Monday 24 March 2014


Oh goddd this like everything else has taken ages to actually get from my ears to my brain to my fingers to the keyboard. It was released over a month ago. What is "it"? God damn— it's Meishi Smile with his debut album Lust. Yes indeed it's "The 1st Album" – there can never be another one by Meishi Smile, no no nope. This is the 1st album and it always will be.

But what is it like? Lust is essentially a mix of rough and smooth, a mix of harsh self-berating distortion and endless reverb free-floating out into the gulf of digital voids, all beset with J-pop sensibilities; it's sugar-coated white noise, it's dance music for bedroom dwellers and indoors inclined individuals, it's idealised. Within its 8 tracks, there are many moments where it soars past the boundaries of euphoria with a post-Balearic furore, too happy to be real; a gentle, dream-induced kind of EDM, not the type you'd hear in a massive tent at a festival, but the type that takes you away to weird worlds in the middle of the lonely nights.

Opener 'AJS' perhaps embodies this EDM style most clearly, keeping all the tropes of the so-called genre – like multiple drops and trance-like melodies skirling away in hookish fashion; likewise, 'Honey' drops in with octave-skipping bassline and clean-cut fast-paced synth melodies. However, here is a quirk of the album: the vocoder. There is something retro about the vocoder, yet in its very nature it IS a modern device. It is at odds with itself. But this works perfectly for Meishi Smile. The vocoder appears as a mainstay of 'Pale', which alongside its icicle-esque synth glistenings gives the track an atmosphere of coldness, of chill in the nominal sense. It's also in the chilled atmosphere of the next track, 'Still' – looping vocoders battling high-register hollow synth and wide washes of dreamy chords.

These chilled vibes start the proceedings on 'Heart', a song that moves between swaying seabed ambience and bouncing electro-dance; thick synth bass grooves in a pop mood and the vocoder seems here to be "singing" more than anywhere else. It's a song of slow and fast. That slowness, however, is portrayed so much better on the almost-surprise track 'Ai' – this one sounds like a super-reverbed and super-distorted version of the kind of slo-house synthpop that the infamous Drive soundtrack popularised with artists like College and Kavinsky (in this instance, more by the former than the latter). It reeks of nocturnal stylings, a simple melody and a steady, driving beat fogged by reverb and underpinned by formative rows of saw-wave bass jounce.

That's in direct contrast to the happy-happy pop of previous track 'Summer Blue', a foray into something maybe you'd find on a videogame – squelchy bass, simple but very effective synth raining down in showers of 8-bit bleepery with an overriding melody played by synth lead and vocoder, syncopated toytronic chords in lieu of house piano for extra oomph. This is in direct contrast to the closer and most crazy of all tracks, 'Tears'. Meishi Smile mysteriously describes it on SoundCloud: "Dedicated to the one who was lost." And indeed, in title and in its near-happy hardcore extreme distortion, this aims to reflect not the moroseness, the lassitude, of being sad, but the fury and frustration of sadness, wholly up-tempo yet down-beat, tear-like droplets of synth raining down amidst the whirlwind haze of twisted grey noise synth.

BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE. There are remixes. KOSMO KAT keeps 'Summer Blue' close to the original, adding touches here and there – percussion, a sunset-conjuring breakdown, droplet sample – for what is 'Summer Blue V2' basically. 'Heart' retains its washes of sound, yet is given a gentle touch of officious industry by Uio Loi, and la pumpkin turns it into an almost beatless slice of bassy experimentalism with added instruments, with the original melodies picked out and spotlighted. mus.hiba does likewise with 'Pale', extracting the song from its up-tempo frame and giving it a semi-trap makeover with added 80s synth melody and waves of trance synth. My favourite, I think, is gigandect's redoing of 'Honey' – now essentially a chiptune number, completely overrun with glorious bleeps, from its low-low buzzing bass all the way up to its fluid telephonic melody.

Phew. Well, this ain't conventional dance music; Meishi Smile ain't conventional. This is dance music hazed over with influences from videogame music to shoegaze and beyond, dreams converging like clouds to rain down startling reworkings of various recollections, feelings, and recollections of feelings. It's icy and robotic, but this cybernetic feel exudes nostalgia and emotion with subtle effortlessness; behind a mist of idealised sounds, just as anybody URL is veiled by idealised monikers and titles, Meishi Smile is there with boundless feeling.

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