly popular. It's not isolated to that one genre though, a lot of stuff around the time was moving in a heavily synthetic direction - by far the biggest target there is Electroclash, which long time readers will know is one of my I wouldn't say any of these tunes are of the genre directly but they almost certainly flirt with it heavily. Let's take a look.

Arne Quinze - My Secret Garden, Valencia (2018)

What is there to say about Rippin Kittin that I haven't already? I'll probably bring it up every so often for as long as I remain in the electronic music space. The original was a bit of a hit on the dance charts, but it doesn't exactly sound like what you'd expect of the time, in an era where feel good 4/4 house and friends were still king. Rippin Kittin is still in that House fashion, though with this sweetly done distinct melancholy atmosphere running throughout, one helped out by Kittin's delivery of those deceptively dark lyrics. The original is a gorgeous slice of electronic music from the time, one that I adore the sound of to this day even after almost 20 years(!) of listening.

There's a boatload of remixes, covers and all sorts of the original and I love them all in their own ways - but there are a few that consistently fight for the top spot are: Glove's Radio Mix thanks to the reintroduction of the chorus that puzzlingly isn't present on the original, Alexander Polzin's mix that strips the original down to a skeletal fragile version of itself.

But what's holding pole position for me at the minute is the Golden Boy with Turner's Strings mix, Golden Boy's own revisit to the tune and what could be considered the 'Director's Cut' of mixes. It combines all the elements of my favourite mixes and versions pretty much (though the chorus is yet again missing here), truth be told it's not all that different from the original - but the little tweaks here and there, all topped off with a little bit of vocoding on the existing vocal make the mix fell as if it was almost catered directly to me.

Swayzak now, they've made a couple of appearances before on here, normally for their earlier techy deep house outings like Speedboat. I've only gone a few albums deeper than the debut that one was from (Snowboarding In Argentina) but starting from the follow up Himawari things start moving in all kinds of directions and are no longer clearly defined as their debut. And that's not a critique - the later albums massivley benefit from this blend of sounds and the introduction of vocals on some tracks too, State Of Grace with Kirsty Hawkshaw being a real highlight.

But we're not talking about Himawari here - I've chosen a track from Dirty Dancing from 2002, an album that goes in a much more poppy direction. It was very much in fashion at the time (as is the theme of this post), and Swayzak's attempt at it is fairly decent, albeit with some questionable vocals at times. But by far and away the best result of this experiment is I Dance Alone - the album has more than a hint of Adult.'s sound to it which comes to a head here as we have Nicola Kuperus from Adult. actually featuring on the vocal front too. Her contributions to Adult. tracks really complete that electro punky feel that they have and that's on full show here. I can see why if you were super into the tech house output of the two you'd be disappointed (and some of the album is super dated for sure) but I can't help but love this one, the combo of electro and Kuperus' shout-out loud vocals are just great, but as I've admitted before I have a real soft spot for this era of sound.

And finally, one I've held off on putting up hoping it would come on some other decent streaming services but that's looking increasingly rare. So rather than a Spotify player I went with YT instead - doesn't look as nice but hey ho. Another find from the surprisingly solid 'This is Tech-Pop' compilation from Ministry Of Sound, Naked, Drunk & Horny wouldn't sound too out of place in the slightly seedy world of electroclash from it's title, but the actual tune errs much more on the pop side than your usual suspects that were labelled elctroclash at the time.

Allegedly a remake of a tune called 'Starecase' from Pukka that I cannot find any information about on the internet - it's very much of that early 2000's era with it's nonsensical lyrics and sultry female vocal, but like so many songs like it I can't help but like it. It toes the line between tongue in cheek parody and out and out cheese to the point where I can't make up my mind if it's earnest or not - a feeling not helped by tracks like She Gets Me High coming out sounding like a proto-vaporwave track, one that's trying to create some kind of faux-exotic European sound.

A slightly eclectic mix this time - these are all tunes that kinda came to mind one after another though, and sort of share that early aughts electronic theme so I suppose they are at least slightly themed! Got a little long in the tooth  Here's hoping you found some interesting stuff off the heels of this post, if you like slightly obscure (and let's be honest generally 'average') electronic of this era like I do, then the rest of the Yellow Note album is a good port of call - as an interesting curio if nothing else.

And as always - stay safe and enjoy the music.


Tuesday 25 May 2021

Gone Swimming

I'm back on my usual again, this time with a post about some compilations I haven't talked about before which is surprising as you will soon see they are supremely up my alley. Adult Swim has a long history of supporting musicians both indie and otherwise as you've seen me post about many times before - they were ahead of the game when it came to campaigns like that, before the yearly 'Singles Program' that they run now there was a couple of collaborations with the Ghostly International label that resulted in a couple of compilations that at the time you could get for free. This was around 2008 as a free download on the Adult Swim site which is where I got my copy. The official links are dead now but there are mirrors - but Ghostly also has them archived on their Bandcamp too, albeit not for $0 like it was in '08. Still, it's a great little compilation, let's quote the Bandcamp page for a bit of background:
(...) a 20-track mix (curated by label founder Sam Valenti IV) of tracks from Ghostly's avant-pop mainstays like Matthew Dear, Michna, and School of Seven Bells, alongside kindred spirits like Milosh, FLYamSAM, and Mux Mool. Ghostly Swim's best tracks embody the label's trademark mix of playful darkness and irreverence - Deastro's lurching robot-rock anthem "Light Powered," The Chap's bizarro-world pop hit "Carlos Walter Wendy Stanley," Michna's slinky-smooth "Triple Chrome Dipped" - making them an ideal accompaniment to, say, pissing in your pants over Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law.
And really they couldn't have summed it up better. The whole compilation is suitably eclectic given the work of Adult Swim, where electro-industrial tracks like Kill Memory Crash's Hit + Run rub shoulders with out and out smooth as hell and drenched in talkbox funk-inspired tracks like Osborne's Wait A Minute. Much like the Singles Program that Adult Swim used to run, this is a great compilation if you're looking to get some variety injected into your collection - a real standout highlight is the pulsing house come techno number from The Reflecting Skin in Traffickers I could do an entire post on this comp but I'll curtail it for now.

By far and away the most standout tune on here though is one of the few official appearances of FLYamSAM, which as the name would imply is a collaboration between Flying Lotus and Samiyam. This is from around the Los Angeles era of FlyLo which is home to some of my favourites of his, and it really shows - The Offbeat could have easily come off one of the companion EPs for LA, while it has that slightly rough feel of FlyLo's sound of that era, the whole thing feels a lot more slick than some of the cuts from the album. That wobbly melody is sweet as hell to this day, I wasn't into FlyLo so much when I first grabbed this compilation but with hindsight it's not hard to see that the man had a real talent for production and was definitely one to watch. Not to discount the work that Samiyam also put in mind you, his influence is clear to hear as well - having produced one of my favourites from Los Angeles in RobertaFlack, the two have a shared sound philosophy that I love a whole lot.

But of course, part of the beauty of these comps is introducing artists you might have not seen otherwise, and I'd say that rings true for pretty much the rest of the tracklist here for me. Enter Mux Mool - their contribution to the compilation is also aesthetically on point when it comes to matching the general Adult Swim vibe, the cut up beat butchery of the opening on Night Court would be right at home on one of the network's commercial 'bumps' (which, coincidentally is also what FlyLo was doing with his early demos). It kinda fits into a niche subcategory within my library, this kind of jammed out hip hop stuff reminds me a lot of the likes of Gold Panda and Bibio, though the closest I think in terms of sound is what Pretty Lights was making around this time - Filling Up The City Skies carries a lot of the same style cues, though with more of a sample focused approach than here.

The downside to this is finding an artist and digging deeper only to find they didn't really do anything more - two examples of this on this compilation: Reflecting Skin as mentioned in the first paragraph and the subject of my next pick - Dark Party. Active stood out to me early on, as is so often the case with many artists I end up following, I like the style on show here and was interested to see what else they had on offer. As mentioned though, they haven't done anything under the Dark Party name since around 2010 so you can most likely consider the project defunct. But not every artist has to turn into a massive deep discography dive I suppose, given how many things I have on my wishlist I shouldn't complain! Still, if you like what you hear here, they do have one album under the name called Light Years that's in the same vein.

And that'll do it for now, this post was originally going to be one track from each of the three Ghostly Swim comps but that got a bit lost by the wayside! Always fuel for another post I suppose, the other compilations are a little different in terms of sound too, the second edition of Ghostly Swim didn't come out until 2014 so a lot of evolution and change both for the label and the electronic sphere happened in-between. Check out the rest of the comp if you've liked my selections here, it's a little more varied than my choices here would lead you to think.

And as always - Stay safe and enjoy the music.


Saturday 22 May 2021

Red Skies

Abbott Handerson Thayer - The Sky Simulated by Red Flamingoes (1909)

Back again with what I hope will be another one of those shorter posts I talked about last time. Kicking off with my latest escapist experience, Umurangi Generation, and its decidedly on-point soundtrack. The setting is a slightly cyberpunk New Zealand, and you're there to take pictures and have a chill time mainly. The soundtrack is on paper at odds with the chill aesthetic, it runs the full gamut from near dubstep and future bass to more conventional House and a whole heap of UK Garage influence too, but it works ever so well in practice. Speaking of variety, it helps that the OST is massive, the DLC soundtrack that this is from is 51 tracks, and the main game has an extra 81 on top of that - granted a lot of them are super short but still. I've yet to hear a dud from ThorHighHeels, and even if I did there's so much to get at on this album that I don't think it'd be a big deal even if.

Speaking of aesthetics, we're revisiting Mitch Murder again now. Out of all the 'Retrowave' (and it's million other umbrella terms) artists, Mitch's works always felt the most... honest, for lack of a better term. Mitch's work certainly takes a whole heap of inspiration from actual 80's music, but unlike some other artists of the synthwave persuasion, I think a lot of his work is more of a love letter to the style of old rather than just aping the overall sound and vibe. Take Frost from his latest release Then Again - it has massive echoes of Vangelis' score for Blade Runner, which I know is an incredibly cliché comparison to make but those brassy synths are almost absolutely intended to be taken that way. It's been a while since I heard Mitch tackle something so downbeat as this and I'm really digging it, it's at the top of my list to check out and scoop up come next BC Friday.

Another one from my list to round out - L'usine (or just Lusine as they go by now). I very briefly dipped my toe into their work when I was on my ambient streak a little while ago, but as is so often the case I ended up finding out they have a ton of releases under their belt, the early stuff falling under the IDM label to boot. I did a little bit of exploring, and is so often the case with me I checked a couple out based on the cover art alone, which is how I found The Waiting Room. Made the mistake of reading the reviews on discogs but they weren't useful, just full of folks lamenting that it was a house record and not like their older works, I was undeterred though and thought I should at least sample the first track.

I haven't really had time to sit down with the album properly yet, but Panoramic is nice enough, a real driving song that worked real well during my WFH periods - it actually reminds me a lot of Röyksopp in a way, I think it has some of the same structure that was on The Understanding's bonus tracks that are like the refined results of a bunch of jam sessions. It's on the ever-growing list either way, so you may be hearing more of this in the future, if not this album then certainly L'usine's other works.

Right, I think that went pretty well. A *little* bit shorter than usual but not by much I will admit. Still, my thoughts remain the same, I plan to do more of these quick-fire posts in the coming future, too many times recently I've ended up writing across multiple days which I think sometimes makes my writing a bit scatterbrained (more so than usual at least!), not to mention the extra time taken too. Anyway, that's neither here nor there, hope you enjoy these selections - I'll be back as usual with more soon enough.

And as always - Stay safe and enjoy the music.


Wednesday 19 May 2021


Gérard Fromanger - Tirez-Tirez, Boulevard des Italiens (1971)

Lately I've been taking some time to do more just sitting and listening to my collection. For years it's played as the background to my goings-on but as of recently I couldn't shake the feeling I wasn't giving it the attention it deserved, especially some of the newer things I'd picked up that immediately get lost in the sea of shuffle as there are thousands of tracks. So, as cliche as it sounds, I've been taking a little slice of the day after I get off work to stretch out and just listen for a while with no real distractions. Here are some bits and pieces I've had a good time with as of late.

Arovane is one of those. I want to say that this is another one that I had recommended to me a bunch back in the Grooveshark days but I can't say for sure, we have come full circle though in that it does keep recommending it to me on discogs now I'm looking at a bunch of old Toytronic stuff. Tides is a lovely album, one that was distinctly more ambient in my memory than it actually is, it seems. It came into my collection when I was still riding the high of Akira Yamaoka's more trip-hop influenced stuff from the Silent Hill soundtracks, and there's a little bit of that influence here: title track Tides sounding like one of the less menacing examples from the original 4 with that hazy, heavy stumbling beat and distant acoustic backing, the same kind of atmosphere Yamaokoa was playing with comes up even more later on with some delicately placed warm pads. The final falling away of all the elements and fade into the full ambient outro is beautiful too, Tides is an early highlight of the album - but the rest is great too, if you like this one you could scoop the whole thing and enjoy it easily.

Sense came to me in a similar way, one of those artists I noted down in the past that had been recommended to me, but I put off because I assumed they'd be hard to come by like some of the older IDM stuff, but most of Sense's work is up on Bandcamp. This album sat on my Bandcamp wishlist for a while among a couple of other Sense releases - Learning To Be stood out to me from the artwork alone, I find it really striking and really evocative of the albums sound. The opening of ex t nerla carries on that warm and fuzzy trend with more lush pads and an analogue hum, with some little pitch bends and that introduce a slightly off kilter sound that's a signifier of things to come.

Learning To Be is a much more traditional IDM affair than the above, nothing super intense though, more in line with some of the stuff Casino Versus Japan or The Flashbulb have made. It's a solid opener, one that nicely sets up the rest of the album as most of the tracks follow this same kind of formula, but that's not a condemnation as it's one that works really really well. The beats can be a little on the harsh side at times, but I do love the sounds that Sense plays with on this album, and I will almost certainly be posting the gorgeous ambient drone of Human Buffer Zone at some point in the future.

Closing out is B-side to the Truant EP - Burial's Rough Sleeper which I've brought up a few times in the past. It might just eke out the top spot for my favourite thing he's ever done, it's a 13 minute masterclass in his aesthetic - though it remains a near constant beautifully lush for the entire runtime and doesn't quite dip to the tense and menacing vibes of some of his other work. Having said that though the opening sections do have some nice and thick basslines behind them, and there is usually a 2-step beat accompanying most of it, so it's not like a full on ambient piece or anything. It can be a bit daunting with it's length but its not too bad in practice: It is a continuous experience but one that's divided into clear sections, the first half is are absolutely divine and my favourite of the lot, but each one has there place and there's not a bad one among them. None of them overstay their welcome, but take that with a hint of bias as the longest sections are also my favourites of the bunch.

I only have a couple of complaints after all this time, the first one being simply the ending is super abrupt (but that's small potatoes considering the length) but the other one is a little more pressing. Here and there over the runtime, there are some intentional digital glitches put in. They are good for flavour I will admit, but they are a bit too convincing in execution (if you've ever ripped a slightly scuffed CD you'll attest to that too), to the point where I actually had to listen to the official uploads on other services to make sure it wasn't just my copy.

That's all for this time, I have a couple more things lined up for the coming posts but I might also slip another quick one that's just a blurb and some tunes like I did a little while ago (just minus the rant next time!). I found it pretty refreshing to do, and while I love to write posts like this where I get to go a bit in depth, I appreciate it does sometimes get a bit text heavy so I figure I might try it just for variety and that - might let me queue up multiple like I used to a little while ago. But anyway, hope you dig some of these choices and as always: Stay safe and enjoy the music.


Monday 17 May 2021

A Driving Experience

I wouldn't say I'm a car person, but I probably have more of an interest in them than the average person, it doesn't really come up much on the blog though because on paper there's not much crossover between the two. But the worlds of electronic music and cars collide quite often, just look at the aesthetics of the entire synthwave movement for one, it's full of blocky 80's sports and supercars like the Countach, Testarossa and the DeLorean. It goes beyond that too, there was that period in the early 00's where the World Rally Championship used the Chemical Brothers' Star Guitar as the theme for all their promo and commentary pieces for example. Of course there's also a whole host of Eurobeat out there that is vehicular themed, "Gasoline" being an often used words in the genre and leading to frankly amazing song titles like "Manifold Love". And that's without even mentioning all the Initial D related tracks out there - the continuous mixes of them are full of samples of tire squeals and engine revs.
ジェットブリック - Break Of Dawn on Pixiv

So why do I bring all that up? Well, I guess it's to show that there's not really a definitive genre when it comes to the music of cars, go looking and you can pretty much find any genre set to the theme and it will fit. Which brings me to the subject of this post: Takashi Kokubo. Kokubo is one of the old school ambient / new age composers from Japan, his works range from commercial releases like albums and such, to more eclectic contributions like him composing the alert sound for Japan's mobile earthquake alert system and jingles for all sorts from credit card payment sounds to actual commercials. That kind of thing isn't unheard of, remember that Brian Eno composed the Windows 95 startup sound, but I don't think I've ever seen an artist do so many of them as Kokubo - he has an album called Get At The Wave from 1987 that was made to promote Sanyo Air Conditioners - a really early version of multimedia experiences. It was recently re-issued too! (albeit with a slightly altered tracklist).

Which now brings us to the actual content of today's post, in the early 90's BMW approached Kokubo to make one of these soundtrack experiences for the then-new line of M5s. There's not a lot of info about it on the 'net sadly, I would have loved to hear what the brief was - the one whoever was in charge of getting Eno to do the Windows sound was pretty great, here's Eno's own quote on the matter:

The thing from the agency said, "We want a piece of music that is inspiring, universal, blah-blah, da-da-da, optimistic, futuristic, sentimental, emotional," this whole list of adjectives, and then at the bottom it said "and it must be 3.25 seconds long."

I thought this was so funny and an amazing thought to actually try to make a little piece of music. It's like making a tiny little jewel.

-Brian Eno, from "Q and A With Brian Eno" by Joel Selvin in the San Franscisco Chronicle - June 2 1996

I'd like to imagine there was something similar for Kokubo, most of his ambient work is in the tens of minutes in length, the BMW piece is a bite size 3 minutes by comparison. It's dated in spots now, there are some bassy stabs in the intro that come up every now and then that are supremely early 90's. But that gives way to a pleasant new age tune where the recordings of the engine don't sound amiss at all - but I have always thought that since that Top Gear film about the Aston Martin V12 Vantage set to Brian Eno (Questionable opinions about the 'war on speed' aside). It's an aesthetic I'm surprised I haven't seen more of to be honest, but maybe it's out there and I'm just not seeing it - this record is practically vaporwave already.

Kokubo does a fantastic job of capturing that whole 'experience' that was no doubt outlined in the brief, though perhaps a romanticised one - there is no traffic congestion here, no perpetual road works interrupting the flow - it's just you, the virtual driver, and the car. The gravel sound in the second half denoting arriving 'home' is masterfully done too, if a little spoiled by the incredibly cheesy and presumptive as hell "Hi Daddy!" at the very end, but that's the pitfall of making what is essentially an advertisement for a luxury car brand in the 90's. And you too could have this experience if you buy a 1992 BMW M5! Commercialism aside, it's a lovely little piece - a novelty, maybe but an interesting one nonetheless. Don't discount this and Kokubo's other work just because of that commercial angle, the ambient stuff is very pretty indeed and if you're at all into ambient you will likely find something to enjoy in his vast discography.

And as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

Friday 14 May 2021

Short Sharp Shot

A break from tradition today as there won't be so many words as usual. I'm just feeling a little tired, I think the twee nothing statements about how valued we are and mental health 'awareness' is finally getting to me a little - I know for a fact that the sheer prevalence of this mask off selfishness, the 'fuck you, got mine' mentality has me absolutely disgusted.

Or as one internet user perfectly summarised it:

Trying not to sound like your average 'hurr faith in humanity lost' edgelord there, but it does always bother me that out in the media everyone has to be all smiling faces all the time - you are allowed to have other emotions! The talking heads come on asking why there's a rising mental health problem among young folk and yet also never show a single hint of anything other than an obviously fake saccharine attitude.

It's ok to admit that things aren't all that great, to do otherwise is at best insincere and at worst simply unhinged. I'm gonna stop here because I am aware it's already getting a bit preachy but I just had to get something down. Feel free to skip over all this and just get to the tracks below.

And as always, stay safe and enjoy the music


Wednesday 12 May 2021

Retro Active

I have climbed out of the ambient / field recording hole for the time being - I could write about some of it in future but it's one of those things that it's a bit tricky to get streams of legit (especially for Wendy Carlos' work for some reason.) But we're back in electronic territory for the time being. And in another return to form I've picked out some tunes that were served up back to back courtesy of the chaos theory of the shuffle algorithm that are nicely sonically linked.

Jeffery Smart - Study for Bondi Penthouse (2002)

The order of the day is a slight retro vibe, some stronger than others. Another cut from DMX Krew's Nu Romantix leads this time - those who've seen me post about DMX before might have an idea of what to expect going in: deliberately emulating the aesthetics of the 80s for better or worse. This usually manifests in some dangerously cheesy lyrics and some delicious synth backing with a bit of vintage breakin' influence (especially on his early work), Nu Romantix has it's fair share of that too, but there's more variety on there than just that generalisation. Take the final track, a remix of I'm All Alone by Cylob, label mate on Rephlex at the time - you'd maybe expect it to be a little more IDM in style given Cylob's other works but here it's kept in line with the overall feel of the rest of the album. It wastes no time on things like intros and gets straight down to business, there's some absolutely gorgeous melodic synth work on show throughout, culminating in an incredible duet in the latter half.

Returning to the VA-11 HALL-A soundtrack once again now, most times I talk about the OST albums for it I mainly focus on the more atmospheric tracks. There's no shortage of them across the two main OST albums and I do love them a whole lot: I say it every time it comes up but they are pretty much aesthetic perfection when it comes to twinning with the art direction of VA-11 HALL-A, they're not quite full on synthwave but certainly carry that sensibility with them.

This time we're not talking about the chill vibes to make cocktails to that have made up the previous posts, tucked away on the Second Round album among other little nuggets of gold like the fictional OS startup sounds is All Systems, Go!. Much like Simon Viklund's Hot Pursuit from a little while ago, it's a little slice of high energy retro goodness - sounding like it was ripped straight out of a promo video for a then top of the line personal computer, especially with that MIDI as hell brass at the beginning. It's not all novelty though, see it through to about 50 seconds in and after a mighty flourish it gets a little more fleshed out, full of lovely touches like those slow arpeggios that really come into their own on headphones.

Another soundtrack name to round out, this time on a solo record though. You might have seen me bring up Jasper Byrne a few times in the past, his appearances on the Hotline Miami soundtracks are what pointed me in his direction. Those soundtracks have a reputation for being equal parts face melting electronic and hazy psychedelic, Byrne's work leans more toward the latter than the former, but still has that neon soaked feel that bridges the gap between the two - a more sedate style compare the squealing synth chords of some other synthwave acts.

I first heard Night on the Adult Swim synthwave-style compilation called Fever Dreams and had assumed that like a few of the tracks on there that it was an exclusive. A trip to discogs though soon pointed me towards his solo work and the album of the same name. If you're at all a fan of the kind of stuff he made for the Hotline Miami games you will find a lot to like here, Night isn't my top favourite of this album (that would be Bliss that I've posted before), but it's a great intro to the album and the overall aesthetic Jasper plays with on it: It follows the same formula of the more downtempo electronic pieces he makes but with the addition of these hazy chillwave style vocals. From what I remember I don't think they suited all the tracks but they fit really nicely on Night and Bliss.

And that'll do it for this time. Things have been much quieter so I should be able to keep to schedule a little better. I have fallen behind on the republishing front though so it may be time for an old post to make an appearance again but I'll try and balance it with something new, or add to it like I did with that OPN post from December. Either way, stay tuned for more and as always: stay safe and enjoy the music.


Sunday 9 May 2021

A Certain Ambiance

This BC Friday was a little different to usual - I had planned to get even more IDM adjacent stuff after my recent trip into the archives of Toytronic, but instead I ended up getting a fair bit of another genre that's very close to my heart: Ambient. I can be a little picky when it comes to Ambient releases, I'm not huge on the drone style outside of some of Oneohtrix Point Never's side projects, but it had been a long time since I got anything pure ambient so I thought I'd see what's out there. And here are the results.

Truth be told only one of the things I'm bringing up today was new to me, the other two are things I long since wish-listed and just felt like it was right to check them out now. Starting with a small EP from Sachi Kobayashi - I don't quite remember how I came into this one, part of me thinks it could have been a 'New Ambient releases' article from BC's front page, but regardless it's been sitting in my wishlist for some time now just waiting for it's chance to shine. Title track Ephemeral Beauty, though perhaps a little cliché on the title front, is a very good embodiment of the kind of ambient I like. It strikes a nice balance between the more drone elements and hints of melody - effortlessly flowing between them. This is something which I think makes it a very good stepping stone into the genre if this post will be your intro to the genre, the relatively short length of roundabout 5 minutes also helps on this front, it can be hard to suggest Ambient sometimes when you have colossal releases like Eno's Thursday Afternoon clocking in at an hour long. Don't get me wrong though - Eno is fantastic at the genre in his own right, with Ambient I: Music For Airports being utterly essential if you are at all into the genre, but having something a little more digestible is nice too.

Moving on to a release I've been eyeing for a long long time: The perfectly titled Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980 - 1990. It's a fantastic little compilation of rarities from that era that either never made it to the west or were never repressed beyond their original runs. I've been spending a fair bit of time with it as of late and I thought I'd mention some of my favourites, there's a few (Abridged) versions of some tracks on this comp, and this is one of them. The original runtime of See The Light is a hefty 24:57 while the version on the comp is a much lighter 7-ish minutes instead. There's a few reasons this was probably done, could be a licensing thing first of all, but also it makes it easier for the actual physical release too, this compilation is already 2CDs and 3LPs as-is so including the full run of some of these tracks would only bump that number higher. There's an argument to be made that Abridging them spoils the intended experience and I can understand that, though I think Light In The Attic have done their utmost to compress it down while keeping it fairly intact. See The Light is (ironically) not as bright sounding as Ephemeral Beauty, it's much much more sedate in comparison the rising tides and lush waves of sound heard there. Evoking parts of Eno's Ambient I as mentioned above, See The Light is more about sustained tones punctuated by warm pads, and it's gorgeous.

And my other favourite from the comp, it's one I've posted before but it bears repeating. To the point where I'm pretty much going to copy/paste what I said last time. The team at Light In The Attic did a fantastic job curating the track list, and the choice of using Still Space from Satoshi Ashikawa as the opening was an almost perfect decision. If there were a sonic phrase to define the album, the opening tones would be it, an ideal distillation of not only the compilation's title - but the overriding atmosphere as well. It's a much more sparse affair than the other two examples I've posted, one that again invites comparisons to Eno's Ambient I, but once again it's a much more digestible piece at just shy of 4 minutes. It is simply wonderful and I cannot think of a better opener to set the tone for this compilation With the possible exception of another of my favourites Hiroshi Yoshimura's Time After Time. If you at all like the sound of this one, I would urge you to check out the compilation in full - especially the physical release which almost doubles the track list of the digital version.

Stepping into something more conventional this time. I will admit the things I've posted so far are very much in the deep end of Ambient - there are plenty of artists out there who make ambient that's not quite as spacey as the one's I've talked about so far. Hirotaka Shirotsubaki is normally one of those, but a few of his pieces are much more in line with something you might hear from artists like Boards Of Canada or Röyksopp. August Rain is one of those, there are a lot of field recordings in Shirotsubaki's work and the introduction of this one is no different - however after about 15 seconds this lonesome guitar chord comes into the mix and will continue to stick around for the remainder of the runtime. Something about the guitar tone reminded me a whole lot of the kind Akira Yamaoka uses on the more indie-sounding bits of the Silent Hill soundtracks, those do get pretty chill at times (and even go full on ambient in parts) but tend to dwell more in the Trip Hop side of things, where August Rain is much more skeletal in structure. In terms of establishing atmosphere it's brilliant, the warmer tones making a much more cozy experience than the cooler vibes of the rest of this post. It's a much different approach, but a welcome one.

And that'll do us for today. I think part of why I gravitated towards Ambient this time is because some of the week that's just gone has been pretty intense, and as cliché as it sounds, these kind of tunes make for good decompression music. If you're in need of a moment of calm then the selections here are a good start. And Ambient is a really good genre to binge on if it's done well - after all the whole philosophy is pretty much music that sounds just as good if it's being actively listened to or just on in the background. Keep that in mind when sampling this post, and remember that the bandcamp players will go onto the next track of the album automatically if you reach the end of one!

And as always - Stay safe and enjoy the music.


Saturday 1 May 2021

New, Old and back again

Ozdemir Atlan - Reality (1974)

A quick one for your weekend, a nice little wrap-up of things I done found this week. As you might have guessed from the title today we have a couple of new records and an old one that's a welcome surprise too. Let's kick things off with Gimmik; an interesting artist as they pulled a Baader-Meinhof phenomenon on me, Cloudwalker came up on my 'new from n5MD' notifications and I could have sworn I'd heard the name before.

A brief look later and it turns out I had a couple of tracks from them on some early 00's IDM compilations I'd picked up ages ago, and even more from aliases of theirs called Num Num and Low Profile Society (which coincidentally have recently been compiled and released under the Gimmik moniker as 'Who Is Num Num?' and 'Low Profile Society' respectively). The sound of those early 00's comps is really special, I have a massive bias towards most things under the IDM label (as you all well know) but those compilations really hit the spot. And the demo track from Cloudwalker does exactly the same all these years later - Carters Final Transmission evokes some of my favourite examples of the genre, namely the very early work of Autechre from the Incunabula LP - that kind of forward looking futurist techno streak is a sound I absolutely adore and I couldn't be happier to get more of it in my collection. The whole thing has a slight melancholic edge to it that's really nice and the extended melodic fadeout to ambience is just lovely, really compliments the atmosphere and the title. If the rest of the LP is anything like this, I'll have to grab it this coming Friday for sure.

Bit of a switch up in tempo this time as we go back to Squarepusher's debut - Feed Me Weird Things, it's getting a re-issue on Warp in June, so it might just become the first New/Retro Review when it comes out! It's nice to see so many records that were previously Rephlex exclusive break out, we've seen the likes of DMX Krew do similar recently - Not that I have anything against Rephlex mind you, it was juts unfortunate it was a fairly small scale imprint all things considered, so a lot of albums like this became rarer with time. I already picked up a second hand copy of this LP years ago, but it's nice to have it more readily available regardless, it even comes with the Japanese bonus tracks included too which is a nice touch.

Weird Things is a bit of an odd album, there are tracks on there that rank up there with some of the best work the 'pusher has ever produced, but there are a lot of little tangents and experiments in there too that perhaps aren't quite as memorable. Saying that, there's some absolute quality here too - the lush ambient of Goodnight Jade, the dark and menacing almost Trip Hop U.F.O.'s Over Leytonstone to the bombastic bassy twangs of the opening Squarepusher Theme to name just a few. Wisely, Warp have chosen of of the tracks that despite its age comes very close to being the distilled essence of Squarepusher to promote the album - the charmingly titled Theme From Ernest Borgnine. The whole thing is a fantastic experience, the opening synths are fantastically done, and the way those breakbeats blindside into the foray around the 1:10 mark is a masterstroke. If you're at all a fan of the more Drum & Bass side of Squarepusher, you will find a lot to like here, though it's not as abrasive as some of the later 'Drill & Bass' stuff he was making like Come On My Selector. It's perhaps one of the most accessible because of that, I wouldn't necessarily recommend the album as a starting point if you're looking to get into Squarepusher as a whole, but if you're new and you like what you hear here, I'd check out the Big Loada EP and for more.

And finally Burial. I very infequently check up on the Hyperdub bandcamp page just to see what he's up to but it's been a long time since I sat down and gave any of it a listen. I did this time though with the split EP Shock Power Of Love, partly because it's a split EP with a couple of other artists and I wanted to hear what they brought to the table. The Burial tracks are of course the main draw, and they're both pretty solid. Dark Gethsemane really goes all in with that 'hazy half-remembered rave' sound that Burial does from time to time, takes a little while to get going, but when those distant ravy stabs come in it's all gravy. It all goes a bit pear shaped in the second half though, what starts as a gorgeous dive into ambient is spoiled by the needless repetition of an incredibly trite vocal sample stating "We must shock this nation with the power of love", with the repetition completely beating the meaning out of it.

Still, not to be too negative - let's talk about the other Burial tune here Space Cadet, its much lighter and airy compared to the previous track and much of Burial's discography if you're familiar. Despite that there are still plenty of Burial hallmarks, the little pops and crackles as heard on previous releases, and the slightly auto-tuned vocal samples that I am a total sucker for too. Overall though it's a much different feel than you'd expect, I can understand people's complaints with Dark Gethsemane (and as you've seen, I have had some of the same ones), but I don't quite get the negative reception for Space Cadet... It's perhaps not an instant classic for me like Rough Sleeper was, but I'm not having a bad time with it at all. As mentioned before though, your mileage may vary as I'm admittedly more of a casual Burial fan and aren't super familiar with his whole discography.

That'll do it for today - it's a pretty interesting time for releases, seems like things are picking up again. I might have do do a couple of deep dives on those two Gimmik compilations I mentioned before, some of the Num Num tracks are quality and I'm pretty sure there's some I haven't heard on that compilation too. Likewise I'll have to set a reminder for myself to cover the 'Pusher reissue when it comes out too. Hope you dig some of this time's selections as much as I do - And as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.