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Author Archives: Patrick St. Michel

New DJ Fulltono, CRZKNY And Skip Club Orchestra: Draping 5

The Draping series, which finds three of the most influential juke makers in Japan offering up new tracks every month, continues on in December with the fifth installment. What makes this time stand out is an emphasis on simplicity and seeing just how far it can be stretched out. CRZKNY leads the way with his opening salvo, an eight-minute-long number emphasizing just a few clanking beats and ominous churn in the background with slight variation. The length ramps up the unease significantly. DJ Fulltono and Skip ClubOrchestra don’t go as long, but they mostly play with a similar set of stripped-down sounds (though Skip Club lets everything get a little noisier on their number). Get it here, or listen below.

New Mei Ehara: “Saisho No Hi Wa”

The music surrounding Mei Ehara has leaned towards more locked-in grooves since she adapted that name, moving away from the solo project May.e to something with a bit more band support. “Saisho No Hi Wa” features one of the more skeletal arrangements she’s used so far as Mei Ehara, anchored by a particularly sticky guitar melody played between verses. Yet that space allows Ehara to highlight her best element — her voice. She moves from a straightforward tone to letting her syllables drift and then letting her voice rise up. This has always been the way she adds drama to her music, and even against breezier backdrops she can still conjure up that feeling. Listen above.

Drive It In: Spire’s Exist EP

Exist brings the energy, but makes space to stir emotions too. Spire’s new EP via Omoide Label drills right from the start, with the title track built around relentless machine beats just buzzing away at the listener, only interrupted by samples of voices talking about logging in to things or sudden bursts of white noise. “Connexion” follows a similar path, showing its drum ‘n’ bass origins a little more clearly while letting a robo voice creep in and fade out over the rush. Yet lurking underneath are these sweeter touches that add some emotional tension. See the titular number, which features angelic swoops of noise, or the sliced-up singing voices popping up on “Connexion.” Get it here, or listen below.

New Sleet Mage: “You’ll Float 2”

Make Believe Melodies failed to cover the last two songs Sleet Mage appeared on, and we regret this error. That’s amplified by this being year-end season, which means going through all of 2018’s releases and seeing how what Sleet Mage does so well is lacking in…so much other Japanese rap. While the Sapporo artist’s reference points are pretty obvious, Sleet Mage synthesizes them into something that become their own. “You’ll Float 2” finds Sleet Mage rapping over one of the harder beats they’ve had in recent memory — while it leaves room for reflection, it isn’t all that weepy, and generally bobs and weaves ahead — but with the emotional edge still intact. That’s all thanks to their voice, one of the most distinct going, and one that Sleet Mage continues to get a better grip on with each release — to the point they can warp it in all kinds of directions here, giving the song a disorienting feel. Listen above.

Satellite Young Covers “Take On Me”

It’s year-end season, and I think one of the major trends that is going to get glossed over in lists and thinkpieces is how nostalgic everything felt this year. It’s unavoidable in Japan, where the biggest artist of the year was Namie Amuro and the biggest song resurrected Eurobeat. But it’s also playing out elsewhere — see the “Africa” effect, or the recent wave of videos just recreating old movies. This isn’t anything new, but does feel a touch more visible in 2018. So hey, Satellite Young covering A-ha’s “Take On Me” fits right in! Kind of, but not really actually. Satellite Young’s approach to nostalgia has always been delivered with a wink you don’t see in a lot of other memory-bait — their songs are about the failures of memories, and when they dress up like Steve Jobs its to poke fun at love in the 21st century, not imagine literally going back in time. I wouldn’t go so far as to say their “Take On Me” is subversive, but they at least mix it up enough to make it feel fresh. They sing in Japanese for one, and better still is the chorus, when the singing turns into a robotic squeak that’s just not possible from a human voice. It’s looking back, done with at least a little more flair than you’d expect. Listen above.