1/19/2017

Single Review: Kitchen - "November Prayer"

Kitchen - "November Prayer"
(2017 Drunk With Love)

A plea for a fog machine, stillness, snow: the first glimpse we have of Kitchen's upcoming debut LP, Town, acts as a prayer of petition, a chord organ rite that invokes the decay of yellowed floral upholstery as much as it does the divine. This equally emo - yet refreshingly optimistic - re-incarnation of Rochester-based bedroom pop outfit The Loner(s) finds frontman Jame Dont dabbling in the ramshackle orchestration of Julia Brown and Jackie Trash. The nervous pace of acoustic downstrokes are propelled by the hum of twin strings; Dont comes up for gasps of air as keyboards bubble to surface, faint remnants of a drumkit's cannonball fizzing into the shallow end. Structurally and texturally, "November Prayer" resembles the solvent drone of Belle and Sebastian's "Marx + Engels": the skeletal outline of a twee-pop tune - the sort that might conclude a first grade pageant dedicated to the food groups - is plopped into a small ceramic mug. Kitchen and Co. carefully fill the vessel with their warm bath of cassette whirr and the song steeps, slowly devolving into scattered tufts of harmony and eventually into an ambient brew, accented with minty pulses of piano.

Town drops January 23rd via Drunk With Love Records. Scoop your cassette copy here.

1/14/2017

Review: Swooning - "Gloom"

Swooning - Gloom
(AXRC 2017)

As stoked as I should be for the release of Slowdive's upcoming reunion record, gorging myself on Chicago-based quartet Swooning's deceptively filling sophomore EP, Gloom, has rendered me stuffed on dream-pop for the time being. Countless Bandcamp projects have offered their iterations of garage grown shoegaze over the past half-decade, yet Swooning's flashlight beacon peeks from this digital forest thanks to its jarring dynamics and flaky production - their distortion-polluted puddles of power chord runoff lie stagnant, pooling in the damp earth's indentations as surf rock riffage reminiscent of Beach Fossils falls from the overcast malaise.  

Opener "Cold" invokes the intense fragility of Ride's "In A Different Place", its distant, clouded vocals and shimmering lead guitars narrowly dodging the blunt force of tattered percussion, blown-out drum fills and tempo-changes pitching county fair booth curveballs at the glassware dreamscape. In terms of replayability, "Awhile" is Gloom's strongest showing, making an olympic leap from an Alex G chord progression to the sort of serrated fuzz-punk sprint that Dinosaur Jr. might have included on their Bug LP. 

Despite sub-zero temperatures, swoon in the oppressive humidity of Gloom's shoegaze atmosphere.

1/10/2017

Review: YAM AMO - "YAM AMO"

YAM AMO - YAM AMO
(TOKEI RECORDS 2016)

On the math rock spectrum, YAM AMO are fractions forged in chalk dust, their wiry mandolin strands and bleats of melodica signifying segmented pizzas or lattice-topped pies cooling in the window. The Japanese post-rock quartet may bake erratic rhythms and clumsily braided folk melodies on their self-titled debut effort, but never outside the crusty confines of simplicity: partitioned with a wheel-shaped knife, the 11-track LP is attuned to the sweet-tooth, citric drips of jazz riffs oozing from the corners of each slice.

Their name translating to "The Mountains", YAM AMO's approach to instrumentation is suitably rustic. Though antsy percussion occasionally traverses the urbane choreography of late-90s Chicagoan acts like Joan of Arc and Tortoise, the fresh breaths of celebratory twang that accompany them stick to well-trodden dirt paths. Each tune on this album of instrumentals is its own striking revelation - a leap into raked leaves or a step onto the precipice - exploding with the same youthful cheer that once incited Cap'n Jazz or K Records' Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet. In the fast-food jingle trills of "ホームタウンホリデー" ("Hometown Holiday"), the contrail puffs of flute that knot "じゅげむ" ("Tighten"), and even in the anxious condensation of "台風のあと" ("After the Typhoon"), a triumphant peal of trumpet jutting from its blanket of guitar gloom a la American Football's "The Summer Ends".

As its artwork suggests, YAM AMO is as trustworthy as the Sunday comics folded on your front lawn, their primary colors facing the parting clouds of an overcast morning. It is a record to be spread out and consumed with a glazed donut and hot beverage, enveloped by the remnants of sleep.

1/06/2017

HALF-GIFTS ISSUE 17 OUT NOW



Includes interviews with Chocofriendz, music video animator andrewdude1, and Silo's Choice // guest art and reviews by Ethan Warpool, Mackenzie Manley and Kyle Root // top picks of 2k16

1/03/2017

Review: Rubella - "The Pit"

Rubella - The Pit
(Tolmie Terrapin 2017)

Ring in the new year with skin disease: the latest output manufactured by industrial-pop processing plant Rubella comes bundled in eczemic distortion, leaving a flaky trail of shed melodicism in its wake. In the crepuscular tradition of Bauhaus and Blank Dogs, the Ohioan sextet squeezes squirrelly post-punk arrangements into congested spaces. Each throaty synth squelch and barked verse you'll encounter in The Pit feels like a disembodied breath that clings to your neck hair - Rubella's brand of B-movie horror is more implied than concrete, like a pair of ping-pong ball eyes peeking through the darkness of a poorly-lit room. 

Decelerating the unbridled violence of Melt-Banana's coppery blast-beats, Rubella's largely electronic brand of no-wave recalls the garbled cry of a dial-up internet connection brushing digital sleep from its eyes. Cuts like "Wasted Gifts" and the treacherous, piano-driven "Bad Parts" sneak needle-like bursts of high-frequency static into their lawless soundscapes as a unifying twinge of discomfort. No particular element of The Pit is particularly unnerving, but taken as a whole, Rubella's record is overwhelming in its concentrated chaos. Strangely enough, it's the more atonal tracks - "Tunnel Drive" and "Wild Grasses" that I've come back most often, harmonically arid yet alluring in their percussive assault. 

The Pit isn't exactly an inviting listen, but those who feel most at home with a Sacred Bones record spinning on the phonograph or a Spotify playlist's worth of Wolf Eyes leaking through earbud speakers should snuggle into its blanket of sour sound quite cozily.

12/30/2016

Interview: Chris Gelpi // Nemuri Winter Label Founder


Compelled by the otherworldly chilliness of Nemuri Winter's debut label compilation, I hit collective founder Chris Gelpi up with a few questions concerning the record and his past artistic ventures. Read my thoughts on Nemuri Winter Vol. 1 here and peep the interview below:

Could you provide us with some quick background info on Nemuri Winter? What compelled you to bring the collective together, and how did you go about doing so?

I think it was a month or so after I joined the Tsundere Fan Club collective. I started thinking a lot about running a sister group on the side whenever i got a little bit more of a following.  I jumped on the idea sooner when i did a physical release for See You in May 2016.

As far as the name goes, it's pulled from a wood carving by Hidari Jingorō called Nemuri-neko ("sleeping cat"), that looked a lot like my own cat.  I knew the sound I was looking for early on so I decided on Nemuri Winter as it sounded pretty spot on to that.

The group actually started in a Skype chat with Yen, just kind of kicking around the idea. Yen and I had some thoughts on who we wanted.  Enter Baku and ¿。. We added VALKYRIE, Acounta, and Ocha after that, but none of us were very active for the first few months.

I guess it was September that I noticed that the Soundcloud page was getting a bit of attention and was motivated again to make shit happen, so the rest of the members joined up pretty quickly and Vol. 1 started.

How would you describe the vibe of the Vol. 1 compilation? Who did the artwork? It's a very visually compelling release.

Thanks! When we started working on it I was expecting the compilation to be pretty moody or close to ambient honestly. We were all tossing around ideas on what we wanted to make for our tracks and a lot of us ended up going in different directions.  I didn't want to put restrictions on anyone because I knew that the people I let in already fit the sound I wanted without trying.  What i got from that was a pleasantly surprising mix of genres and energies that still captured the mood I had in mind without getting stale.  All that to say, I wanted sleepy winter vibes.  I wanted the thought of curling up with a book or a hot bath on a cold day.  I got all of that, without really saying it out loud to them.

That said, when i hit up Sarlis (sarlisart.tumblr.com) for the comp art, I actually straight up told her about the winter girl reading a book in her room without hearing any comp tracks first.  I gave her a loose mental picture and she delivered it perfectly.  We spent months looking for an artist we could vibe with and Sarlis nailed it all within a day. I wanted everyone to work freely and deliver their ideas of the collective aesthetic, so getting it all back in a way that came together perfectly is satisfying.

I respect that you all have input into the overall vibe of the music the collective put out! Do you have a group chat for the label that you use to communicate?

Yeah! we were using Twitter for a while but it was difficult to make important announcements for everyone to see since we all have different schedules.  We're on Discord now though and that makes it a lot easier to organize topics.  I wasn't sure what to expect from a group chat mostly, but the amount of enthusiasm from the others about the progress of the group is amazing.  we shoot the shit a lot but we're also crazy efficient because everyone is really excited to work on this

Your personal project, Daki, has had a pretty eventful year of its own. How often do you work on making beats? What tools and sounds do you use to do so?

This year has been crazy for me for sure. I've been on multiple hiatuses for spending so much time on this and being unable to pace myself. I started Dakihttps://soundcloud.com/dxki/tracks back in February as my first project making beats and in a recent total I think I counted 60 tracks this year. There was a while where I think I was posting material almost every other week. The original 5 tracks of Astral Drain were made over 2 or 3 days.  When things are clicking, I tend to stretch myself way too thin to get something out of it because I spend all of my down time feeling bummed about being in a creative rut. I think another huge contributor is that I don't feel that I know what I really want to work on. I get influenced by so many artists that I hear and I end up spending a lot of time trying to learn about composition in different genres. That's a lot of time spent analyzing and not really creating, so it doesn't help my moods. I'm hoping to find myself in 2017.. that feels corny as fuck to say.

 I actually have both FL11 and 12, 12 mostly for when people send me collabs (i'm the worst person to collab with btw). I'm so used to doing things in 11 and it does everything I need so I haven't wanted to go through with learning the 12 interface yet. I don't have many vsts that aren't stock other than a tape stop and a wow n flutter plugin for warped cassette FX.  In the few cases where I composed, I used Massive, Sylenth, Nexus and FL Keys (rhodes for a little lo-fi thing).  Other than that I collect kits.  I narrowed down my current collection to about 37 of my most used kits, so i'll be digging for more soon. I try to have as many options as possible and I'm going to be recording a lot of my own sounds for a future release.

Do you want to slow things down for 2017, or do you have even more material planned for the upcoming year?

My current goal is to do my best to make quality work: 1. I want to be more discrete about my plans and flesh concepts out more. A huge trend for me in 2016 was just saying "fuck it" and posting stuff, jumping accounts, deleting things. Just being indecisive in general. I also want to make sure I'm not shutting out my personal life. I'm getting closer to my late 20s and I have a fairly established life outside of the internet so I think it's important for me to keep in mind that this is an outlet, this is for fun, and getting caught up in the internet side of things, the numbers and all that, can take the fun out of it for me.

But I'll definitely still be working hard behind the scenes. I do have ideas for stuff I really want to work on as well as plans for Nemuri Winter and the other groups I'm in. It'll be busy for sure.

Could you give readers a history of your musical output? I first came into contact with your music thru the now-defunct Haunt Yrself Tapes. What have you worked on since then?

I used to front metal bands from 2007-2010. After that I spent a little time on some bedroom pop projects with GarageBand, Reason 4, and a little casio keyboard, tried playing guitar for a bit, and tried to start some small projects with friends that never really worked out.

Haunt Yrself was my first cassette label started in 2013. After that I worked on Ritual Tapes, doing close to 20 releases in 2014 and hosting a showcase in Los Angeles. From 2014 to December of 2016 I recorded and performed shows as a harsh noise/power electronics act.

I remember being pretty into the whole witchhouse sound back in 2011, and I got really into Balam Acab and Holy Other, etc in 2012. I guess that's kind of where my interest in production started. In the years following I got pretty into internet trap beats, though at the time I didn't know where to start or anything about the SoundCloud scene. I used to find stuff on Bandcamp and in 2014 I got pretty inspired by CHRSBRRY and FRCLN (who I'm in Tsundere Fan Club with now, oddly enough).

Finally in 2015 I started trying to learn beatmaking. I was watching a bunch of anime and stumbling on artists that sampled OSTs and it really drew me in to the whole SoundCloud scene.

Your output has spanned nearly every era of internet-DIY music since you started putting out material. How have your influences and listening habits changed over the years? How have they stayed the same, if at all?

I think overall my influences have stayed the same. qI find new influences all the time in whatever genre I'm learning about but I don't think I've ever fully dropped things that have really impacted me.  My listening habits are kind of obsessive in that I usually latch on to a style and listen to only that for weeks/months and then move on.  However, especially lately, my long-time love for the work of Phil Elverum has been leaking into my production.

I've always been into lots of variety though. Bedroom pop like stuff from Orchid Tapes, DSBM, J-idol music, noise-power violence fusion shit like Water Torture and Kuroi Jukai, new wave, xiu xiu whatever you feel like labeling them, dynmk-type stuff, vaportrap, lo-fi hiphop. I dunno, a lot of things have stuck with me over the years and even though it may not all come out in my music, it's played a HUGE role in how I listen to people I find online and the type of musicians I surround myself with, I think.

Do you plan on putting out any physical releases of your music? I know you've had experience putting out tapes in the past.

I think if I do, I won't be the one releasing it. I was pumped about releasing See You on tape, but I realized how terrible I am with mailorder now. The next EP I do will have a physical release through my friend Zack's tape label Shinonome Labs, and we're kind of discussing the idea of putting Winter vol 1 on tape to see what kind of response we get.

I used to love making crazy cassette packages, but now it's hard for me to make everything by hand and manage stock like I used to, while also working on music and working in general.

I really love the stuff that Shinonome has been putting out recently!

Yeah! Zack's been active in a handful of bands, Junpei Iori being his current main, I think, so he's got a ton of connects in DIY scenes all over the place. Almost a direct line to really solid but lowkey acts. I ordered the tape he did for his chiptunes project, and it's great to see him putting a good amount of effort and care into his physical releases.

What other labels have you been following closely?

This was more last year, but I was super into Aught \ Void and Sol y Nieve both catering to more noise, doom, black metal stuff but doing really great work on packaging.  inner ocean has a lot of cool lo-fi tapes. This has mostly been the year of collectives for me though though. Magic Yume was my go to on Bandcamp for a while. Yume Collective and Computer Ghost are also really cool.  Consul is insane for heavy trap stuff. Got to shout out Rareticuno and Akuma season. Ichigo and Divine Rights also have comps coming in the near future. Future Society just released a new comp. And obviously s/o to Tsundere Fan Club... Haremboys bout to do some stuff tho.

What are you into outside of the musical sphere?

Outside of music, I play video games a lot but I'm trash LOL.  I don't focus much on competitive gaming, so I don't spend a lot of time developing any skill.  I guess I just like to play for story or whatever.  I also really dig horror movies and slice of life/romance anime and manga!

12/23/2016

Top 10 Tracks of 2016: Part 4

1. Chance the Rapper - "Finish Line / Drown"

"And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us" - Hebrews 12:1

Despite the nearly universal acclaim Chance's sophomore effort, Coloring Book, has garnered for its seamless suture of bubblegum-trap and gospel music, the neo-sincere hymnal's most reverential cut has been unfortunately overshadowed by the more secular bombast of "No Problem" and "Mixtape". 

"Finish Line / Drown" is an ambitious, fragmented meditation on the importance of perseverance. Angling their lyrical lens at the New Testament's repeated metaphorical references to footraces, Chance and fellow Top 10 list inductee Noname relay their way through a marathon's worth of life's trials - addiction, parenthood, loss - while keeping their sights set firmly on the paradise that is promised to postdate our earthly tribulation. 

Pasted together with T-Pain's transhuman mastery of autotune and punctuated in with a spoken-word coda delivered by choir director Kirk Franklin, "Finish Line" proves to a be a double-decker sandwich that's tough to take a first bite into. Imposing as the track may seem, its 7 minutes of emotional fluctuation and church-organ swells digest quite easily washed down with the heartfelt positivity that each verse overflows with: Chance's with double-time exultation, Noname's with hushed conviction.

Hurtle toward the close of an arudous year, "Finish Line" blasting through your earbuds loudly enough to block out any distractions.

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." - 2 Timothy 4:7

12/18/2016

Christmas Compilation Out Now!

12/16/2016

Top 10 Tracks of 2016: Part 3

4. The World's Greatest - "Greatest Trick"

Veiled by dreampop optimism, "Greatest Trick" is a fistful of unidentifiable emotions, individually-wrapped and spooned into a mixed-bag like the pieces of saltwater taffy that inevitably make their way into your plastic trick-or-treat pumpkin: oblong, pastel paint swatches, ambiguously flavored. A layer of gluey suburbanite disappointment, their consolidated flavor lingers on your unbrushed palate. This is the last Halloween you'll don a mask and trespass on neighborhood porches. There's nothing particularly satisfying about those cellophane-swaddled candies you just ingested, but they must be consumed on principle. You stuff yourself with the mysticism your young imagination can afford you before the dregs of the tank dry up. Halloween excursions once seemed like they lasted for hours. Time is beginning to pass more regularly for you now: no hour is privileged.

"what a beautiful day..."

Rising from the charcoal ashes of your backyard's tripod grill, Maryland's Teen Suicide has transformed into The World's Greatest - an expression of unabashed self-confidence that paints over the lo-fi collective's former sense of snide nihilism. Sneaking some Pavement guitar twang into the jangle-pop warmth of a Sarah Records 7", the band's first release under their new moniker is just immersive enough to crawl into on all fours. The fireplace has been courteously pre-lit. A comforter is neatly folded, resting against a leather couch's armrest. Leave your Vans Sk8-his at the door and grab a pair of slippers before sinking into the sofa.

"Greatest Trick" is pure hospitality.


3. Promnite x Denzel Curry x Nell x JK The Reaper x Twelve'len - "Gunsmoke"

Occupying the sparsely-populated boundary space between more technical, traditional measures of hip-hop proficiency and the fauvist expressions of 808-infused emotion espoused by fellow XXL freshmen Desiigner and Lil Yachty, Denzel Curry and his Miami-based C9 collective have carved out an alluringly timeless sound within the rapidly-evolving sphere of Soundcloud rap. Capping off a year's worth of sinister, visceral output is the Promnite-produced posse cut "Gunsmoke". Bouncing off of trampoline-taut percussion, Curry and former SpaceGhostPurrp protege Nell trade rapid-fire couplets against sampled shakuhachi trills. Each brings out the other's best: Denzel is as multi-syllabic and agressive as ever; Nell flows with pliant grace, cross-hatching swooping brushstrokes that vary greatly in shape and size. JK The Reaper and Twelve'len contribute brief interludes that act as sonic subheadings - the initial peal of thunder that signifies the lightning storm. 

At a tidy three minutes and fifty-three seconds, "Gunsmoke" is crammed to maximum capacity with fresh ideas and raw emotion. Like Souls of Mischief's "93 til Infinity" before it, C9's group effort juggles humor, narrative, and aesthetic appeal with ease. 

In an ocean of internet waves, Denzel Curry's tides pack the most potential staying power. A fixture on my previous Top 10 lists, the 21-year-old shows no indication of slowing his ascent from underground dominance to mainstream recognition. 


2. Wild Nothing - "Life of Pause"

Wild Nothing's Life of Pause finds frontman Jack Tatum shedding the layer of anorak urgency that so signified his earlier twee-pop discography. If 2010's Gemini was an aimless weekend drive taken to survey the neighborhood's Christmas lights - fluorescent reds, greens, and the occasional flash of dish-detergent blue seeping into the absorbent night - then 2012's Nocturne was the post-drive thaw, its 70s soft rock revivalism melting into nu-gaze dreaminess like purple hands that loiter about q space heater. On his latest, Tatum pours himself a mug of chamomile while spinning old Italo-disco records before hauling himself to bed. There may not be anything particularly fresh or innovative about Life of Pause, but the album more than makes up for the familiarity with polish and skilled songcraft. Most impressive of Pause's 11 cuts is its title track - celebratory synths flash in pyrotechnic patterns to the nocturnal groove of Tatum's rhythm section. Equally drowsy and lively, the tune is a runner's high of sorts: the final stretch of awakeness before calling it a night.

12/10/2016

Top 10 Tracks of 2016: Part 2

7. Moving In - "Water Garden"

The fluorescent yellow, full-body rain slicker Thom Yorke wore to Pinkpop Festival 1996 now navigates the surface of a mercurial pool brimming with reverb. The discarded garment's limp folds undulate against the anxious ripples of fluid that keep it afloat, its waterproof topography cupping puddles of rainfall. 

Moving In's lo-fi folk meditations are as tranquil as the newspaper's stray comics page, a faint, balled splash of faded primary colors nestled cozily in a snow-draped public park. They seem to answer only to the forces of nature, their airy tufts of acoustic chords and hypnotic keyboard drones piloting a dry winter breeze. 

"Water Garden" connects on an abstract, almost spiritual level. No particular sound or riff seems to stand out in its mix. Its stomach rising and falling in slumber to Jordan Fox's strumming pattern, the tune is a single, hibernating organism taking its yearly nap in a warm, analogue den.


6. Father - "Heartthrob"

Speaking of yellow garments and live performances, Father's in-studio performance for webzine COLORS Berlin provides a crisp 120 second primer in the "twee-trap" aesthetic that seemed to dominate Soundcloud's digital airwaves for the better part of the year. Alongside choice cuts sliced by fellow Atlanta-based artists Lil Yachty and Pollari, "Heartthrob" represents the most charming aural emissions that internet rap has to offer. Lounging on a buoyant bed of producer Meltycanon's xylophonic synths, Father flows with the enthusiasm of a plump housecat, freshly awakened from a long nap. 

Smash the snooze button; wile out in kawaii dreams.

"Use your hands, fusion dance, stay in school"

5. Rosehip Teahouse - "No Gloom"


Cut through the post-"Heartthrob" eye crust with yet another sleepy tune: Rosehip Teahouse's "No Gloom" is a somber bedroom pop reverie in the tradition of The Sundays and The Softies, keyboard tones shimmering like strands of expatriate hair revealed by the dawn's glow. The tune exists in the realm of speculation: it points its lens at dates that might be, hypothetical conversations, and a sense of hopeful optimism. Faye Rodgers and her translucent instrumentation feel like phantasmal observers in these imagined dreamscapes: their presence is not quite sensed, but it can be metaphysically detected. "No Gloom" spans the spectrum of emotion before landing squarely in the center: it's the happiest sad song this side of Bandcamp. 

12/06/2016

Top 10 Tracks of 2016: Part 1

10. CANDY - "Hysterie"

Since the genre's inception in the late 70s, post-punk and the timbral tinker toys that compose its brutalist architecture have yet to go out of style. No matter what the decade, a chugging bassline and convincing impersonation of Robert Smith or Ian Curtis will prove timely and somehow fresh. 2016's most successful resuscitation of Thatcher-era gloom comes courtesy of South Korean quartet CANDY, whose latest single "Hysterie" constructs a wall of militant percussion between gales of shoegaze turbulence and the guttural proto-goth snarls of frontman Byun Sungjae.




9. Noname - "Freedom Interlude"

Branching from the same Chicagoan gospel-rap sapling that begat Chance the Rapper's Coloring Book, Noname's Telefone mixtape is an unlikely blossom that clawed its way through the sidewalk's faultline, a harmonic meeting of vinyl-crackled boom bap rhythms and the synthetic exhales of meandering future-jazz riffs. "Freedom Interlude", released 4 months prior to Telefone's midsummer's drop, seems to faintly materialize and fade into obscurity before Noname can capture a well-focused snapshot of her psyche on digital tape. Atop bouyant tides of Rhodes piano, she shuffles through themes and lyrical motifs like a newly-dealt hand of potentially playable cards, considering and discarding abstract forays into social media infatuation, spiritual redemption and breakfast cereal before artfully opting to fold.

 
8. Crying - "Premonitory Dream"

Shouting stadium-sized hooks at whispered stanzas of neo-romantic observation on the other end of the receiver, Elaiza Santos sends a time-travelling voicemail to her former self in the form of a "Premonitory Dream". Her New York-based indiepop trio Crying reports back to the past with a newfound sense of confidence, supplementing the chiptune bleeps of 2014's Get Olde // Second Wind with explosive power-ballad arrangements and a charmingly self-aware lack of self-awareness on the opening cut of their sophomore LP, Beyond the Fleeting Gales. 

"spit in the water / not sure why"
"deep in the heart of this lone bridge / a sudden terror overtook me / continue blindly or turn back?"

"Premonitory Dream" places listeners in the swaying center of a proverbial bridge, providing a quick, pad-synth scored chance to retreat to the cozy twee tunes of Crying's back catalogue before urging them to make a sprint towards point B, a propulsive tailwind of muted rhythm guitar and bouyant 16-bit bass giddily racing them across the divide. Though equally introspective as past highlights like "ES" and "Batang Killjoy", tinged with their Bandcamp emo melancholia, Crying's latest incarnation comes armed with positivity, combating indecision with the uplifting kitsch of early 80s arena rock. 

Flick your Bic lighter, activate your phone's flashlight, or raise the brightness of your 3DS' display. Whatever means of luminescence you have on hand, put it to use and raise it proudly in the air. 

Check your sense of irony at the door.

12/03/2016

Review: Broken Spear - "True"

Broken Spear - True
(2016 Pedicure Records)

A heat-warped 7" single's worth of post-human synthpop augmented by an LP-length collection of plunderphonics experimentation, unzipping your copy of Broken Spear's True feels like inadvertently acquiring a cursed Limewire torrent of a Pet Shop Boys album in the mid-2000s. The latest Pedicure Records release is a pop album in the loosest sense of the word: though awash in Sprite®-fizz effervescence and infectious new-wave hooks, True revels in virtual surreality. 

Broken Spear courteously opens the album with its most accessible offering, True's title cut, a clumslily tender take on 80's club music that attempts to extract indications of the human condition from powdery synthesizer chords and the hollow anatomies of SecondLife avatars. Guest vocalist Maria Ivanova's eurobeat-inspired stanzas are so inundated with digital effects that they begin to resemble the compressed chunks of syllables unconsciously communicated by text-to-speech software. Despite their eerie artificiality, there is still a faint whisper of mortality imbued within Ivanova's delivery: a sense of urgency that still desires to appreciate the glow of a laptop's "sleep mode" light in a darkened room.

"L.E.D. / Cause the blue is all we need" // "it might all be over soon"

Its counterpart, "Julius", snaps a retrospective image of the Human League's aggressively catchy new-romance through the filtered, lo-fi lens of Ariel Pink and John Maus. Mystery-collaborator Julius Metal provides the sneer-supplemented delivery of an 80's teen flick's football-captain antagonist. Arpeggiated synths oscillate wildly like mirrorball reflections to the shuffling of drum machine hi-hats.

Over the course of True's next 14 tracks, Broken Spear drapes macerated Avril Lavigne choruses and CD-skipped post-grunge tunes in a sanitized shroud of glassy mall-jazz synthesizers. Though similar in approach to the skittering sound collages cut-and-pasted by Oneohtrix Point Never, True's caffeinated, decadent demeanor acts as an antithesis to Daniel Lopatin's ascetic avant-techno -  the shockingly anthemic transition from tertiary-toned mid-00s R'n'B to one of the corniest hair metal breakdowns I've heard this side of classic rock radio is a moment of intensely concentrated pop bliss. The pitch-shifted vocal chops sewn into the mix, meant to resemble a stadium-rock outfit's six-string shreddage, are a thick layer of icing liberally applied to an already saccharine cake.

At its core, True is a pastiche of guilty pleasures - a chaotic regurgitation of discarded pop tropes that is surprisingly consistent in its ability to derive vibe-able tunes from the minced remains of bargain-bin discs. Why reach for the car radio dial when Broken Spear can provide a Cubist perspective of all channels at once?

11/28/2016

Review: Melrose - "Melrose"

Melrose - Melrose
(Self-Released 2016)

I cap off my Thanksgiving break with fresh pair of buds in my ears, lapping the track around the high school's decomposing gridiron - moribund brown with offseason underuse. The weather is mild enough to shed my Columbia windbreaker, but the layer remains zipped, phone nestled in its left abdominal pocket. A rubber tendril yoking me to my headphone jack lazily bounces to metronomic footfalls. The Softies, The Sundays, and Melrose score this afternoon stroll, an aural barrier of indie-pop warmth to combat the windchill of November's last Sunday.

Bear-hugged by the compression of a handheld tape-recorder's microphone, Melrose's debut EP is a languid trickle of viscous indie pop transfused from the veins of Portastatic and Julia Brown. Dampened with Midwestern romanticism, ambling leads venture across a blank cassette canvas, occasionally crossing paths en route to nowhere in particular. "Outcomes" and "Dollhouse" are particularly aimless in their excursions, casting minimalist guitar lines into a murky lake and disregarding the nibbles on the other end. Like a quick handful of banana-almond granola scooped casually from its plastic pouch or the final five minutes of a morning shower, these tunes are fleeting moments of comfort that I return to for their cozy concision. Though simple and understated, their beauty is self-evident and accessible. Let Melrose steep in a mug of hot water and sip it through December.

11/25/2016

Accepting Submissions for 2016 Half-Gifts Christmas Compilation


It's been some time since I've curated a Half-Gifts compilation album, but clawing my way out of a sweet potato casserole-induced coma has imbued me with enough holiday spirit to begin work on a new Christmas mixtape. As per tradition, the compilation's tracklist will be entirely crowdsourced - submissions from fans and friends of the blog will be accepted regardless of genre or skill level as long as they fulfill the criteria listed below.

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1. Songs must be submitted to jude.noel3@gmail.com in the form of a .Wav/.AIFF/.FLAC file.
2. Songs must be no longer than 6 minutes.
3. Songs must have some sort of thematic relationship to winter or the holiday season.
4. Cover songs happily accepted.

Submissions will be accepted until Dec. 17th, 2016

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For inspiration, here are some links to Christmas comps past:

  

11/20/2016

Reissue Review: zxz - "zxz"

zxz - zxz
(2009 Going Native)

At some point in my early childhood - around the time I began to attend first grade, I believe - I began to experience long-term bouts of insomnia brought on by nightmares I'd experience almost nightly. The most memorable installment in this Criterion Collection of night terrors was an ongoing conflict between myself and a sentient VHS player. I'd find myself confined in a vacant living room - one with windows locked from the outside and without doors. An unmarked videocassette would protrude from the tape player's parted lips like a jutted tongue, taunting me. As if in a trance, I'd approach the appliance only for it to hastily swallow the magnetic box, its guts churning with the rumble of worn hardware. The television's screen would brighten, and as the shadows of figures materialized, I'd shield my eyes with a forearm in a panic, bathed in the tube's spectral blue light while furiously mashing the EJECT and STOP buttons, only for the cassette's sickly, detuned soundtrack to increase in volume with each press until it reached unbearable levels. I'd never muster the courage to sneak a glance at the TV's broadcast - its bass snarls and fricative synth whispers were enough to spook my young self. 

Perhaps the grainy cover art that accompanies zxz's self-titled effort on Going Native Records, speckled with incandescent bulbs and burnt-orange lens flares, is the dream world's motion picture I'd averted my eyes from all those years. Its tape-warped melodies and minimal constructions certainly do recall memories of the nightmares' soundscapes, sonorous wheezes of glassy keys that leak post-nasal drip onto aural Polaroids of the sky taken at various times of day. Instrumentally similar to Julee Cruise's contributions to the Twin Peaks soundtrack, the record is a spring-reverb comforter with barbed burrs of atonality clinging to its fuzzy surface. It's an after school Halloween special scored by Arnold Schoenberg and John Carpenter - subtly unsettling yet saturated with sadness.