Talk about timing – around the same time I wrote about the anime-loving Maltine Records, the label uploaded their 91st release (free to download) to their site. The newest offering comes courtesy of Submerse, and it’s an entire album full of original songs and remixes clocking in at just under 50 minutes. Also included – a lot of anime samples, something the cover art above isn’t afraid to embrace.
Unlike the KANEKURE EP, Soul Gem ends up being a slightly more straightforward affair. It’s a dance album, one recalling bassline house (which is to say…ya remember T2’s “Heartbroken?”), full of jump-roping beats and big squanks tearing through the middle of the more aggressive numbers. Submerse’s smoothest trick can be heard right away on opener “Madoka Magica,” as the producer behind this takes a J-Pop ready vocal dripping with ballad potential and eventually reduces it to a second’s long loop. It’s a great move, and one that pops up a lot on Soul Gem, used to both add energy (“Madoka” and malfunctioning “Limit Break”) and to turn these dance numbers more inward (the lonely crooning on “Downcast”). Submerse seems just as interested in morphing pop as wanting to pump out bangers.
Now let’s talk about the strangest element of Soul Gem – the anime. Nearly every song here features what sounds like dialogue from some sort of cartoon playing over the music, in such a way it sometimes feels like Submerse accidentally left a YouTube video on while recording. It’s an element of Submerse’s sound (and Maltine Records in general) you’ll either embrace, accept or be pushed away by – one particularly minimalist song is called “MoeMoeMoe” and I’ll leave Google to teach you what those three letters mean. To me, though, these anime splashes end up becoming the label’s signature, the same way J. Dilla had those air-raid sirens or sorta how Wu-Tang loved dropping in snippets from old Kung-Fu flicks. Sometimes it even manages to work out so the added voices flow with the song – album standout “KoKo” sounds the most “pop” here, indulging in an especially J-Pop vocal (that gets gleefully spliced up) and a cheesy saxophone. Frankly, this sounds like something I’d expect to hear over an especially “magical” cartoon on my TV, albeit one suitable for a club. So the sample actually fits in and even kinda adds to it. Listen and download here.