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Category Archives: Music

All Sources: Towa’s Pieces

Like many independent electronic producers in the Internet age, Towa stitches together shards of sounds — whether it be a vocal sample, a bass slap or something else — into music all their own. Pieces highlights the Japanese artist’s approach to this, slotting Towa next to the like of In The Blue Shirt and Soleil Soleil, who similarly construct body-moving music from parts of other songs. Voices get smooshed into the beat on the squiggle house of “Broken Pieces” while a familiar blast of sunshine serves as a key component of “Summer Part 2.” Towa moves from crushing fun to zippier moments, but Pieces ends up a consistently solid listen. Get it here, or listen below.

Be A Sportsman: Fogpak 14 Featuring Loopcoda, Toyomu And More

The themes for Japanese electronic compilation series Fogpak have been getting a bit simpler as of late, moving from like “Twilight Tengu” and “Blurred Gold” to number 14’s simple premise of “sports.” Nice and open ended, and as someone who splurged on NBA League Pass this year, a welcome addition to what has been the country’s best independent electronic series for a while now. This is a showcase of energetic electronic sounds — and not quite a SoundCloud-ready representations of the Denver Broncos linebacker corps, though some sports elements sneak in.

Some familiar names return, ranging from Kyoto’s Toyomu on the woozy “Hira Swim” to Loopcoda, who creates a bouncy bit of electro-pop where his usual array of Vocaloid voices get sliced up extra thin into syllables, spacing them out between samples of…tennis players? Chanbe recalls Giraffage with helium-soaked vocal twists, while Yasuha. closes the collection on a downbeat note with the slow-burning “Loser,” a reflective conclusion to a mostly thumping affair. And, of course, Fogpak continues highlighting non-Japanese producers too, here including a bouncy bit of bouncy R&B by U.S. artist Sakehands and the spacious bubble-popper “Kawaii Sneakers” by Rick Sakura. Get it here, or listen below.

New Miii: “Against The Rainbow”

Considering how much of producer Miii’s music has felt like bodies breaking apart — of bass snapping like fragile bones and drops that sound like head trauma — it seems fitting he’s eventually reached the point where it all dissolves into the air. “Against The Rainbow,” off a release slated for release in 2016, does away with the EDM-leaning chaos of previous songs in favor of pure ascension. Save for a few early moments of static interference, it’s a shining synth number floating upwards, in no rush anywhere but rather capturing one of Miii’s most peaceful moments yet. Voices and noises gurgle underneath, yet they sound like some other world slowly moving away from view as “Against The Rainbow” climbs. It’s massive, but in a very different way for the artist. Listen above.

Studio Power: Metafive’s “Don’t Move”

Leo Imai has found himself fronting two super groups in five years, following up his turn in Kimonos by joining up with the generation-hopping outfit Metafive. The names featured in this relatively new project — they’ve done live shows over the last couple of years, but only recently announced a debut album set for January — are among the most honest-to-goodness influential in Japanese music history: Yukihiro Takahashi (Yellow Magic Orchestra), Towa Tei, Keigo Oyamada (probably better known as the brain behind Cornelius and half of Flipper’s Guitar), Yoshinori Sunahara (Denki Groove) and Gondo Tomohiko (OK, not everyone here deserves a chapter in a J-pop history book…but good musician nonetheless!). And then Leo Imai up front.

That’s a lot going on, and with it comes a lot of inflated expectations. “Don’t Move” — released as a “studio live version” today — offers the first real look of Metafive’s forthcoming debut and it’s a mixed bag made all the more confusing by what to make of this project. The song has its moments, establishing a nice groove and a few nice twists and turns (good use of horns!), but suffers from what so many of these supergroup projects end up hurting from. The line-up looks stacked as hell, but who wants to hear Keigo Oyamada just play guitar when you can hear him star in his own projects? The names here sound great, but they are just playing the role of a regular band…with the spotlight falling on Imai. He’s made plenty of good songs, and his work with Kimonos was solid, but on “Don’t Move” he seems to be trying a little too hard to channel David Byrne (or, uh, James Brown) rather than show why Leo Imai should be upfront. This remains an intriguing idea and the album has plenty more tracks to wow, but “Don’t Move” makes the proposition seem a little shakier. Listen above.