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Author Archives: Patrick St. Michel

Electronic Round-Up: Negative Headphone, House Of Tapes And Vibes Kiun Featuring DJ NightPool

— Everything can feel so fast nowadays, and sometimes you just need to zone out. Like, completely. Negative Headphone’s latest full-length offering, Ambient Ground, pretty much tells you everything you need to know in the title. This is a solid collection of ambient tunes, calming and only ever disrupted by the slightest of ripples breaking through the sound. During a different week, this one might have just slipped by. But right now, it’s nice to sink into. Get it here, or listen below.

— House Of Tapes has tried out a lot of modes over the years, but disorienting isn’t one I’d normally associate with the Nagoya producer. “Paint It” approaches the claustrophobic zones of older material, but also feels like a creation where the seams show clearly, the rough edges grinding up against one another and creating a loopy tension. Listen below.

— If the above are too chill or choppy for your liking, Vibes Kiun’s collaboration with DJ NightPool should scratch your itch. This cut is a thumping house number bolstered by some nifty vocal slice-and-dice, making for a track in constant motion. If you aren’t getting ready to pass out on a Friday night, here’s the one to get you moving into the night. Listen below.

New DJ Fulltono, CRZKNY And Skip Club Orchestra: Draping 7

The Draping series keeps on delivering, and the seventh installment in a project bringing together three heavyweights of the Japanese juke community stands as a highlight. This trio of track brings the energy, each creator offering up one of their briskets creations to date. DJ Fulltono gets it going by embracing repetition with a particularly jagged number that refuses to take a breath, plunging ahead and only gaining in intensity as the beat mutates throughout. CRZKNY builds up to the dash, using huge industrial-sized beats to slowly build the mood before letting everything merge together for one hellacious final stretch. By comparison, Skip Club Orcehstra’s “Draping 7” feels a little more reserved, but it still darts ahead on sharp details and vocal bursts. Get it here, or listen below.

New Acidclank: Apache Sound

Shoegaze endears in the Japanese music community. Walk around certain music-leaning neighborhoods in the capital and the odds of bumping into someone who spends their Thursdays after work getting lost in distortion is pretty high. The downside to this is a lot of groups who listen to Nowhere on a weekly basis making songs that sound the same as every other downward-facing band in Tokyo. It’s charming that so many subscribe to the style, but anyone can go online and just listen to Loveless now, we don’t need more imitation of that!

Acidclank always seemed one step ahead of tired worship, working in new elements into distorted rock over the last few years. But nothing could have predicted Apache Sound, their latest album and a welcome ripple from the shoegaze side of Japanese indie rock. The burbling electronics of intro track “Riot” underline the change to come, and then the title track trudges in. No guitar squall, no fuzzed-out voices; rather Acidclank uses ample space and an understated beat to create an ennui-dripping number filtered through electronic vocal filters. They even work in a lonely sax solo, letting the song tease a turn to funk but always staying somber. There’s more experimentation with machine beats on Apache Sound, whether on the swift exercise of “Funeral” or via hip-hop-inspired thump on “Ghost Record,” which also drops in vocal samples from rap for the album’s biggest detour. But the spirit of shoegaze still comes through, even if the tools are different…and Acidclank makes room for more familiar escapes into noise on numbers such as “Addict Of Daydreaming” (or, uh, “Downtime Acid Jam,” as the two are exactly the same song. I think an upload error?). Apache Sound is anything but trapped in familiar formulas, and shows how many chances for mixing it up familiar formulas hold. Get it here, or listen below.

New Einsteins: “Ribbon”

Synth-pop project Einsteins has quite the treat for Valentine’s Day 2019. “Ribbon” splits the difference between bouncy electronic fare and a slightly more chamber-leaning arrangement lending the song an air of sophistication. But they never get stuffy about it. Bells chime off and synthesized strings swirl around while Einsteins let their vocals zig-zag through the nooks, but while it gets pretty movie musical at times (the woodwinds nearly push this one over too far), that beat keeps on nudging everything along. Fittingly for a love song, this one captures the pure Disney-like glee a spark can bring, but reminds that one needs to stay focused for anything to really sparkle. Listen above.

New Frasco: “Reality”

Frasco really moves on “Reality.” The duo have spent most of their existence at a more mid-tempo speed, creating synth-pop adjacent to the chill sounds gaining popularity in the greater mainstream while working in wonkier electronic details to give their songs a color all their own. But “Reality” moves at a swift pace, the usual synths that served as swirly backdrop now joining a machine beat to push everything forward. The speedier tempo also reveals that the group’s vocals sound just as catchy when zipping along rather than getting twisted around. Listen above.