Every region surely has something interesting going on…but man, I honestly think Kansai always has the highest volume of intriguing music going on (whereas Tokyo just has a lot). Onsen Records is based out of Osaka, and leans towards the beat music side of things…apt for the region…and the tracks on Onsen Compilation 2 exemplifying that style are solid, highlighted by Kid Yumi’s skippy, jazzy contribution and the slightly more avant “Lamento No Morro” from m1k2sh2. Yet what separates the set is the stuff that tries something different — The Neon City pops up here, with a muted bit of guitar pop called “The Life That Walks,” featuring her voice sounding like it is coming from a closest the next room over. U-Z’s “Slow Down” is close to a conventional beat, but moves at half speed and feels zonked out of its mind, a state all its own, while Mouse’s “Not So Easy” actually features some rap, which is a nice touch. Listen above.
Knew this was coming and already got excited about “Track Maker,” but now via Trekkie Trax comes the Mass Maker EP, which I believe is Kyoto artist Native Rapper’s first proper collection of songs. I want to try to write about this later, but if you liked “Track Maker” or still vibe out as hard as I do to “Water Bunker” (acting as the opening song here), you will probably be a fan of this. And if you haven’t listened to Native Rapper before…while, get on it, dude is a gem.
The one thing that, on a couple initial listens at least, gets my attention immediately is how Native Rapper seems such a product of Japan’s netlabel scene. Beyond songs that celebrate the role of the “Track Maker” and capture the ecstasy of getting together to party (“Party Goes Forever”), the actual music often feels like a nod to artists who came up through those digital spaces — those electro-damped vocals always made Tofubeats an easy comparison, but this album features flashes of Avec Avec (“Cut An Apple”) and Seiho / Parkgolf / etc. (“Party Goes Forever”). Yet Native Rapper interprets those sounds in in own way, using them as a base to create something all his own. Get it here.
Perhaps in an effort to counter Uniqlo’s line of doofy music t-shirts, the GAP has recruited a handful of younger, vaguely “in” Japanese artists for a new campaign. Up until this week, they had gotten Awesome City Club,* Happy and Never Young Beach to model clothes and play music, an alright line-up but not one that would make a cynic like me rise above “wow, music is cool enough for jeans again!” Then they went and got Taquwami to team up with OBKR (founder of Tokyo Recordings) and rapper Tamaki Roy for their “1969 Magazine,” giving us the sight of the relatively reclusive producer modeling some very nice looking shorts. And hey, he was Winona Hyper all along! Anyway, they also made a song called “Yume No Ato,” and it’s put me in one of those situations where you can no longer ignore a marketing campaign, because they’ve (presumably) helped out one of your favorite musicians, and allowed him a space to make more music, which I’m always for.
And so, “Yume No Ato,” a woozy number that for at least half its run is a great, barely there backdrop for Tamaki Roy to rap over and OBKR to deliver some pillowy singing over. Given that his output from 2015 (and his live sets from this year) have sounded otherworldly and lightyears ahead of…well, everything (listen to the music YouTubers put in the back of their videos, or this millenial jam, and you can hear a worse version of what dude was mastering in 2012. Can’t wait for the Selena Gomez song that sounds like Moyas)…this is a nice reminder he can also make room for others. And, most importantly, without sacrificing his style itself — “Yume No Ato” still works in woodwind gusts and a late song space out. Listen above.
*Now that this GAP-ushered song featuring Taquwami exists, I can’t feel weird about ignoring Awesome City Club’s “Don’t Think, Feel,” a big stupid bright pop song that somehow milks some strings for all their worth, resulting in the band’s best song to date. If everything is a downward spiral tipped off by “Get Lucky,” then this is at least a far livelier tune for it than, say, the lame-as-hell summer songs foisted on the American (lolz jk, world) listener. But yeah, the Awesome City Club video is them dancing in front of jeans…but I can’t feel lame about that anymore!
Sometimes, you just want something pulsing with energy. Trekkie Trax tends to have a good sense of that sort of sound — sure, they also have picked up on more zig-zaggy stuff, but their proverbial bread and butter is stuff that gets you moving (or at least imagining what moving to it would be like). Last seen sharing an album, young producer Yuigot’s “Blink” is a fine slice of just that, a wobbly dance number accented by camera flashing sounds (or, like, lasers) and a constant rush forward. Simple, but darn effective. Listen above.
Remember a few years back, when sampling Aaliyah’s vocals was in style? It could result in some pretty cliche stuff, but it had its moments for sure (though…the bad stuff…yikes). Producer Paperkraft rolls the dice on the approach on the opening track to his new Feel EP, and comes out looking alright…he samples “Rock The Boat,” taking part of the hook and centering it around a shifty house beat, one that takes the “feel like I’m on dope” line to a sorta literal place. It’s the hazy highlight from this two song set, with “Bounce Back N Forth” offering a solid comedown, but definitely being deserving of that second slot. Listen below, or get it here.