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Author Archives: Patrick St. Michel

Weird Incantations: Sea Level’s “Race Against the Drum Machine”

Every element of Sea Level’s “Race Against the Drum Machine” feels stitched together into a really jarring patchwork. The group, split between Fukuoka and Tokyo, recently put out their debut full-length on Call And Response (get that here), and this advance peek stands as one of the more wobbly — and fun in its unsteadiness — moments on that release. Voices drift in and out of frame, some of them backtracked and others half-scatted, but each generating more tension to a song that just skitters off on the edges. Details disorient — a sudden guitar line, whistling, that drum machine they are racing against rumbling off — and everything just rumbles around until the pieces end up in just the right order to create a real mind tripper. Listen above.

Re-textured Past: Maisou’s Fuuyu Kan

There has been a noticeable boom in young women crafting hip-hop over the last couple of years, but how does one go about standing out in an ever crowded field? Maisou jumps out right away on new album Fuuyu Kan by delivering near-whispered rhymes over a beat re-contextualizing Taeko Onuki’s “Tokai,” a song benefitting from the boom in older Japanese music, but one usually treated sloppily. But with help from producer T5UMUT5UMU, the song warps into something different, and becomes a good backdrop for Maisou to update the original’s meditations on city life into the 21st century. That vibe runs throughout this release, with beats seemingly sourced from older music (yeah yeah, nothing new, but maybe the way sampling has worked recently at least in online music circles has made something like this feel surprisingly fresh) that serve as proper foundations for Maisou’s own observations. Get it here, or listen below.

Noah Collabs With Teams And Repeat Pattern For “Miminashi”

Noah’s latest collaborative project finds the singer/songwriter/producer teaming with…well, the producer Teams and Repeat Pattern. A full-length album is on the way, and “Miminashi” offers a preview of what to expect. Drums and sudden splashes of 8-bit noise guide the track forward, replacing the more spacious backdrops Noah has used in the past. Yet what “Miminashi” proves, at least on early listens, is that her voice can thread through any backdrop. She adds a charm and intrigue to the song, and makes us really curious to get to the whole album. Listen above.

New Parkgolf: “Multiverse”

“Multiverse” finds the usually frantic Parkgolf slowing down considerably. This just-under-five-minute number finds the producer trying out something close to new age music, as this number doesn’t so much build as it recedes in and out, bringing in new pieces every once in awhile. I’m not sure Parkgolf should drop the high-speed format in favor of trying to make it big on a Spotify new age playlist — “Multiverse” is absorbing and certainly good background music when looking over emails, but lacks a punch — but it is a nice temporary diversion at least, and a nice showcase of what else Parkgolf can do. Listen above.

In The Sun: Blanco’s A Place For Youthful Days

Tokyo’s Blanco first popped up on this year’s Die In Pop compilation via Ano(t)raks, with the song “Paradise.” That number rounds out this new release A Place For Youthful Days, offering a bit of a contrast to the other number present here. Let’s start with “Paradise,” though, as it is familiar both because of timing and because of a structure leaning toward tradition, the whole thing one big melancholy gallop, broken up by some electronic squiggles and longer guitar passages. What really makes it stick around, though, is the decision to keep the vocals on the fuzzy side, giving this one a slightly more blurred feel than other straightforward indie-pop efforts. And that is also the connecting tissue to opener “Isolated City,” which moves at a slower pace but lets a nice wave of feedback and synthesizer soak over it to give it a similarly out-of-space feel. Get it here, or listen below.