Tuesday 28 February 2023

The Power Of Memes

A shorter one this time around, a little later than I anticipated because I had a hell of a week last week, but I also made a point to not bring my IRL stuff onto the blog so much this year so I'll put a pin in it there. A real fun one this time for a post theme - I've made multiple comments over the years that it doesn't matter so much *where* you discover some music and in fact sometimes the most random sources can be the greatest treasure trove of that kind of thing. So we come to talking about the internet meme, I have tons of songs in my collection that have been memed or featured in memes over the years, so I thought I'd shine the spotlight on a few.

This is a topic I can see myself revisiting, but today's entry is going to focus on two main examples. Electronic Music and memes go waaaaay back, we're talking back to the YTMND days, from Coburn's We Interrupt This Program soundtracking the NEDM meme, to Max Coveri's Running In The 90's being many a non-Initial D fan's intro to Eurobeat on 'lol internet' to the entire Caramelldansen phenomenon, it's been a phenomenon for a long, long time - and for a lot of folks (like me), it was often the first time hearing these tracks.

So colour me surpised when around 2015 I began to see a massive uptick in memes of a song I already knew - Bag Raiders' Shooting Stars. I'd already become quite familiar with Bag Raiders through all the electro I was consuming around the time it came out, but there were just so many questions about the whole thing. Why that specific track? Why so long after it's initial 08/09 release? That's a whole other discussion that could be a post on its own, though there was a bump in popularity in their native Australia around 2013 or so. To put all that aside, Shooting Stars was already one of my favourites from the album so I was ore than happy to see 'em get more exposure. I can highly recommend the album as a whole if you like what you hear here, the whole thing has this very fun almost pop-like feel to it that really sets it apart from all the other Electro House that was making waves around the time. Think more Chromeo than Justice.

The other one comes from Vine (cor, remember Vine?) Back in the heydey of syntheave was a clip of a woman and her cat set to HOME's Resonance. I didn't really give it much thought at the time, years later I'd run into some HOME tracks through another source and think that I recognised the style - sure enough with a little reasearch I was proved right. Between that and We're Finally Landing being used as the opening theme for SummoningSalt's deep dives into Speedrunning history, there's a good chance that you may have heard HOME before without realising. Another case of me heartily recommending the album this is from if you like the sound of this one, HOME's brand of synthwave has this lovely lo-fi streak running throughout that gives it a real comfy feeling that makes it stand out in my collection.

And it's tracks like this that remind us all of the importance of including the source with anything you make because remember: your next shitpost could be the first step on someone's musical journey. Joking aside, I do my best to credit tracks wherever possible, and it seems like on the whole people are getting better at it too (and there are song identifying bots to fill in the gaps too). It's incredible the reach that a silly viral vdeo trend can give a track, I'm willing to bet more than a handful of people had Bag Raiders become one of their favourite artists off the heels of the meme - and I'm more than happy to welcome them to the world of electronic music. There's plenty of room in this tent for all of us, and a massive list of genres to peruse and find something that suits you! And of course, until next time - stay safe and enjoy the music.


Friday 17 February 2023

Digital Ephemera

Having gone through the archives of this blog, I've been no stranger to dead links, deleted SoundClouds and artists that seem to have just disappeared - that's just the way things go in this age really, some things are lucky to be archived but there's bound to be tons of stuff that's pretty much lost forever. That's why I'm always vocally in support of artists and labels doing their best to make sure their work is as available as it can be. Today we're looking back at Ford & Lopatin (formerly known as Games) and the curious case of their SoundCloud.

I was (and am, I suppose) a big fan of all things that Ford & Lopatin put out, from their spiritual successor to the pioneering vaporwave Eccojams tape with the Heaven Can Wait mixtapes, to the love letter to the 80's that was their album Channel Pressure, there's not a dud release to be had.

They were pretty popular at the time too, the That We Can Play EP made waves at the time, which makes their eventual drop off all the more unusual - they had a mad flurry of releases in 2011 under the new 'Ford & Lopatin' name and then... nothing.

There's something a little sad about seeing the last upload date reading '11 years ago' (but at least they *are* available I suppose). It's a bit like walking through a dead mall - fitting, given the vaporwave underpinnings of the duo. And speaking of 'Vapor', as in something that's announced but is never actually released, their final upload is a tune that I'm pretty sure doesn't appear anywhere else in their discography. Which is a shame because it's a lovely addition - a crash course in Games/Ford & Lopatin's style with some divine sample work.

I thought while I was there I'd talk about some of their other work - MIDI Drift is one of those tracks that comes up once in a blue moon and just blindsides me. The explosion of sound that signals the beginning is just lovely - some synth power chords and that ripped from the 80's bassline set you up for the experience ahead. It may sound a little cliché now, but at the time these two were at the cutting edge of that sound. To quote a release page for the EP: "That We Can Play is a six track EP to soundtrack a midnight ride in the Delorean, stereo aflame, racing down moonlit avenues; all strobing synth-bass jams, gated drum pads and starkissed, monophonic melodies."

Playing us out is Strawberry Skies, one of my all time favourites since its release, a standout on the tracklist as it's the only one with vocal accompaniment. Laurel Halo's voice does wonders for the atmosphere here, between the lyrical content and her delivery, she really completes that hazy, dreamy feel - especially on that distant sounding intro, which you could be forgiven for thinking is a sample from a movie. I imagine it also lets the production side flex a little bit more as well, between this and Kavinsky's Nightcall released the same year, I was all ready for a full on retro synthpop revival at the time.

It's still a fantastic EP and definitely worth going back to, or checking out in full if it passed you by the first time. The label the early Games releases were on - Hippos In Tanks - is sadly defunct, but their backc atalogue is readily available digitally from what I could tell. I would recommend Bleep personally, but other distributors are available. As much as I'd love to hear a new Ford & Lopatin record, I think the two stopped at the right time, just before the synthwave and general 'chillwave' overexposure explosion. For what it's worth, I love a lot of what Lopatin has been putting out under his main Oneohtrix Point Never alias, and Joel Ford has plenty of synthpop stuff to check out with Young Ejecta. So in a way, the two of them never really left my collection.

And that'll about do it for this post, got a little bit more poetic in parts there, but I have been meaning to stretch my legs into that territory again. Hope you've found something to enjoy here, I'll be back soon enough with more, but until then - as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


Tuesday 14 February 2023

Happy(?) Valentine's

Remember how I was supposed to schedule out a couple posts for both mine and your convenience? Yeah, well life has a funny way of turning things around on you, so some IRL things have gotten in the way. But I ain't here to mope, I've been keeping notes for a little while about the semi-annual Valentine's post and now is the time to deploy them. This year, I've chosen to fully embrace the kitsch - we have a cross section of throwback French Touch, some Italo Disco and of course, a little Eurobeat to finish.
Burhan Doğançay - Sweet Hearts (1972)

If you're in need of a little pep in your step, this here post will do it for you. Kicking off with a refreshed relic of a time long past, long time readers of the blog will maybe remember Power Glove Records, headed by former writer Boba (who is still active, now under the name LUIN). I've been meaning to do a sort of recap post on the releases of PGR for a while - they're not hard too hard to find as you might expect given their age and netlabel status, but embedding them can be a little tricky. Luckily I've found (what I presume is) a reconstruction using the same samples over on Bandcamp. Subtly different from the original, but a prime piece of that 'French Touch' revival era.

Speaking of retro relics, Italian label Goody Music Records and its eventual offshoots and sub-labels have been doing a fantastic job of making tons of their catalogue available over on Bandcamp. Originally from 1982, Capricorn's I Need Love got the re-release/re-master treatment in 2019 - actually Claudio Simonetti of Goblin fame indulging in his disco side. It's quite a bit different from other 'Italo' stuff I've posted before, there's definitely more of an Electro thing going on here, which actually does wonders to make it feel pretty fresh. Behind the skeletal electronics there's some real funky bassline work going on which is a joy to listen to.

And of course, we can't have a loved-up post without some Eurobeat. It's almost cheating really, you can pick pretty much any Eurobeat release and find a tune with the word in the title - I actually put this to the test with the Eurokudos series below, I think of all of them that I opened there were only 1 or 2 without a single track containing the word 'love', and that's not counting the lyrical content. Eurobeat really does wear its heart on its sleeve: it has but one purpose - to be supremely catchy and invite you to dance, as you might expect from a genre evolved from Disco. And it succeeds a lot of the time, good luck getting the main vocal hook from this one out of your head anytime soon. Granted it can sometimes be a little too bubblegum sweet, but I think this one hits a nice balance between the two.

And that'll be all for today, a little shorter than I originally intended but I'm pretty happy with the selections, and I'm trying to get this one down ASAP before something else unexpected comes my way again. Still, I'll be back when I get a minute, even if it's just to share one single track. Hope you all have a lovely love day, especially with these tunes to accompany you. Until next time, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


Tuesday 7 February 2023

Just missed

Jack Youngerman - Black/Red (1962)

Prepping to write out a big rundown of my Bandcamp Friday scoops, thought it best to do a quick 'honourable mentions' that didn't quite make it this time around - I've found it serves as a pretty good reminder come next time plus it's plain fun to talk about those almost records, let's have a look. First is some Machine Girl, with some bootleg mixes of cuts from the Jet Set Radio soundtracks. Between the track titles, the art and the description over on Bandcamp it can come across as a little obnoxious - this is the duo leaning heavy into their 'web-core' aesthetic. My favourite mix of the bunch is the one of Electric Toothbrush, which was already a favourite of mine from the OST anyway, this version given a Juked up makeover. Part of why I think it's the best mix of the bunch is it feels the most seamlessly intertwined, Electric Toothbrush isn't as sample based as the other tracks they chose to rework, iconic though they are.

I've been trying to take deeper dives into my Wishlist, one of the pitfalls of it is I usually end up scooping a release or two from the top so some things inevitably sink to the bottom. Way down there is a bunch of Misstress Barbara stuff, from her poppier album work to the proper full on House stuff. I have been finding some of it a little hit and miss, but there are moments that take me back to the tracks that put her on my radar to begin with. Talk To Me being a primo example, incredibly hypnotic and endlessly catchy, it's exactly the type of track I would come across in the early days of my electronic exploration, tucked away in some bootleg DJ mix without a tracklist. Misstress Barbara has recently overhauled her BC page and is still dropping new releases to boot - with older EPs like this one going for a lowly $2 Canadian, it won't be long before I grab a couple next time I stock up.

And finally, Gimmik. This one stings a little as I've *almost* copped this album about 3 times now, but I always end up putting it down again. Part of the reason it pains me is all I've heard from it has been great, all of Gimmk's work is the kind of IDM that is almost tailor made for me, very much in the same kind of vein as the work he was doing on Toytronic in the early 00's which first put him in my collection. The title track was the one used in the teaser trailer for the album and it is a damn near perfect example of what I just mentioned - I simply adore the sound on show here. That intro is deliciously techy in that slightly off kilter way, but the real star of the show for me is that sweeping melody introduced at around 50 seconds or so, it adds this whole layer of electronic emotion to things that I just cannot get enough of. By the time the big swell at 1:23 came around I was already grinning ear-to-ear. Simply wonderful stuff. If this is your preferred kind of IDM as well I would highly recommend other Gimmik releases, with my personal suggestion being (Back To Basics).

And that'll be all for this super quick tour of what might have been, I'm going to try and find time to do my Bandcamp scoops sometime soon, I figure I might split it out into smaller posts like this in order to make it easier to write (and potentially more focused too, I know there's at least one record I picked up I want to spend a fair bit of time talking about). Until then, I hope you've found something to enjoy here and as always: stay safe and enjoy the music.


Sunday 5 February 2023

A Dry Spell

This is a post that made a little more sense back when I first started writing it, but there was a bit of a shake up through January so it ended up being a little later and isn't as applicable anymore, so take the next section with a big 'ol asterisk! January is a pretty dry season for any new media, there's never many new bits of music, film or really much of anything coming out - so here's a couple newer things that have come my way.
First things first we have Thorne - an old friend of the blog under his old moniker of Magna, a name he has since retired. And it's not without reason - I had a conversation with him a long while ago now and the long and short of it is that he feels he's sort of outgrown it, which I can sympathise with, as much as I love my Fake Internet Name™ I must admit there are times where it feels a little immature. There's a marked change in sound and visuals as well to go with the new name, even in the Magna days the visual direction was on point and that has not changed here - now with an injection of leet speak and liberal use of Helvetica to compliment that.

It's been a long time coming for me to talk about Thorne (and if you're reading I'm sorry it's taken this long!), but I do try and keep tabs on what former blog staff and acquaintances are up to these days. So let's talk these new sounds then - we're still in in the sphere of House, but it's a far cry from the filter house of old. There's an undeniable Burial influence on the pitched and chopped vocal samples that form the backbone of Where It's Bright, and the accompanying visualizer echoes the Vaporwave videos of old in parts.

There are times where it reminds me a fair bit of Machine Girl as well, albeit a much less frantic version. Machine Girl's work is more jumped up footwork for the most part, whereas tracks like Much 2 Love feel positively sedate in comparison. It's not an unfitting comparison on the visual front either, though Machine Girl's art is usually a little more psychedelic on the whole, there's a hefty chunk of Vaporwave and general early 00's internet culture in there as well, as is the case with Thorne. I am keeping tabs on the project and am interested to see where it goes, his most recent contribution being a (fake) BBC Essential Mix from 2003 - calling back to the roots with Crydajam's If You Give Me The Love I Want opening the proceedings.

The other example I have for you today is something a little different from my usual affair. There was a time where I was militantly against any and all things pop (take a peek back into the archives to see that!), and that was true for most of the other blog writers at the time as well. I do still have some holdout opinions from that time - I still maintain that Calvin Harris' early work is a lot more fun and interesting than the soulless stuff he'd go on to make - but the reality is that I've loosened up with time, partly an age thing and partly due to expanding my musical horizons over the years as well.

What I've come to realise in that time is that my hate for the radio wasn't for the content, but the fact that it's the same pool of 5-8 songs on repeat (admittedly slightly hypocritical if you've seen some of my library!). Hell, I'll even hold my hands up and admit some of the stuff folk like The Weeknd have put out is incredibly catchy, especially in the synth department, but has also been ruined by sheer overexposure. All that to say we'll be taking a look at Will Weinbach next, and more specifically his latest release.

It's certainly the kind of thing I wouldn't just stuble across in my usual music explorations, the algorithm has been both a blessing and a curse in cases like that. But - Will was kind enough to ping me a press release around that time so I had a vague idea of what to expect going in. The intro sets things up as I mentioned above, it's potentially a little too in that mainstream vein for my taste (but I am willing to admit there is also that lingering bias as I mentioned above). Having said that, I was pretty glad to have stuck it out, come the full introduction around the 1 minute mark things get very interesting indeed, surprisingly heavy I'd say as well given what came before.

Naturally, I checked out a couple other of his tracks as well just to get a feel for things, Safe And Sound being my pick of the bunch. I have a well documented love for all things slow jams so you won't be surprised on that front from the intro - those piano stabs and handclaps taking me right back to 2010 in the best way possible. Will's productions typically hover just under the 3 minute mark, in this case I wish there was a little more to get my teeth into though, it carries a nice energy. Even with the very small pool of tracks Will has out right now, it's clear that he has a talent for this kind of sound, I'd be interested in seeing him tackle some longer tracks and maybe explore a little more variety, but that's hardly a complaint when the man only has a handful of releases right now.

And that'll be all for now, a bit of a departure from my usual I know, but I do have a buncha posts on the backburner to go, including what I got in the first of 2023's Bandcamp Fridays. A busy couple of weeks on the radar at the minute but I'll try and get some things out here and there - until next time, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


Wednesday 1 February 2023

Peaks & Valleys

Rochelle Blumenfeld - Desert Canyon (2015)

What a week of ups and downs it has been, seems like there's always something waiting just around the corner, for better or worse. Still, given me a chance to catch up on some writing, which I am sorely behind on. the list of post ideas keeps on growing, but I'm going to try and schedule them out over this weekend - bit of a change from my off-the-cuff mode of operating I'd been using for a while! But let's pin that for now and talk tunes. Going a little thematic with this one for the selections, let's go.

Kicking off with some of Ben Prunty's solo work. I just missed a January sale on his Bandcamp page unfortunately, but they're on my radar now at least. Fans of Prunty's suitably spacey OST for FTL will find themselves in similar company here - Dusty Road opening with those lone, almost chiptune stabs. It soon evolves though, and by the 1 minute mark is quite similar to some of the Battle themes from FTL, building to an almost post-rock style crescendo come the 2 minute mark. I'm doing the track a bit of disservice by giving it the bullet point treatment, give it a spin to get the full effect.

Taking a trip back to 2007 next - it's been a little while since I did some nostalgia-posting about the days of electro house but here we are again! Very occasionally a track will come back up out of the blue and just blindside me, I was listening to Ed Banger's Ménage-À-Trois mix CD from Mixmag earlier this week, which pretty much did that on every single track. The real highlight was a little something from PUZIQUe, a short-lived duo of Boys Noize and D.I.M. They had a few killer remixes out around that time but I had pretty much forgotten about 'em in all honesty, until Don't Go Reminded me. A real tune, a shining example of the sound a li'l teenage me would go mad for, much like Surkin's White Knight Two later in this same compilation. Annoyingly a but tricky to get a legit stream of, so I'm splitting the difference once again - one legit, one knock-off soundcloud upload.

And finally, a little something that I picked up a while ago but just plain didn't mention. Not for any particular reason, I like to hold onto things every now and then for occasions like this. Astral Engineering is an alias of Simon Rees that's one of those delightfully obscure tales of electronic music - self-releasing 2 albums in 1993, then disappearing for nearly 20 years before coming back with new material in the 2010s. Music For Insomniacs gathers some of the 90's material that was never before released. It's a nice experience in all, reminds me a bit of Alter Ego's debut from 1994 in terms of it being one big continuous techy ambient jam. Drifting sets up that vibe nicely in all it's spacey, dubby glory. The end's a little abrupt as it's supposed to mix into the next track, I highly recommend the whole thing if you need a little bit of a midweek float. You can get the album for free if you'd like to boot.

And that'll about wrap it up for today as I said I have a few more ideas in the pipeline that I'm going to try and get out soon enough, but for now I hope you've enjoyed this slightly eclectic selection. I'll be back soon enough with more but until next time, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.