N. Brennan: Scary Moments II

“Scary” isn’t the right word, these moments are far more unnerving than anything else. N. Brennan…like the Wasabi Tapes before them (and potentially the same people, who knows)…smashes what is either movie or video game dialogue with snippets of music — at one point the intro to a Burial song sneaks in — to create a woozy soundscape full of loud noises, gun fire and dance beats. Again, not so scary…but definitely creepy, and an intriguing listen in the vein of one of 2014’s best albums. Get it here (for the equivalent of a 1000 dollars) or listen below.

New Especia: “Secret Jive”

New Especia: “Secret Jive”

Especia – Secret Jive by tubesoda

1. The first taste of Especia’s major-label debut left me on the fence, but in all honesty my real feelings became clear soon after. I haven’t listened to or watched the video for “We Are Especia ~ Naki Nagara Video” once since that first post. Considering all of the clips and tracks that preceded it were on constant loop in my life when they first emerged online (and still are…Gusto still goes), this wasn’t a good sign. The fan side of me…the side that wants Especia to succeed…beat out the part of me that rationally decides if I like a song or not. Is this what existing in an idol fandom is like? You put up with drawn-out intros and dippy f bombs?

Well, both the fanatical and critical side is happy to say oh thank goodness for “Secret Jive.” Instead of trying to hard to make a first impression, this moves at a far better pace for those who loved Gusto. It’s all Jell-O-thick synth boogies and shimmering touches, unfolding at just the right speed for the group to sing over. The team of LUV RAW and PellyColo — here going as Maserati Nagisa — are right in their zone and, coupled with the track previews now up on iTunes, Primera is starting to feel promising. And about that video….

2. Over the last few days, a bit of a controversy surrounding the SoundCloud-known artist Young Bae has emerged. That sentence might scan as ridiculous (“Yung Bae???? What the hell kind of name is that?”), but this incident shines a light on something that has been bubbling for a bit of time in certain Internet circles, especially in the vaporwave community. Meishi Smile offers up the best summary and a great response to all of it, so I highly recommend checking that out. The micro-genre vaporwave has produced lots of interesting (and, in some cases, very good) music, but there has always been an unease about the heavy use of foreign characters and samples from other countries…especially Japan. I’ve personally enjoyed a lot of this music…and, for full transparency, liked Yung Bae’s Bae album fine enough…but have felt that weird feeling crop up plenty of times.

One thing I have liked about it? How Japanese artists have become fans of vaporwave and taken a stab at it themselves…which, considering how much of the non-Japanese stuff is inspired by/directly samples ’80s Japanese music, results in Japanese artists creating something that ends up being nostalgic. Artists such as Tofubeats and Sugar’s Campaign have spoken about this, and it is something that has always existed in “Japanese vaporwave idols” Espeica’s imagery, at its best evoking warm feelings of the past. “Secret Jive” features the most obvious vaporwave imagery to date…Grecian busts floating through the air…and also the group’s first brush up with the uneasy feeling described above. That comes thanks to the use of Farsi late in the clip, as pure nonsensical decoration. Espeica has always played around with vaporwave aesthetics, but this is the first time it enters uncomfortable territory, appearing at roughly the same time as this whole Young Bae fiasco to really reinforce it. Especia’s fiddling with the style has been extremely interesting and funny in the past, but that brief bit in “Secret Jive” reveals where the border ends.

Fragile Blend: Naola’s “Cocktail”

Lord, I swear this comparison isn’t a simple “durrr both are women, both play guitar” reduction, but Japanese singer-songwriter Naola has a lot in common with Japanese singer-songwriter may.e. Primarily, they share an ability to get the absolute most out of a tiny arsenal of instruments (acoustic guitars and their voice), even if the end result is different. may.e’s songs turn limited resources into big hypnotic numbers, singing and strumming swirling together into one ecstatic blur. Naola is sparse, leaving plenty of space on “Cocktail,” with only a few lower-volume tracks of her voice whisping around her main vocals. Yet the way the words dance together…nudged on by the barely there guitar playing…makes it all the more affecting, and adding a loneliness to the song. Listen to it above, or another prime example of her skill below in the form of “Meme,” just as quietly devastating.

New Rima Kato: “Life Is Warm”

Japanese singer-songwriter Rima Kato’s new album, Faintly Lit, is out now in Japan (and will be out internationally in February…hold tight) and here’s one of the choicest cuts from it. “Life Is Warm” is mostly a sleepy, kid’s xylophone accented number that seems sweet enough, but features Kato interjecting moments of longing…delivered in direct voice separate from the sing-song making up the bulk of “Life Is Warm,” one that practically cracks…to spike the otherwise dreamy feel. Listen above.

Warms Ya Up: 4degC’s “Rush”

Kansai is still going strong when it comes to great electronic producers, and here’s another one to add to the ever-growing pile. Kyoto’s 4degC hovers around the recently returned Million Pavilions label, and has released an EP through them. His latest song, “Rush,” is a hiccuping number loaded with second-long vocal samples spilling over one another, with a few lighter touches as the song progresses. It’s a fast-paced house track built for letting loose to. Listen above.