Saturday 25 April 2020



Back in 2013, Lindsay Lowend released an incredible collection of music: the Wind Fish EP. It popped with energy, combining hyperactive dopamine-firing electronics and footwork-flavoured beats with videogame music for an unforgettable sound. With the added bonus of being, in title at least, inspired by a unique Zelda title (Game Boy bop Link's Awakening, of course), Lindsay Lowend set a bar of quality for early '10s internet music.

And then he was gone — sort of. Lindsay Lowend maintained an output of a few sporadic tracks from then on, and even an album under his actual name, Antonio Mendez — 2018's Highland Drive.

Meanwhile, the Wind Fish EP, and its creator, drifted into legend.

- But now like Link himself in a legend retold, Lowend has risen and released LL 2020 - Volume 1 into the world: a 3-track EP that enlists the help of fellow VGM-leaning musicmaker Maxo.

Beginning with a dose of chiptune, 'NBA LIVE 99' shares the funk-meets-jazz club vibe of its namesake's soundtrack (check out the NBA Live 99 menu music, for starters) but keeps it strictly 16-bit. The bass fuzz and staccato beat, stuttering melodies and glittery top notes carve a territory somewhere between Streets of Rage and an off-duty Sonic the Hedghog, moving into a second half beset with hefty chords and fluid neon melody. It's a party.

In 'should my pet be eating that' (lol), the sound morphs into something more contemporary, plasma chords clacking with wonky sheen — similar to the spacey vibe of the 'Wi-Fi Menu' theme in Mario Kart Wii and the stark, soft-and-sharp intro to Dizzee Rascal's 'Sittin' Here'. It presses on, driven by a robust D&B-flavoured beat (a passage of skiffling breakbeat dropped in for good measure), the warm melodica-esque chords and a woozy virtuosic melody painting a the by-the-sea vibe.

'Permabanned' (again: lol) finishes things up beautifully. Like admiring a sunset with new pals on Animal Crossing, this is Lowend's effervescent collab with Maxo, streaks of melody like sun sparkling on water playing over a chord progression that K.K. Slider would be proud of: lounge-y, emotive and dipping into pools of chill, snippets of real-life birdsong peal between the instrumental (it's not his first foray into foley, going by this Breath of the Wild redub) — a trickle of reality from your window. An echo, maybe, of Wind Fish title track with its crashing waves and beeping seagulls.

The first multi-track release from Lindsay Lowend in years may be short, but it hits the spot: pure chiptune, VGM-style atmospheres, variegated beats, a lush environment. And if you're left wanting more, that's ok: LL 2020 - Volume 1 is just the beginning.

  • πŸ”” You can listen to and purchase ($1, or more if you're feeling generous) Lindsay Lowend's LL 2020 - Volume 1 over on his Bandcamp.

Lindsay Lowend Internet Presence ☟

Friday 10 April 2020



'Better Off Alone' by Alice Deejay lends itself to being covered in some way, whether it's Mark Redito giving it a tropical rework or if it's a nightcore flip by Crapface (real artist name). It's impossibly iconic and instantly recognisable, both in its of-a-certain era (1998) aesthetics and in its simple, titular vocal refrain and melody: "Do you think you're better off alone?"

The question is asked in such a haunting, slow and repetitive way that it's almost impossible not to be caught up in a daydreaming moment, feeling the melancholy of the vocal. The fact that it's in the second person immediately puts the listener at the receiving end of the interrogation: You, no matter where you read it, is always you (yes, you). It's relative, and relatable.

The choice of how the question is being asked may have been one of picking what fit best, of course, but the interesting thing is that it's not simply "Are you better off alone?" That's a simpler question. Prefacing the question with "Do you think—" automatically elicits a shift to pondering in the one being asked. It forces consideration.

Not only that, but in using the colloquialism "better off", the comparative "better" begs a thing, a situation, which may have been worse — by however many degrees — than being "alone", i.e. together, but perhaps not ideally together. In the unspoken unknown that lingers in the moments before the iconic refrain calls out, there is the feeling of abandonment, a pair divided, and the repeating enquiry is necessarily stacked with emotion.

When we get to the "Talk to me... Oh, talk to me" it becomes clear that we're hearing something like one side of a phone conversation. And it also becomes clear that, in the pleading imperatives and the wordless, tuneful "oo-ooo-oo" that punctuates them, the prior question has gone unanswered, heartbreakingly so.

Needless to say, what was a hit at the time, and which could easily be seen as a simple dancefloor song by a europop group in what is very much a bygone era, has in fact stewed and simmered these past 22 years, fusing its feeling into the memories of all that have heard it. And that's why it's a great song to cover, whatever way you look at it.

Genevieve Ryan Martel aka RYAN Playground brings a decidedly different feel to the song, in her hands it becomes an icy, emo-tinged cover, guitar in glittering arpeggios that summon Brand New at their most downcast sparkling atop a frosty whisper of ambient synth; deep below, a far-off rumble provides not only the bass, but a sense of vague disaster. The vocals, crisp and wonderfully falling into the snowy soundscape, eventually fade, as does the track as a whole, thus ending a version of the original was woven with a similar sense of loss and heartache.

  • πŸ”” Montreal artist RYAN Playground's version of 'Better Off Alone' can be streamed and downloaded on her Bandcamp, along with another Alice Deejay cover, 'I Can See (See It In Your Eyes)'. Both of them make up a two-track release For The Ones Who Need Guitars Anyway; in light of her use of guitars in the covers, it's a pun on the original album that both songs appeared on, Who Needs Guitars Anyway? (2000).

RYAN Playground Internet Presence ☟

Thursday 2 April 2020



Cambridge rapper Big Heath unveils his plan in the video for, well, 'Plan'. Set in a support group for something or the other, Heath jumps up and delivers bars in fast-paced triplet flow, packed with dynamic layering and laced with humour throughout. For example, from the moment he uses "porkie pie" (Cockney rhyming slang for "lie", FYI) and then busts out

"Yo, I rap the brothers that wake up early in the morning just to eat a Weetabix"

the level of humour is real.

Added to this is the intricate ticking and rolling of hi-hats of the trap-flavoured beat, and dusty music box instrumentation for a spooky backdrop, allowing for a juxtaposition in light of Big Heath's humour — something that pelts you throughout the track, and sometimes poignantly.

Speaking about rappers who "take a life then... rap about it," he sums up that it "doesn't make that stuff right." As always though, he jokes to get the point across:

"Yeah I could've been up in the street
Could've shot a coupe Gs
Could've served a couple fees
But that really weren't for me
I could not run from police"

Self-deprecating, funny, self-admittedly feeling "happy just to be alive" when he's rapping, and shot through with positive messages, 'Plan' shows Big Heath as a refreshing addition to the UK's rap scene.

Internet Presence ☟