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Author Archives: Patrick St. Michel

CRZKNY, DJ Fulltono And Skip Club Orchestra Come Together For Draping 1 And Draping 2

Here you have three of the most important Japanese juke producers — two of its early advocates, plus a creator who consistently puts out the best stuff in the country AND helps offer a politicized space to showcase talent — working together on a series of releases where they play around with ideas over a course of multiple songs. So far, two Draping releases have been released, each finding the producers contributing one song each. Besides being a great connection of juke — how could it not be with the names involved — it also offers a great chance to put each under a microscope and see the details separating them. Skip Club Orchestra really leans in on their name by emphasizing quick skips of sound, not letting any vocal samples stretch out or just letting notes hit quickly, while CRZKNY does more with vocal samples (and goes for a more aggressive sound, at least on the two tracks here). Fulltono, meanwhile, is just the loosest and funkiest of the trio. Get 1 here and 2 here, or listen below.

New AOTQ: Alone

By releasing two stellar albums of easy-breezy but emotionally twisty electronic music in 2018, AOTQ reminds that you can come up with some really interesting ideas if you just keep exploring an approach that has worked before. The parts making up Alone aren’t all that different from what appeared earlier this year on E-muzak. It’s all Jusco-adjacent creations that use the limits of AOTQ’s instruments as a way to find all sorts of new angles. “Morning Call” sets an upbeat mood well before the MIDI-strings sweep in and the beat gives it a caffeine bounce. “Floppy Disk” is so skippy…but gets out bounced by “Tonic Water” on the very next cut. But for all the chipper moments, it’s stuff like “Night In Taipei,” which slows the formula down and embraces space to create something a little more tender, or the melancholy title track, which imagines what the cereal aisle might sound like if the composer making the tunes was having a really sentimental day. Get it here, or listen below.

New Koutei Camera Girl Drei: “Harbor”

Idol group Koutei Camera Girl has gone through all sorts of mutations over the last couple of years, with the latest version being re-christened Koutei Camera Girl Drei. And with a new name (and different line-up) comes a new release, New Way Of Lovin.’ A lot of “new” there, but this release actually offers the strongest version of the sound this project has been exploring since its start. Whatever the moniker, Koutei Camera Girl merge various strains of dance music — New Way features a “trance version” of “Lonely Lonely Montreal” — with traditional pop-idol singing and rapping (even without the member who does it best). New Way jumps between bleary-eyed ravers like “No Limit Dance” and the scream-along “Slowly World.”

“Harbor” captures them at their best though. It’s a pulsating dance track growing in intensity throughout, while the three members of the group jump from rapping to singing — always finding new ways to express themselves vocally (check the use of bleeps later in the song). This is how to upend idol ideas, not with visuals and songs that sound like every other groups music, but to create something that refuses to gel into a familiar form. Listen above.

New Bicco Beat: “Nostalgic Days”

Seeing as how Japan is currently enjoying a real obsession with nostalgia (and, honestly, seems like this holds true for a lot of places in 2018), the throwback project Bicco Beat releasing a track titled “Nostalgic Days” seems a little too on the nose. But at least they managed to make something on the pleasant side of melancholy, avoiding any of the conservative trappings that nostalgia often carries with it. “Nostalgic Days” moves at a stroll, recalling the most relaxed of early ’80s techno-pop but with a sigh added because…well, those times aren’t coming back, no matter how many dusty synthesizers you buy. A nice dip into nostalgia that doesn’t last too long. Listen above.

Beat By Beat: Isagen’s c.b.a.g. EP

Japanese electronic artists have become far more interested in individual sounds over the last few years. From the experimental headscratchers coming from Foodman or the Wasabi Tapes label, to netlabel adjacent creators like Taquwami or Metome, it’s a good time for fans of individual sounds sticking out. It’s the element that makes producer Isagen’s new EP for Trekkie Trax such a charmer. Space plays a valuable on nearly every song, making the vocal samples and machine beats resonate more clearly on glassy opener “Add On,” while the room carved out on “Child” makes the pitch-shifted voice at its center all the more effective. Most importantly, this approach makes moments of release — like the beat explosion of “Bloom” — hit all the harder. Get it here, or listen below.