Wednesday 30 July 2014


Making your songs sound as polished and modern as possible is certainly a thing, but so is completely opening oneself up to the opposite – letting things unpredictable things happen to your productions. This is certainly the case with Canadian artist, R23X (stylised as あるR23エクス) – ostensibly named after the World War I era British airships of the same name – who distorts his songs using a VCR, amongst other things.

Instruments are recorded via audio interface onto VHS, the tape is taken out, bent, scratched, put back in, pause/unpaused for delay and warble; the piece is recomposed, with other instruments added, and the process repeated (this was all explained to me by the man himself).

So let's listen to 'Dry Summer' together.

The title is apt enough, with percussion sounding like a sheer swish of coarse sand fighting in a storm of static laden with warm chords; a super-high-pitched melody shines through this languid haze with backup from 80s-style power drums, all of it lurching towards a fade-out finale served up with crushed chiptune sounds. A wholly lo-fi outing, in the style of vaporwave, yet it utilises no samples and contains no ounce of funk – it illustrates the paradoxical positive lassitude in a heatwave-type scenario.

"My daily work as a composer and sound engineer requires me to focus on higher quality audio and often palatable music and sound," R23X explains further. "This project […] is lo-fi or procedural in nature because I find it so darn textured and interesting to listen to/create. Once you allow less predictable elements (like tape damage, fuzz, delay) to become a part of your compositions, they have the potential to become something unique and not something that I just "thought up" but rather something that I set parameters for and allow to happen." In this sense, the music of R23X is something that you could truly called experimental – in the very nature of the word.

He continues: "I am interested in prepared piano for this very same reason. I find art/music that deviates from formal processes so much more interesting. But with the VHS stuff specifically — nostalgia is definitely a part of it. There is something I find satisfying about the nostalgic tenor of the project, but also the anachronistic of using outmoded tech to record music and other things — like contemporary music. It's fun!"

  • Check out R23X's art project (to which this musicmaking is "tangentially linked," he says) VHS Stills
  • R23X is working on an EP! "I'm hoping to release it on a short run of VHS tapes with some abstract video art to accompany."

Listen to R23X on SoundCloud

Thursday 24 July 2014


I dunno how or I can't remember how I stumbled across Parisian singer-songwriter ECHO – it was a while ago. I followed her on Twitter, occasionally checking her SoundCloud; all I know is that she's good. For instance, you may want to check out her Midnight Chronicles EP, released recently on French label Cosmonostro.

Called 'Fusional' it is a creation of fellow Parisian In Love With A Ghost, a purveyor of substantially chilled sounds – as you can instantly tell from the endlessly arpeggiated harp sounds at the beginning of this track. But as soon as the robust beat drops, thick with bass and the crack-rasp of snare, it becomes a different beast: an odyssey of cool plucked ambience, like a fresh breeze, paired with the stifling heaviness of trap-inspired beats, a soothing yet spooky adventure through musical phantasms.

And of course there is the voice of ECHO, singing with an endearing lilt and layered with a pitch-shifted equivalent that follows her like a murky shadow. Her brisk delivery has an almost rap-like air to it, following a simple melody, evoking calm-faced ghosts singing with otherworldly beauty; it's hard not to like the way she sings "So many clouds above me…" or "I want to free myself from this / I'm so in love with a lie" – and with that sludgy low-end doppelganger layer almost growling beneath, it's perfect for this track.

It comes from In Love With A Ghost's aptly named Love Ghost EP, something that lives up to its title – in the same way that 'Fusional' does it, these four songs demonstrate not only phantomatic vibes but also those of styles often used in songs of love and lust, think R&B slo-jams distorted, played backwards through haunted apartment blocks, and you're pretty much there. It feels sad, but it also feels accepting of that sadness – a nice mix.

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Wednesday 23 July 2014


Wow. Well. Here's a damn good remix of a song that was damn good anyway; Craig David's 'Fill Me In' was like the popular garage song when it came out – a strong and immortalising debut solo single for Mr David, and another garage song in a year that was big for garage in the UK's mainstream: 2000 (which saw hits such as 'Flowers' by Sweet Female Attitude, 'Movin' Too Fast' by Artful Dodger, and 'Bound 4 Da Reload (Casualty)' by Oxide & Neutrino, to name a few).

In any case, the remix by Norwegian producer Good dish revitalises this track with some next level euphoria – not Balearic euphoria, but pogo-sticking, happy-happy euphoria. Listen.

Starting with the original, it's soon interrupted with dancehall-esque kicks and the original sounds are cut and looped into stuttering rhythm. And if there was ever a song to include those cheeky little bed-spring sounds, it's in this remix of a song about a guy trying to "romance" the girl next door. They feature heavily, as do a whole host of heavenly-triumphant snare rolls, which provide a sonic red carpet for the soft synth sounds and muted marimba chords that fit perfectly with Craig David's vocals. The end section marks a final 2-step to the finish; I picture people sneaking round their next-door neighbours' houses only to start dancing with them in their bedrooms, not creepin' for romance as was the original track's story.

Whew, I mean, it's just a heavily heavily addictive sound, one that is as delicious to the ears as pear-drops or unadon or I dunno pizza, burgers— basically, it's something mad tasty, but for your ears. Lol and I totally forgot this guy was called Good Dish: makes sense that his music is as nice as nice food, right?

Quite fittingly, the producer who's remixed this old classic is grounded in a particular style not all dissimilar to garage; not in that the genres themselves are similar, but more that Good Dish is part of Rytmeklubben ("Rhythm Club" in Norwegian) collective – a group of producers who produce a kind of footwork, to be extremely generalist about it. Garage has a specific sound; so too, kind of, does this breed of footwork. It could be a Norwegian phenomenon (songs are tagged #NorClub), one that seems (SEEMS) to have started with Cashmere Cat and which shows no sign of stopping – and I'm v glad about that.

THAT SAID: futuristic R&B-inflected juke-flavoured bass-simmering stuff like this is popping up everywhere. To say it's a particular country's speciality in this connected digital age is reductionist and a bit sensationalist, so I'm sorry about what I said. But I kind of still mean it lol. Either way, if this is NorClub then I need to get myself to a NorClub.

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Tuesday 22 July 2014

FINDSERENE – いつまでも、私と恋に落ちる

It's another short one, a looped beat that doesn't quite reach the 2-minute mark. However, it is also two other things simultaneously: the latest track from Bangladeshi beatmaker Findserene (as in "Find" and "Serene"), and also the perfect track to suit its creator.

As you can see, the title is in Japanese: roughly it means 'Forever, Fall In Love With Me' – for now, let's call it that. On the other hand, it reflects Findserene as an artist; one trip to her Tumblr will tell you about feeling like an outcast because of her interests (anime, Japanese culture), and how she one day decided to just make beats, despite what anybody might have said. And in this creative outlet we see and hear Findserene's interests surface, turning herself into a kind of cultural conduit, a nation-bridging spirit from Bangladesh's Faridpur District.

The track itself is delicate and dreamy, a hypnotic lo-fi sound with a thin mist of a beat adorned with shimmying shakers and popping electronic toms in place of kick-snare patterns. Glittering melody cascades through the low, sparse membrane of the drums, like old memories flooding into a heart full of longing. The fade-in & fade-out makes it seem like we have just been blessed with a brief opening into a very serene place indeed, like walking down a street and hearing the murmurs and sounds of living from windows up above; the heaven of now.

You don't necessarily need very long to tell how good someone is at making music, or how well they can inject their own emotion into their creative output – almost as if the two were one and the same – and 'Forever, Fall In Love With Me' is a perfect example of that. Let's hope there are more & even greater things to come from this musicmaker in the future!

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Sunday 20 July 2014


Brilliant! That's the first word I'll say about this. But before I even begin to tip-tap some words out about the song itself: Just WHO is Valiant Vermin anyway? FURTHERMORE — Eggroll…?!

(The) Valiant Vermin aka Bettina Campomanes is a young (I believe currently she is 17) producer from the Philippines. A self-described bedroom project, the Facebook page for it shows off Campomanes' modesty and humour: her bio reads "I didn't want to go outside so this happened," whilst her description is "I'm 16 years young and bored as hell." The very epitome of bedroom producer if ever there was one. Bettina is also a prized member of the Manila-based artist collective, Youngliquidgang – the co-founder of which, Zeon Gomez (aka Ulzzang Pistol), made a lovely guest mix (#014) for Y/N recently showcasing the group's talent; it included the electro-pop goodness of 'Good Girls Sin' by VV herself.

Her latest track is an impressive remix of an obscure and rather ungoogleable '80s duo, Eggroll. Called 'No Satisfaction', the original is as '80s synthpop as you can imagine: power drums, keytars, twangly guitar. I was gonna just link you to the video (dated 1987, aired on NY Public Access) but I'll embed it at the end of this post because you'd like it probably.

Anyway: the remix is a different kettle of fish.

Taking the strong, soulful vocals of the original, Valiant Vermin puts these to use in an extremely appealing way, setting them above an elastically punchy four-on-the-floor beat and syncopated stabs of robust house piano, as well as the occasional synth chord. Wheeling synth melody screams over the top with all the exciting intensity of Sonic 2's Chemical Plant Zone – but more jazz, less urgency. Speaking of jazz, piano fills spill over between chords in virtuosic fashion, further highlighting the elated funk of this track. It's house, classic 90s house – with a dash of French-touch sound – combined with the fun-loving nature of jazz and electro, simply brimming with energy. Download it for free!

Two things are immediately clear: 1. To find & utilise well such an obscure gem; 2. Production is high quality. Here is a talent still relatively undiscovered, from somebody barely even an adult (in the true sense of the word) yet. You can only hope that Miss Campomanes continues on this creative path; who knows what she will dream up in years to come.

And, as promised…

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Saturday 19 July 2014


Oooh…! Remember when I wrote about Daytrip's first track? It was called um 'Flight 43 (NYC)' that was it. It was a slice of bombastic footwork with a tasty guitar solo weaved into it somewhere. You should listen to it. More interestingly, it is the first section of a journey which lies at the heart of the very concept behind Daytrip: a round-the-world trip documented in music. So we've been on Flight 43 via NYC – where next?

Well the New Yorkers behind Daytrip – a duo comprising of DenZ and David Hugh Cosby – have taken us to Kingston, Jamaica, to see how they do over there. Home of reggae, rapping (via 'toasting' or 'chatting', when the DJ talks/chants over a beat; via West African 'griots' or poet-storytellers), ska, dub, dancehall, Jamaica is the perfect stop-off for a pair who at least seem to like their bass tasty and their beats meaty.

I wonder how they actually got to make any music because there are a lot of pictures of them partying. (Yes it's not just conceptual, it's a living, in-practice, physical trip to another place: check their Tumblr). Anyway! Listen! This is 'Drop It'.

Mmmm it basically goes off. Crunchy synth mixes with tides of infra-bass and booming kicks in a celebration of the low end of the spectrum, the beat swaggering and swaying in between aggressive collections of snare hits and wind-up hi-hat freneticism. And rightly so – it fits the no-nonsense party atmosphere of the song, with dancehall vocals (for the most part) inciting the crowd to lust-laden dancing. Airhorns abound in occasional patches, as do jostling glitches and stutterings in the track, decorating this track, which is essentially dancehall-trap if I'm allowed to suggest that.

Raps from Lil Silk and Yung Burrakami keep things fresh and add more voices to the track, giving it this bustling, busy appeal – just by listening to it you feel like you're out dancing in a sweaty sweaty crowd in a chaotic club. Looked at in the context of the series of daytrips themselves, the first was a triumphant, soaring introduction, but this second leg is a more settled, established sound, something achieved by aiming for a collaborative effort, perhaps. It's also a nice indication of how the duo will pick up and adopt the sounds of whatever locale they happen to find themselves in, making this a v followable series.

NYC → Kingston → ????? — I'm looking forward to it!

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Friday 18 July 2014


It's Saint Pepsi, bitch. Remember that? From his Gin City EP that got released earlier this year? Now doesn't that seem like an actual age ago? Right? It may as well be an actual age ago – even since then, Ryan DeRobertis (by now, everybody should know: this is SP irl) has given his sound a right good seeing-to, uh, mainly in that he's added his own vocals to it.

As a component of the digital sample-heavy movement that was (and still is) vaporwave, usually Mr DeRobertis could be heard lifting vocals from a whole host of past-and-present material, from Justin Bieber to Aretha Franklin, but yes: this time around they're entirely his own. And he's got a brilliantly off-centre muse for his singing, the eponymous 'Fiona Coyne' – this is a character from the I've-never-seen-it Canadian (teen) drama series/universe Degrassi; Drake also cut his acting teeth here so, y'know, it must have some sort of following – be it genuine or retroactive.

Anyway, as you may have guessed, yes that's her picture above, and as Saint Pepsi himself sings with gorgeous Long-Island-lilt, "She's got emerald eyes" – or at least she sorta does. His voice adds an extra dimension to his music, a depth of personality, something for fans to not just appreciate but to find attractive, fall in love with. He's already put himself out there, creatively, but now THERE he is, voice immortalised. A real pop star.

Yes there's a video for the song. It features a guy encountering a lot of couples kissing or "MAKING OUT" or whatever, who himself is followed by an insistent disco (penis) ball. Watch.

As for the music itself, Saint Pepsi hasn't lost the funk – the good funk – no sir. Clean, simple drums keep head-nodding time, as groovesome bass darts fluidly below glittery staccato guitar stabs, whilst more ornamentations comes in the form of sparkling-pool glockenspiel magic, and bursts of triumphant brass; St Pep's voice moves over all of this, confident and laced with addictive hooks, especially in the undeniably catchy chorus: "Oh darling, won't you believe me? I'll love you till the record stops."

Though it's a stark change to his earlier sounds, it's a step in the right direction: this is pop perfection. This could live on the radio all summer for all I care – I mean, that's the place it deserves to be. Stuff this well-produced that is made by, and features the vocals of, the producer, a one-person vault of charisma and creativity, should be paid much attention to, especially considering his variations in sound, made by my reckoning at least 3 times a year, which combined promise unpredictable & wonderful things for the future of Saint Pepsi.

  • This comes from the Fiona Coyne/Fall Harder 7" out 12th August via Carpark Records – pre-order it here. I might buy a record player just for this release – you know, like how a load of people bought a Wii U just for Mario Kart 8.
  • It's not the first time we've heard St Pep's voice: check out this rap (second rap in the track) he lends to SPF420 co-founder Chaz Allen aka Metallic Ghosts' track 'Destroy'. It's actually really good. More rapping pls!

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Thursday 17 July 2014


I love the internet. I just love it. For things like this, i.e. actually communicating with artists on a one-to-one level, it's just the best thing ever. There are a lot of other inventions that are quite useful, like toilets, airplanes, and various medical advancements, but the internet is just parfait. So I was chatting to Zeon Gomez aka Manila-based artist Ulzzang Pistol on FB & I asked if he wanted to make a mix and he said yes, so here we are.

But this is a mix with a difference: besides being the 14th Y/N Guest Mix, it's also a showcase of a collective part-founded by Zeon himself. "I make my own music by mixing J-pop influences with house, disco and dream pop, usually through the use of Japanese lyrics," in an email he tells me about what he does. "I don't know if you can label it as J-pop, but I'd like to call it that way I guess. I am also a Co-founder of the Manila-centric collective called YOUNGLIQUIDGANG, where I handle PR and Artist Management duties."

Youngliquidgang itself is a hotbed of creativity – a 12-strong (and still growing) group of young and talented Filipino music artists, mostly all electronic; "Basically," says Zeon, "YLG is inspired by a family/brotherhood kind of feel, where like-minded artists support each other into creating material and refining their talents." The collective was co-founded along with No Rome (aka Rome Gomez, his brother) and Keats Collective affiliate, MERLINDA/WALLS (Ethan Namoch, also making music as COEXIST). Zeon describes the simple story behind its conception: "We only wanted to make a community of electronic musicians around our university [De Lasalle-College of Saint Benilde], but it ended up being a nationwide collective after we decided to move out of the school's music scene."

though we are generally like-minded we also have our little differences that we love and try to accept about one another

From the downtempo soul of singer/musicmaker Hana ACBD and the cosmic blizzards of Local Disk (C:), to No Rome's lush glitterscapes and vapor-leaning R&B tracks from Colombo Beats, YLG is a varied bunch – but there's a bond between all of them that's less loose collective, more tight-knit gang (hence the name, I guess). "What connects us all together, apart from similar tastes in music," Zeon elaborates, "is this CULTURE we shaped inside our group, this family-like atmosphere, where we don't just meet on a artistic level but on a personal one as well, we sort of look out for each other." You can see this in the various remixes they do for each other's tracks, or in the way that vocals are offered up from one to another, etc.

"In short," he continues, "it's about love and respect, where we believe in the skill of others (especially the under-appreciated artists/talents)." Which is a lovely message that I imagine (or hope?) many others in the music community share and equally uphold; I mean, it was/is the YES/NO's raison d'être in the first place.

As for the mix itself, it's choc-a-bloc (bet you never thought you'd hear that ever again) with goodness from the fair isles of the Philippines, beginning with the moody 'ALWAYS' by MSN メッセンジャー (that's 'Messanger' in katakana btw) with its booming kicks, pitch-shifted vocals and classical ambience, continuing on a smooth journey of differing slices of electronic chill, and ending on a high with colourful dose of electro-pop The Valiant Vermin (self-described as: "Bedroom Project of some high school chick") with cute 'n' catchy rapid-fire vocals.

Zeon sums it up: "This mix goes to show that, though our artists are from different genres of electronic music, we share a form of cohesiveness or oneness with the vibe our tracks emit, to give a tag it'd be 'UNITY IN DIVERSITY', much like a family."

• T R A C K L I S T •
  1. MSN メッセンジャー – ALWAYS
  2. What is Andromeda – If these trees could talk
  3. MERLINDA/WALLS – Departure
  4. SOUL_BRK – Nights
  5. Local Disk (C:) – Event Horizon
  6. Colombo Beats – Cater 2 U Edit
  7. Hana Acbd – Like Butter
  8. COEXIST – Fare Thee Well
  9. Ulzzang Pistol – ??????????
  10. No Rome – Heaven
  11. The Valiant Vermin – Good Girls Sin

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Wednesday 16 July 2014


Well well well, here's something new. It's from a Sydney-based producer who goes by the name of Entheogenesis. It's an interesting name that comes from the word "entheogen" – basically a synthesised or natural drug used in a "religious, shamanic, or spiritual context" (ty Wikipedia). But uh, that aside, let's take a look at the actual music of the musicmaker – in particular, the musicmaker's latest track 'Ice Water'.

Drenched in a glaze of tare-style deliciousness, the track is wet with sounds, totally fluid to a slo-down, narcotic degree. Percussion shimmers lovingly in bristling thickets where clockwork hi-hats dance with woodblocks and sharp metallic sounds. Add to this a serious set of kicks and sub-bass boomings, and you got yourself a beat. Decorate with an amalgamation of cold electronic sounds – seemingly arrhythmic soft chords and ambient murmurs – and leave to simmer in its own slow sway. Serve.

At only 1:28 it's short 'n' sweet, but it gives an idea of the kind of genreless experimental hip-hop-tilted psychoactive-substance-championing electronic stuff that Entheogenesis makes. For an even better idea, check out the debut EP, Vanity, downloadable at a name-yer-price basis on Bandcamp, released earlier this year via Brighton (UK) label Shimmy Records.

Entheogenesis (you realise it's a long, weirdly difficult-to-type name when you type it a lot) is also part of the Sydney-based 穏便 Gentle Records collective, dedicated to releasing beats from local talent. Most recently, Ethneo (that's better) also played at elsewhere in Surfers Paradise for the 3rd instalment of the very-cool-looking LILT – self-described as "Beats & electronica audio/visual adventure." You can read about LILT003 over at Raw Ink.

  • Just in case you forgot or didn't know, you can download 'Ice Water' for free. I believe the little download arrow is on the player above. Peace.

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Tuesday 15 July 2014


← #23: HARRISON #25: TROPES →

If you ever wanted to know more about London producer Calum Bowen aka bo en, then you've come to the right place. Equally, if you've ever wanted to read some words from a guy who really seems to know exactly what he's talking about when it comes to pop music, you should look no further.

Although, when I say 'pop music' I'm not talking corporate-sponsored campaigns gifted to various singers around the world, I'm talking about the producers of pop music – those composers of incredible hooks, polishers of sound, conjurers of moods and atmospheres, often working in the background without much recognition; in short, the actual creators of pop music.

When I first stumbled across the music of bo en I was surprised, joyous and confused all at the same time: here's a guy who makes (and quite rightly so) "maximalist introverted pop" and constructs cultural bridges at the same time, singing in a mix of Japanese and English whilst taking many of his influences from Japanese music in general. What's more, he also creates videogame music, which you can check out on his other SoundCloud page. I mean, to get a better idea of his sound in general, it'd be a good idea to check out bo en's debut album Pale Machine, which was released on v cool Japanese netlabel Maltine Records – you can download it for free.

Talking about his influences, his process, Japanese music, and his philosophy of pop music as a whole, the quite interesting Mr Bowen approached my "lazy interview" questions with a refreshing sparkle, showing that his talent and vision with the music he makes as bo en go hand in hand with his thoughts on the music world as a whole. On top of this, the most basic silhouette of him as an artist – an English guy living in London with such deep ties to Japan – demonstrates a utopian internationalism made buoyant by our ever-connected digital world. I apologise for my waffle: please just make yourself a cup of tea or something and keep reading.

    Who are you? Where are you from? What do you do?
I'm Calum Bowen. I live in London. I make video game music and experimental pop music under the name 'bo en'.

    Why did you decide to start creating music?
I think most people create some form of art because they're unable or unwilling to express themselves directly. So, as a shy child, I imagine it was quite appealing to be able to carefully consider and control my expression in this way. However, my first decision to study music at school was kind of driven by the fact that all of my friends were doing it. So, in that way, it was kind of the result of happenstance.

    How would you describe your sound? What makes you and your style stand out?
Shibuya-kei was a huge influence for me. Taking the tenets of pop music to their extreme is kind of the general approach but stylistically, I take my lead from a big nostalgia for R&B which in turn led me onto a whole lot of soul/jazz. The surface aesthetic makes references to current trends in dance music but fundamentally I'm writing neo-soulish jazz-pop tracks.

A big part of my music is an attempt to rid people of the perception that style/genre should be the basis for value judgements. So, in using different timbres and rhythms (which are mostly the varying factors that define specific genres) as freely as possible I want to encourage people to free themselves of placing value judgements on genres alone. A lot of Shibuya-kei fits into this genre-hopping theme but I mainly take my inspiration from Kiyohiko Senba's project Haniwa. It definitely inspired my approach of treating different genres/stylistic tropes as a dramaturgical toolkit – that these could be used as elements within one coherent whole rather than borders to split different songs or even artists into camps and judge them accordingly.

    Is there a perfect time and place for listening to your music?
I'm not sure. In a way, I think it relies on the attention of the audience quite heavily. For example, It wouldn't work well as background dinner party music. It can be pretty disruptive at times. So, I suppose some free time or place that you have to jump into the world. I don't think it particularly sits anywhere geographically or temporally.

    What inspires you most when writing a song?
Now that I'm writing my new album, I have new objectives but when I was writing Pale Machine, I had a clear set of rules (except I broke them a few times) which led the writing. In that way, experimentation within those rules was the main inspiration. While I draw from my own experiences lyrically and want to engage with people in a frank and open way, the more dominant factor for me is creating something musically interesting and compelling which can support my emotional opening up.

The most inspiring specific moments are almost always accidents, as cliché as it sounds. So often, when writing or producing, you get locked into the sound or direction of what you've started because you go through a process of listening to it over and over again and solidifying the contents in your mind. However, there's been times where my hands have slipped and I landed on a chord that felt great and that has led the rest of my writing. Or I might mute a track by accident and realise that, in fact, this section should be a lot more sparse. In that way, accidents help me break out of the cyclic determined writing process I usually go through.

    What is your most memorable musical experience?
I think the most memorable would be the Pale Machine album launch at 2.5D in Japan last year. I've played a few more times since and it's been absolutely amazing but the first time was kind of just a big surprise. Having worked only online for a really long time and kind of putting all my eggs in one basket and hoping things would work out, I was so happy to see 2.5D fill up and everyone singing along so encouragingly. I'm kind of used to going to shows as a bit of a skeptic, waiting to be won over but it was completely the other way around at this show and in Japan in general which, while it's not particularly critical, is very comforting for a performer.

    What are your favourite three songs at the moment?
It might not seem like these are very “at the moment” but these are the main songs that are currently inspiring my new album. I think the common thread is that these are people who are trying to make what is most interesting to them through the lens of pop. I take my definition of pop as clearly presented works of brevity and seemingly visceral pleasure. It's easy to be skeptical of pop because it is so often the product of corporations detached from direct human emotion and that much desired quality, 'authenticity'.

Fundamentally, these are people who engage creatively with accessibility and recognise that 'pop' as an approach to writing music is not analogous with the 'rounding of corners' approach that aims at being appealing to the largest amount of people.

Chakra – まだ

Steely Dan – Deacon Blues

はにわちゃん – 体育祭

    Who do you most admire in the music world?
I think part of my musical identity falls on the fact that I don't have any clear musical idols. If pushed, I'd say I admire the persistence of Nakata Yasutaka's approach in an increasingly mainstream context. I admire those who make the music they want to hear and don't make any excuses for themselves.

As far as people in my immediate vicinity who inspire me and who's work I admire – Maxo's huge output and really fluid approach to harmony is very inspiring to me and Wave Racer's incredibly glossy production is particularly admirable. I absolutely love Sugar's Campaign but everyone already knows that.

    In your opinion, what is the future of music?
I think (and hope) the future of music will mark a shift in focus towards producers and songwriters over the (vocal) performer who currently stands symbolically in the place of everyone who makes their product possible. People seem a lot more interested in producers and producers also seem a lot more interested in pop so it's only really a matter of time, I think.

    What's the future of your music - what do you hope to do next?
I love the chance that bo en gives me to allow room for emotional reflection and expression in a very personal way but ultimately, I'd love to work with other singers and really push them to their limits. My voice is something I find can often restrict the way I write so I feel like I'd like to slowly move into primarily writing for other singers. Whether that'll still be 'bo en' or not, I don't know. I suppose it'd be nice to be perceived in a similar way to Yasutaka in that he's able to work with varying artists but it's always clear that he is the author of the work.

In terms of the not-so-distant future, I'm working on a short EP with two other secret people ;~) and, after that, my next album. Of course, I'm going to be working on game soundtracks as well during these periods.

    What, aside from music, is most important to you?
In a broad sense hobbies are the most important thing to me. To be able to maintain genuine interest and intrigue outside of music is what'll really keep me sane and enjoying my life. To be able to return to that state where you're constantly acquiring new knowledge like a child is incredibly enjoyable. Right now, my two main hobbies are gardening and web design.

  • Most recently, bo en released the Pale Machine: Expansion Pack 2, an extremely tactile (it's pink & fluffy, as u can see) and collectible version of his debut of the same name, without the expansion pack bit obviously. On it you'll find some lovely new songs, a couple of collaborations and some remixes by the likes of Giraffage and Seiho. Get it here (CLICK).

← #23: HARRISON #25: TROPES →

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Saturday 5 July 2014


It's been a long time coming but finally I am writing about ESPRIT 空想's latest (and perhaps greatest) album Last time we heard from this guy it was actually in the form of his alter-ego (or is this his alter ego?), another musical project: Mirror Kisses – namely the cool video for even cooler song, 'Genius'. There's some new Mirror Kisses stuff out right now actually but let's just put that off for a second and get right into the melted-mind sounds of this collection of songs.

A key component of the slightly undefinable, nostalgia-and-sample-ridden style of vaporwave – whose sounds can reach as far back in time as any artist's musical memory will allow, and as far forward as their imagination will take them – ESPRIT 空想 has moved forward, describing his album as "distinct in that it is comprised of all original compositions. Samples are utilized as a brushstroke rather than a canvas. Tracks 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 10 and 11 are entirely free of sampling." As such, the imaginary constraints of vaporwave fall away to leave nothing but its lightly distorted aesthetics and its apparent liberal-mindedness, wherein the freedom to do whatever underpins most of what has been made within the brackets of "vaporwave", which simultaneously leads to an eternal paradox: if this is the case, then what is vaporwave? A genreless genre; a community brought together by common interests.

Almost as a realisation of this kind of maturation into formlessness, ESPRIT 空想 does as he pleases: to great effect. – its name reflecting the cube comprising of Akira Yuki (from Sega's Virtua Fighter series) on the album art – is expansive and atmospheric yet groovesome and quirky, building these soundscapes with relatively short tracks; each one of these suffixed with the extension ".wav", the perfect accompaniment to the album's own ".zip" – as if the sights, sounds and words attached to this release are wholly indebted to all things digital.

And what a set of sounds! We go from the warm holiday sounds of opener 'whispers.wav', with its '80s-commercial glitz and two chords spacing out in 'Everybody Wants To Rule The World' (Tears For Fears) fashion, and the chopped-up sounds and stammering beat of 'select.wav', as well as 'slow2014.wav', which sounds like an area on Streets Of Rage, swaggering yet calm in the post-crime-syndicate-clean-up; to the moody chillment of 'mindless.wav' – the hollowed-out skull of deadbeat intoxication – with a beat reminiscent of 'peter.wav': almost pure trip hop: spacey strings and surprising sub-bass as accoutrements to a slowed-down beat that uses the "Amen break"; 'esprit.wav', whose tropical washes of sound cloak a familiar sample and ghostly vocals, matches with 'iwillbe.wav', which finds its partner in the aching 'withyou.wav', the two essentially one track cut in two ("i will be with you"), both sufficiently equipped with steel pan stylings and epic tom drums to evoke a bepalmed beach paradise at sunset – titularly including the fantasy love-(or-lust)-of-one's-life.

Then there's 'warmjet.wav', a master-class in warm, modulating synths, focusing also a lot on empty space, syncopated bass and the loving sway of the beat, similar in a way to 'love.wav', a jaunty track with twisted, drugged-out synths, upbeat percussion, and the shadow of an angelic choir oooo-ing for extra romantic flavour, as well as the wholly retro 'gameover.wav' – staccato-chopper synths over a slow beat, with weird moo-box-style decorations; for, it's an ending that couldn't be more different from the romanticised glistenings of its beginning.

It's certainly an eye-opener, an insight into new territories of sound that paradoxically – and conversely to many "futuristic" sounds in music at the moment – are drenched with cassette-tape fuzz, imbued with nostalgia and, ultimately, could well have been made 20, 25, 30 years ago. Even though it runs the gauntlet of chillwave, retro game music, hip hop, synthpop, and yes: vaporwave – just effuses freshness effortlessly. And it's all condensed into around 21 minutes of music, making it a brief and blissful slice of escapism; I did, in fact, at many points find myself whisked away somewhere else. Basically, this album is like a modern version of exotica ("a musical genre, named after the 1957 Martin Denny album of the same title"), itself an offshoot of lounge music, and intended to provide listeners with a synthetic, sonic experience of Pacific islands, African jungles & South American mountaintops.

What ESPRIT 空想 does is very much the same: from its very concept, as a .zip file, you have this strange, digitally tangible feeling for the music even before you've heard it; then, when you're listening, you could at certain points be in a videogame ('slow2014.wav'), in the past ('whisper.wav'), on a beach ('withyou.wav'), or – for something more descriptive – stuck at home on a rainy day during summer looking out the window ('esprit.wav'). The places it can take you depend on your imagination, of course, but to have made songs that are capable of acting in this way shows, maybe not intent, but at least a capacious and reflective imagination in the first place.

This is vaporwave's answer to lounge music – or perhaps vaporwave IS just an unknowing, modern interpretation of it – and it really is lovely.

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Thursday 3 July 2014


The plight of the underpaid, overworked garment factory workers of the East has recently been making its way over to the West again, but in the form of direct messages stitched into the very fabric of what we hold so dear – cheap clothing. And it's the darling of UK bargain fashion, Primark, at the centre of it all.

Two separate customers, when checking the washing instructions of Primark garments, discovered secret notes; stitched into the label, one note read "Forced to work exhausting hours" – the second said "Degrading sweatshop conditions". These notes were obviously not clues to finding lost treasure. The hand stitched notes appear to have been sewn onto a label, secreted in a Primark garment and left for somebody to come across it when doing their coloured wash.

For some time, the struggles that garment workers face have been well documented, and these most recent messages have been purportedly stitched by an employee of Primark desperately trying to get their message out. Articles in the press, documentaries and campaigns have tried for years to highlight the cost of fast fashion in the developing world. They do say that somebody always pays and the workers are paying with their lives: 1,129 people died and approximately 2,515 were injured when Rana Plaza, a factory building, collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh, last year. Families of those caught in the collapse still struggle to survive today with a loss of income.

Among the labels found in the rubble of Rana Plaza was Primark, so it is no surprise to hear that the clothing company is being targeted over human rights abuses again. Even without the Rana Plaza context, the notes send a chill down the spine: imagine somebody stitching desperate messages, trying to reach out to those who feed the Primark machine, trying to get a message out to anyone who will listen. I wondered how many more messages were stitched secretly into pieces of Primark’s low-priced apparel; I thought about the person hunched over in a shack at night, stitching the message, so that one day somebody might see it and think of the half-life of the person who made the dress that they brought so cheaply.

But then, maybe this isn’t the work of a desperate worker in a dark hole in Bangladesh, but of some creative right here in the West. Another situation comes to mind: a person who is so fed up with the way companies such as Primark abuse human rights that they thought up an effective plan to get the message out. I can envision somebody in the changing rooms of Primark stitching the labels into dresses letter by letter. The two garments which notes were found in were both brought separately from the same store in Swansea, South Wales.

It could be that somebody in Swansea is trying to stir up the machine that is fast fashion.

Primark have commented on the findings, describing them as "strange", and has asked for the customers to return the items in question.

We find it very strange that this has come to light so recently, given that the dress was on sale more than a year ago, with no other incidents of this kind relating to this dress. We would be grateful if the customer would give us the dress, so we can investigate how the additional label became attached and whether there are issues which need to be looked into.
The story continues, however, with a twist. Another Primark customer has come forward with a note she found in the pocket of some trousers she purchased from the Belfast branch of Primark in 2011. Karen Wisinska claims she discovered a prison identity card, and plea for help attached to it, last week when she was clearing her wardrobe out. 

The note horrifyingly reads:


We are prisoners in the Xiang Nan Prison of the Hubei Province in China. Our job inside the prison is to produce fashion clothes for export. We work 15 hours per day and the food we eat wouldn't even be given to dogs or pigs. We work as hard as oxen in the field.

We call on the international community to condemn the Chinese government for the violation of our human rights!

If proved genuine, these notes are truly grim. It's more than saddening that people are so desperate that their last option for help is to leave a secret message for somebody thousands of miles away. However, these notes do seem to be stirring something; there is a call for an investigation by British MP Margaret Richie, but Primark are responding with the same repeated facts about how well they check the working conditions of the people who stitch the clothes that make all the money.

So what is the next step? Can we really ignore another reminder about how terrible the conditions can be for the people who make our clothes, letting the big companies get away with it so we can get our fix of cheap fashion? Sometimes it seems as if people from the West, in general, feel as if it's more convenient to not know, to do nothing. After all, where else would you get a pair of leggings for £3?

  • UPDATE: Recent news reports that Primark deems these notes "a hoax carried out in the UK." Hoax or no hoax, it's a joke to hear that Primark is more worried about the notes than, I dunno, perhaps publishing some photos of how happy their workers are, or maybe some other actual hard evidence to reassure us consumers that things are going as swimmingly as they say.

This article was written by BEXTREE

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