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New Okinawa Electric Girl Saya And AX: Mayhem

Consider Mayhem a test. This collaborative album finds Okinawa Electric Girl Saya teaming up with another Terminal Explosion staple, producer AX, whose best work up to this point is probably the too-many-highballs-kicked-back stagger of the Purple Juke series. Mayhem is the first of two releases coming from the pair over the next couple of months, with May’s Chastity looking like the bigger deal, with a bigger track list and guest spots from Foodman (!!) among others. Mayhem sets the stage, opening with the clanging start-stop noise of “Initiation” before AX lays down a juke-adjacent beat that Saya rips apart with noise on the suffocating “Battlefield.” This feels like a total pivot into harshness for a bit, but Saya reels it back a bit, opting for spacious unease on “Graveyard” and then letting her synth playing run wild on the jaunty “Promenade.” But even when it lifts off a bit, the pair know how to deliver punches. Get it here, or listen below.

Soft Fall: Suguru Iida’s “Spring Snow”

Last year, the fledgling Hihatt label released the Rubber Band EP from Tottori producer Hajime Iida. It was a late calendar release, so it sorta snuck under our ears for a bit, but it’s a fantastic EP of understated house music, highlighted by the breezy strut of “1” and the more hurried rumble of “3.” Based off of info written on Bandcamp, Iida has a little brother named Suguru who also turns out to excel at making fragile dance songs drawing from the softer side of the Chicago sound. “Spring Snow” moves in no rush, slowly unfolding and revealing new details that add a richness to the song. Wait for the changes in percussion to join the synth melodies and beat, or those slightly wonky notes to bend in midway through. Or how the whole song flips midway through, somehow getting more skeletal and a touch more fragmented…but then switching back to this calmer stroll. Get it here, or listen below.

Side Piece: Body Curves Knife In The Desert

Side projects usually give someone the chance to try out sounds they can’t get away with in their main vehicle, and the results are often hit or miss. Body Curves, the solo creation of Shion Hosobe of the band Waater, deals in songs really similar to what comes out from the group…and finds a lot more interesting angles on it too. Maybe that’s because Hosobe gets to (presumably) work entirely on his own here, allowing more room to stretch out and try things that aren’t possible in a band that favors familiar indie-pop tropes. The similar mid-tempo, slightly submerged vibe comes through across Knife In The Desert, highlighted by Waater-worthy cuts such as “Already Said” and “Something Gold.” But even those ones get jacked up via drum machine beats and vocals that are even deeper in the mix, giving them more of a dreamy feel. And Hosobe really pushes this as far as he can, creating some Jesus-and-Mary-Chain-esque stomp and fuzz on “Wash Down,” or the more washed-out whirl of “Romancer,” with vocals smudging together. Get it here, or listen below.

New Zombie-Chang: “Saredo-Shiawase”

A lot has changed for Zombie-Chang over the last few years, but at the same time her approach to new-wave-brushed pop remains pretty true to what she’s been doing since Zombie-Change. “Saredo-Shiawase” is a new single that finds her embracing synthesizer whirs to create a buzzing number nodding to early ’80s artists who made wonky pop out of similar elements. This has always been her path, but the overall sound quality has improved from bedroom fuzz to something polished. But even then, the energy remains, here underlined by a particularly sticky chorus and those energetic “hey hey hey heys” punching up in the background. Watch above.

I’d also recommend going on to your preferred streaming service and listening to the digital single, which comes with a b-side called “New Zombie-Change 2019,” a left-field bit of sample-mania matching up soothing Australian (?) voices with a gentle bounce and Zombie-Chang imploring you to “check, check, check it out.”

Pure Comfort: Kung-Fu Girl’s “Anorak”

You call a song “Anorak,” you better deliver those twee vibes. And Kung-Fu Girl does just that by giving in to all the hallmarks of the style. The band has been around for a few years now and up until now have always felt like they’ve tried a little too hard to stick out from the crowded indie-pop field. But here they just embrace all the trademarks of the style, and thank goodness for that! Fast pace guided by guitars, easy-breezy vocals, a twinge of melancholy? You better believe it! No points for originality, but this is pure comfort executed well. Listen above.