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Backwards And Backwards But Done Well: Upusen’s Signal

Is everything just going to be a loop backwards from now on? This isn’t about Upusen’s Signal specifically, though it does factor into the larger trend. Maybe it’s just Japan’s current obsession with all things ’90s — this movie is literally “do you remember gyaru fashion and Tamagothchi?” — or the Western world’s love of anything dappled in neon and a sense of yesteryear. Is this the new “get off my lawn,” where you look at nostalgia and bemoan that because it lacks innovation?

Well, as existential as that can make me, Local Visions deserves credit for just doing it better than anyone else in 2018. The music they’ve put out this year finds new angles on nostalgia, avoiding cliche in favor of finding sounds that evoke a melancholy warmness. Signal is the label’s Odyssey, a particularly fuzzy set of wordless synth numbers that probably works wonders set over warped footage of The Simpson’s. “Signal” sets off those comparisons right away with its synth night drive, growing in intensity but never losing that emotional pang. To Upusen’s credit, the whole album isn’t just one big Teddy Ruxpin’s hug, with “Poolside” being a particularly dizzying cut and the blunted whirl of “Float” operating in more dreamy territory. But by the time “Daydream Drive” comes around to end the note on a particularly triumphant blast of retro-wave synth-work, Upusen has shown they can do this backwards looking better than most. Get it here, or listen below.