Monday 14 December 2015


The first I heard from this Netherlands-based (is it Netherlands or the Netherlands and if so WHY does it need a definitive article, like Ukraine and the Ukraine, what's the difference? Is it an area? Is it a country?) beatmaker was a track called 'Opium'. And I was gonna write about it too; the gloomy rain-washed synth sounds of its Japanese scale melody really sounded like the theme for the Ruins of Alph in Pokémon Gold/Silver, though I don't think they're exactly the same. But I was totally hooked on the watercolour dripping half-decayed evaporating quality of the synth sounds, like listening to an ancient cassette tape with fresh beats laid beneath it for support and clarification.

That was until I heard 'Forgot yur name' and then I knew I had to write about this one because it's just so ... wow. It's a tract of minimalism in beatmaking, an exercise in polished antiquity in music, of creating fossilised music from a fresh mind and body and giving it those hairline fissures and lo-fi anti-gloss of authenticity.

[The beatmaker is stylistically called E e v e e but I'ma type Eevee; also I think it's short for Eveline but there's no surname, and it seems that she's from Dordrecht, Netherlands and that's all we know.]

The beats on this track thud with authoritative intensity, the kicks full and dust-disturbing, the snares clacking and crushed, with the hint of other percussion haunting the spaces between sounds of this track the whiff of golden age noir nostalgia permeating the air like rare perfume balmy nights balcony the nearby seashore whispering in the luxury-lit gloam surrounding the white stucco walls of the hotel. It's that kinda vibe you get me?

Then there's that sampled string insturment, a romantic tone and melody but played with as if listened to when high or drunk or both, the frequency dropping in and out of perfect pitch, the speed also fluctuating minutely, both adding to a sense of reality but as viewed through a film, of the romantic setting of 1950s Tangiers (forgive the colonial overtones) and live music and cocktails but as heard through a radio, life, but viewed through memories. All of that sort of thing maybe. Maybe.

But the point is: the beat is real, it is soaked in atmosphere, is emotive, and cleverly reflective of its title (which a) suggests that a memory of past love has finally faded, b) suggests some sort of intoxication or laissez-faire nonchalance with the misspelling of 'your' as "yur") with the old-school sounds further warped and wobbling out of sight and out of mind. A haunted and inspired too-short-too-sweet number; luckily Eevee makes a lot of music a lot of the time.

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Saturday 12 December 2015


Disclaimer: this song is three 3 years old. But since it's only been played on SoundCloud just over 900 times... well, you know, u kno. It feels and sounds new to me. Not fresh necessarily because that's a sound in itself, but it is still in terms of fruit or vegetables "fresh" yes it's fresh. I found it when looking up some of the people/artists/acts who played at this year's JUE | Music + Art festival in Shanghai I liked the name Faded Ghost so that was one of the first musicmakers I checked out but then I just ended up trying to find the sounds of the entire lineup. Faded Ghost is the alias of Shanghai-based singer ChaCha.

Anyway! It was an immense surprise to find something so tantalising tucked away a bit of scroll down Faded Ghost's SoundCloud, a lovely gratifying surprise to discover the Ghost Ark EP which is yeah, 3 years old. But it's so experimental and searching forth for new sounds with inquisitive tendrils of exploration yet so stylised and cohesive in the atmosphere which it creates that for me it deserves for a few more people to know about this music, to hear it and breathe it in.

That is what the first track on this EP is like. It's called 'Talk To Me' and from its first wooo-eee-oooooooooo soft misty eerie chords gliding from note to note, cool and spectral, it is entering a new world, a portal of simultaneous chill and psychic reverberations. Ghostly glittering sounds, cracklings and sumptuous rainstick percussion, humble sub-bass rounding things off, those icy chimes throughout sharp and shivering, the vocals of ChaCha suddenly lancing up through the fog of sounds – growing more intense, more intense, more layers to the voice, vocodering and alarming – the synth chords taking a more abrasive turn, sawing the heavy air and seemingly echoing everywhere, all of it by the end fading out, evaporating slowly into nothingness.

You're sitting lotus position (cross-legged) in the middle of your bed browsing the internet on a notebook. You like a tweet, feels too much to retweet. You never retweet anything.

Your phone hums by your left knee. Picking it up, you note its weight: you always like the weight. Someone's liked a photo on Instagram, the picture of your cat half-asleep in morning sunlight draped over the floor, a study in light and shade. More likes than usual. Notebook forgotten, you trawl Instagram, liking only the crisp, the intentional lo-fi and the well positioned. More likes pour in – pride wells up in you. The cat photo, perfect.

Checking your notifications, it's not the cat photo that's getting all the likes, but all of your photos. Every single photo gets liked in the space of a minute, all from the same account: @ – just @. Blank. Nothing. Your photos are being rapidly liked and unliked, turning on a switch of panic in your mind. You can't block the account. It has no profile.

Your notebook screen has gone black. You press a key, but nothing happens. The power button, mashing the keyboard, nothing, nothing. The phone buzzes uncontrollably.

Locked in position you feel your stomach rise, the feeling of free-fall, your mind fogs, eyes glazing, panic terror panic. The notebook screen now on but dim shows the vague outline of a face, floating. Its eyes unable to keep a steady gaze you cannot help but stare into it, your head getting closer, closer. Drawing nearer, your forehead nearly touching the screen, the woozy eyes of the ghostly face suddenly lock hard on your own eyes, force power strange. Nothing else now, nothing else but these eyes. The buzzing phone is a steady drone louder not only in your ears but everywhere, all around, in your mind, remembered and anticipated and experienced all at once. Still cross-legged somehow but face down pushing your nose and forehead into the notebook screen, straining its hinges, snapping slowly, still the face, still the face – the eyes saying something. So much loneliness, permeating your skin, seeping into your blood, mind saturated, so lonely, no friends, talk to me please PLEASE talk to me please tell me who you are what do you like doing...

A knock at the door and a muffled voice and someone enters. They see a notebook snapped in half and bedsheets in a mess and have no idea.

Or at least that's the kind of scene I envisaged when listening to this one track. The other tracks on Faded Ghost's Ghost Ark EP are well worth your time, too: there's the piano and double-bass of 'I Remember' and its spooky dark dub atmosphere; and last but not least is the eponymous 'Ghost Ark', a subterranean rumble of sub-bass, plinking purring synth glistening into the dark and night noises reverberating, muffled distorted kicks coming in later as the glitter fades and the track dims.

  • Faded Ghost is the project of Shanghai-based singer ChaCha, who is much more active under her original moniker than this one here, so check out her SoundCloud.

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Friday 11 December 2015


Mr Oizo, oh Mr Oizo, it's Mr Oizo. I saw a tweet from Mr Oizo at some point in time before today (let's just say this one to be done with it) that said this Charli XCX collaboration called Hand In The Fire was going to drop sometime soon and well, yeah, it's today. It's arrived today, 14 days before Christmas, ho-ho-ho.

The headline and USP of this EP is the Charli XCX-featuring bit and it's what everyone's gone with:

  • Pitchfork: Mr. Oizo Teams With Charli XCX for "Hand in the Fire"
  • Stereogum: Mr Oizo – “Hand In The Fire” (Feat. Charli XCX)
  • The FADER: Mr. Oizo And Charli XCX Share "Hand In The Fire"
  • Idolator: Charli XCX Returns To Springy Electro-Pop On Mr. Oizo Collab “Hand In The Fire”: Listen
  • The 405: Charli XCX features on Mr Oizo track, 'Hand In The Fire'
  • NME: Charli XCX teams up with Mr Oizo – 'I was inspired by Ed Banger'
  • FACT: Stream Charli XCX and Mr. Oizo’s ‘Hand In The Fire’

And so on and so forth in different languages on multiple sites and blogs around the world (one of the middle ones, The 405, I wrote that one). Oizo and Charli XCX, boom, ruling the world and whatever. It shows that MR OIZO can produce for pop, that's one thing that it shows, and very well at that, of course of course: bass booms and cold skeletal low-end melodies and skiffly swaying beat with orchestra hits exploding, raw tom rolls for extra flavour, plus the hook in FX'd vox wah-wahing in the appropriate places.

Mr Oizo has collaborated with singers before, twice on Lamb's Anger (2008): with Uffie on 'Steroids' and with Carmen Castro, whom Oizo calls "a mysterious person", on 'Two Takes It'; and more recently with Marilyn Manson on 'Solid', which scared and worried me but it was fun nonetheless. None of these, however, overshadowed a whole release, which is the case with the Charli XCX collaboration – three other tracks appear on the Hand In The Fire EP, one of which is an instrumental version of the Charli-featuring title track so what's up with that?

What is up with that? What is the actual problem here? Is there even a problem? Maybe, maybe there is. Like, the instrumental version, although it's a nice instrumental like I said a couple of paragraphs above, does not excite me a great deal, like it's definitely been made with a conscious effort of leaving space to putt a vocal on top, making it with a cyclical formula in pop song format. The actual song 'Hand In The Fire' feels weird: here's a different scenario: This is a Charli XCX track and then it's revealed that the producer is Mr Oizo, nice yeah, it's a catchy tune, jostling and slithering — somehow that feels cooler and more natural than this in its actual obvious collaboration state. Why?

Because the other two tracks on the EP are sooo Mr Oizo you'd be a fool to miss how typically Oizo-sounding they are, and how similar they are in feel and speed, which many publications indeed seem to have overlooked, drooling instead over the "curveball" (misfit???) collaboration itself because Give Pop A Chance and because Pageviews Mean Prizes and because Dat SEO.

I mean, there's 'A Rekurd', which with all its unrelenting repetition of the eponymous sample – "a record, a record, a record" – and mad sirens is an intense dance track, ending with a simple juggernaut of overdriven crunchy kicks and the vocal sample itself, filled throughout with familiar creeping atonal arpeggios. But sitting above this both actually in terms of track number on the EP and also in my esteem is 'Being Flat': yaaaaa! This one is nuts, perfectly nuts, wtf does nuts even mean, it just came out, I'm sorry. It's that blaring dissonant menacing groove that is so comfortable and yet so nerve-singeingly body-affecting that you can almost feel the tiniest hairs on your body vibrating with it.

It's those little ad-libs to the beat, a slicing hi-hat thrown into the pattern; it's that ambient soaring synth break providing liquid gentle oasis between the hard jittering notes of the second part and the delicious substantial bass patterns of the first half. It's the robust sounds in the beat, thumping and full of texture. It's the crowd noises in the background, which add depth and effuse the placebo effect of feeling like you're at an actual party.

When these two tracks finished, and the instrumental 'Hand In The Fire' began to play I paused it. I PAUSED IT. Now all I have in my head is the Charli XCX collab and I'm confused at why I don't like it all that much if it's in my head? I guess labelling things really does change your opinion even before you've sampled such things.

"The medium is in the message": in this instance the message is Charli XCX song, clearly that is the case. The medium, however, via or as part of a Mr Oizo release, loads it with meaning and expectations. Association kicks in and, being a human being, I cannot help but be influenced by how things are packaged; everyone's perception of something changes depending on its delivery. If you don't know Mr Oizo, then cool, Charli XCX is working with someone; do a little google, oh yeah, this Quentin Dupieux, he's done some cool stuff, he's pretty well known – therefore Charli is held in even higher esteem. But for those who know Mr Oizo, or know and like Mr Oizo's music rather, having a Charli XCX song delivered through his musical output feels jarring, even wrong.

This leads me to conclude that this song, this EP with its typical and more digestible Oizo sound outside of the title track, is meant for those who are not well acquainted with the French producer or his music. At the same time, it's sort of fan service because both these tracks do not exactly push new ground for Oizo, serving as a nostalgic vessel for pre-existing Oizo-lovers; indeed as of this current moment, 'Being Flat' has had more plays than 'Hand In The Fire', showing that fans will find their way to the morsel they like the most and play it maybe a few times cause they love it and they gotta show someone else, too. Oizo fans get to see Oizo tackle pop production, and he does it well – perhaps the reason why the instrumental version is also included.

Charli XCX fans, on the other hand, get to hear a new and unique somewhat Santigold-sounding song and then, hidden behind the cover story, there's these other tracks from the same producer, buzzing but not too abrasive and instantly addictive for those with an ounce of dance-leaning tendencies in their souls. Everyone's happy.

Quentin Dupieux aka Mr Oizo also created a short film (seven 7 minutes) for RBMA entitled 'Being Flat' which is funny to watch, stars Flat Eric and Steve Little (from comedy series Eastbound & Down) and features the track of the same name, you can also watch that with your eyeballs below these words.

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Wednesday 9 December 2015


Breaking beats! Break beats! Bbeats! It's a lovely spot of this sort of breakcore-y thing from an Aichi-based musicmaker and purveyor of soul-lifting break beats floppie. Recently well I say recently but this is like four months ago back in August, back when the days are long and the nights are short and intrepid and wrapped in insomniac warmth, floppie released an EP on lolicore-affiliated label The Worst Label. The title? A Tomato Supreme. I found this a couple of months ago and I was hooked by the name of the EP and the nature of the songs - it all seemed to be about tomatoes. I have or had or harbour the ghost of an obsession with tomatoes. I like them in ketchup. I like them in pasta. I like them in curry. I like them in many forms except raw. I cannot begin to describe my aversion to raw tomatoes. My skype name even features the word "tomato" so that just about seals it - this is an EP for me. But what was it all about?

"whats with tomato?" somebody asked in the comments. floppie answered: "I was inspired by the word tomato. There is no deep meaning ^u^)/"

"I do not like Tomatoes :P" said one commenter; floppie replied "Me too... >_<"

Me too, I typed just now, glancing quickly at the cat curled cutely under the table. So without further ado let's just listen to probably the most heavenly cut from this tasty lil EP, 'Tomato's Past'.

Somewhere along the line, it seems that "Tomato" is the name of every whimsical love or crush you've ever and never had, embodied in the various SoundCloud track artwork for the EP in the form of a red-haired girl, effusing lolicore aesthetics.

But but but, where were we? 'Tomato's Past' – a whooshing leftover from previous more futuristic track 'おやすみTomato-Chan' leads us into delicate droplets of piano like lingering on sweet memories, glistening key touches that morph and merge into warmer more urgent piano chords forming the emotive backdrop on which floppie spins hyperactive undeniably virtuosic clusters of breakbeats at breakneck speed, the percussive drillings accompanied by an occasional yammering vocal sample just about audible and a dynamic whoosh of noise that separates the song's parts.

Things become more intense in its second half, split from the first with a cute glockenspiel melody and then jumping into the impressive cavalcade of percussion in the next section, strings subtly rising up, sumptuous cymbals crashing into the empty space behind the piano-and-beats combination. How sweet is this song, how jittery and excited like the thumping heart and gentle nausea of love and first romances and even the urgency to live and experience life in light of painful nostalgia telling you that the distance between the more idealised portions of your past and your present day ever-hurtling-to-tomorrow is slowly becoming more and more sizeable. It's that winsome love of life and gentle kindness and excited passion that floppie celebrates with this addictive track and it's totally believable.

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Tuesday 1 December 2015


It is time for some music by Zach Saginaw aka Shigeto. I heard this a while ago and thought mmmm yeah definitely need to write about this look how tasty it looks. But sometimes just because you can see something's tasty doesn't mean you run up and eat it right away. In hindsight I was lazy.

Recently I happened upon this particular track again and found myself with it gripped in my mucky trembling hands gut wrenching hunger and headful of loss and oozing pain and I bought it up to my mouth without hesitation and snacked upon it so gladly so succulent and running down my chin in rivulets of luscious opulence teeth stuck with its phantomatic remnants. I basically like it a lot.

"It" is 'Need Nobody', taken from a new EP by Shigeto called Intermission. It is so called because Shigeto sees them less as a "strong message" and "more a taste, like a halftime show of sorts," presumably between 2013 album No Better Time Than Now and whatever album might come next. And I say: Well well if this is the halftime show then please allow me to crash all subsequent events and demand their halftime show no matter how far through because this halftime show is... The point is that despite being an intermission in name as well as in its feel, sound, and intent, the tracks still shine as brightly as any other tracks in the world that don't come with this modest and somewhat self-deprecating disclaimer.

And 'Need Nobody' is the perfect perfect example.

The first thing to notice is the analogue synth sounds scorching out from the track with a fabulous flow of melody lines: this is the ominous fantasy music from Zelda: A Link to the Past twinned with music from Super Metroid in all its lo-fi space loneliness, seeming to gulp in sadness and broadcasting it out with soft sounds, a heartbeat attached to a mind wondering if there might be another heartbeat-mind combination nearby. That's it— it's like a plaintive living-and-breathing sonar song scanning the horizon, beautiful and sad.

This floats above a rough escarpment of giant earth-moving bass (picture this gargantuan contraption trundling through stark countryside) punctured with a sharp lightly ornamented and edited beat, through which flows a stream of clopping clack dinging chimely percussion sumptuous and magical-sounding summoning beads of water still and perfect on intense green leaves – the rhythmic and more delicate version of that satisfying feel and sound of searching through a chest of loose Lego for one particular piece but at the same time for the simple action of doing so.

It is a past-and-future sound, a moonscape of yesteryear modernly framed, casting forth into tomorrow laden with memories and experience a voyage in a wellworn vessel, with its lamenting beacon flashing a siren song into the unknown desolation of it all, searching, searching - relaying, relaying.

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