Author Archives: Patrick St. Michel

Traxman And Paisley Parks Make An EP: Far East EP

Chicago juke producer Traxman recently toured Japan, and as part of that jaunt, he made this EP with Yokohama juke producer Paisley Parks. Technically, it’s more of a split affair – save for the title track, which finds the two coming together over a skittering beat punctured by jarring tempo changes and siren-ish blares. From there, Traxman delivers unsettling minimalism (“Down Tha Line”) along with the more thumping (the still sort of unnerving “Killa”). Paisley Parks tends to be a bit wonkier here – he turns syllables into ground beef on “Watch,” – but he also engineers the EP-highlight “O,” which goes from a joyful exercise in squeaky voices chanting “I’m fucked up!” to a more intimidating mess of sound. Get it here or listen below.

There Is ANew Label From Kyoto: Dear Ear Records Vol. 1 Featuring There Is A Fox, Kosmo Kat, Liquid Sunshine And More

Dear Ear Records is a new label from Kyoto, one that has just appeared this past month. Which makes sense because – at the moment it feels like a fledgling imprint. Beyond being from Kyoto, they haven’t had time to shape out an identity. They have put together a lovely compilation, though, and even if the eclectic nature of this collection is further making it unclear what they will become, they have gathered some lovely music together. Dear Ear Records Vol. 1 features primarily Japanese artists, yet makes room for a few Los Angeles musicians as well. The duo of Jesse Patterson and Mia Doi Todd create a submerged bit of dream-ish pop on “Aqua Mundi,” while Carlos NiƱo delivers a more rumbling experience – one making good use of recorded sounds – on “4 Directions Collage.”

Seeing as what this blog’s about, let’s focus on the Japanese artists, though. There Is A Fox first caught our attention after working with Spazzkid on a song earlier this year (the LA-Kyoto connection is strong, huh?), and on “Sun” he’s getting even more bare bones – this is a simple…but endearing…song that takes two minutes to get to his sweet, observant lyrics in the center. The Scratchy Bear project, meanwhile, takes cues from sample-lovers The Books (listen to that Speak-n-Spell chatter and a couple other samples) but builds it towards a twinkling little number anchored by various toy instruments. Since the bulk of the first half of this collection leans towards folksy material (or at least lush stuff), the final two songs are a bit of a twist – they are far busier electronic numbers from Liquid Sunshine and Kosmo Kat (the latter now calling Japan home). Kosmo Kat’s contribution isn’t as manic as he’s know to get – it’s a lovely electro submerger – but still a shift. Variety is ultimately makes this collection a good listen…maybe that is the way to go.

Get it here, or listen below.

Lunchtime Listen: New Metome “Salamander” And Madegg “Saying”

Ahhhh, the beauty of summer vacation. For the next…week…I get to just relax at home (without too much work to do!). Which means I can listen to music I’ve missed while eating lunch. Alright, let the good times roll. Today brings two new tracks from a pair of Kansai’s finest producers going. Metome has had a big year, and he just keeps rolling out new songs. “Salamander” is a jittery electro stepper with some neat details (a soda can opening!) to keep you focused as the synths roll all over the place. Listen below.

Disorienting in a different way is Madegg’s “Saying,” which features the title delivered all metallic-like and dog barks. Not cute dog barking, either. It’s also not as manic as Metome’s track, going for a more understated type of whirl. Listen below.

New Takako Minekawa And Dustin Wong: “She He See Feel”

The partnership between Takako Minekawa and Dusting Wong keeps getting stronger. “She He See Feel” retains the playful squirminess that was all over last year’s very-good Toropical Circle, yet here they’ve gotten better at taking that joy and building it towards something. Which…well, the final passage of this song is great release, a very Wong-solo-album-worthy guitar burst now joined by Minekawa’s airy delivery. Very excited for the full-length album coming out later this month.

New HNC: “Southern Fruitas”

No individual’s history is ever clear cut, but HNC’s artist trajectory is pretty easy to sum up. She’s been around for 15 years now, starting off on the edges of the Shibuya-kei scene, and then the neo Shibuya-kei world of the early 2000s. This period was punctuated by a few solo albums and some appearances on early Capsule CDs, most notably on the song “Idol Fancy,” which, viewed today, hints at some of the ideas that would bloom with Yasutaka Nakata’s work with Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. In 2009, she released the album Cult under the shortened HNC moniker – that one was a sometimes brilliant, sometimes goofy full-length that featured a song built around cat meows.

Then she released the song “I Dream I Dead,” in which the once cutesy pop singer meditated about death over a fever-dream of a soundtrack. It’s still one of the best Japanese songs of the young decade, and ushered in a period where HNC became a whole lot more shadowy…though only sonically, because she’s still doing a lot (organizing events, making appearances at young band’s shows) to support an ever-shifting Tokyo music scene. And she keeps releasing great music, highlighted by the new “Southern Fruitas.” As is appropriate for her current bend, it features all sorts of distorting moments – the main sample gets backmasked into a creepy rush at the beginning and again at the end, and HNC’s vocals are delivered in a squeaky, almost-not-there style that allows every other sound to overpower them. There is a disorienting edge here that goes a long way.

But the juicy center of “Southern Fruitas” is actually straightforward – it’s a tropical-tinged groove anchored by sampled shouts of “it takes…everybody!” This is an intensely warm song, even when it turns into a hidden-message freak out. But even that bursts open into the outro, which is pure island fantasy. A dizzying song, listen below.