izzi on an island

izzi on an island

I’m going to welcome myself back after a couple month hiatus. *Welcome back, me!*

Sorry about that. It won’t happen again, I promise. Now on to the point of what I’m doing here.

So I’ve been searching for some good things to review and have come up short on a lot of fronts and that may or may not have been why this has taken so long. Okay, it’s got some accountability but the rest is pure laziness. But today, I’ve found something for current and future. I’ll be looking at Izzard’s ~Soda Island Songs~ which will be a precursor to a review of A Trip to Soda Island by Soda Island aka Izzard. Sorry if that was hard to follow along with. You’ll get it sooner or later.

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~Soda Island Songs~ isn’t new. In fact, it’s about a year old. Which is okay. I’m a huge fan and almost stickler for new music. I feel like I can’t listen to old music because I’m constantly missing out on new creation/expression. But even though ~Soda Island Songs~ is a year old, it’s new to me. That’s how I’ll justify it.

First off I’ll just say that this EP is extremely ethereal. It flows, it curves, it waves, it bends. Sometimes there isn’t that backbone to hold everything together which can give you this disorienting bend that makes you feel like the train isn’t falling off the track but going upside down. The first track is Empty Skies. Damn. I feel like I’m walking through clouds in zero gravity with this track. It’s spacious and a little dreamy. Just enough to bring you back down to get ready for Ghost Naps.

Now when I heard the first chord of Ghost Naps I immediately thought of FEZ and can still get that vibe throughout. And trust me, that’s not a bad vibe. It’s probably my favorite video game soundtrack ever made (excluding Legend of Zelda because c’mon). Ghost Naps is organic and still has a little bit of that dreaminess you hear in Empty Skies. It has a flow that’s a mix of a synth orchestra, dissonant chords, and a soft lead bouncing along the spine of the track. You can’t help but get lost in the strings until you hear a quiet break of only percussion and that soft lead. Introducing some vocal samples completes a good mix of spacious melodies and tip-toe synths until the last chord with the modulation turned all the way down. Dreamy.

I think dreamy is a good word for this EP. Each song has that dreamy effect and it may just be the reverb heavy piano/strings accompanied by the various noises like crickets, and percussion that sounds like rhythmic drops of silverware.

The third track Threads has a bit of a change in pace. It introduces Blankts to rule the vocal track. It’s a match made in heaven. The dreamy synth and soft percussion bounces along with the help of Blankts vocals to guide the track. Just listen and follow along.

The last track is probably my favorite if I had to pick favorites. Port Town is layered incredibly well and has a great progression throughout. You fall and get picked back up again several times. It’s a great feeling. It’s like watching a movie over and over again at different times of your life. Garden State means something different to me now than it did back in 2010. And that’s how Port Town feels. You get this feeling of sincerity and comfort and it evolves. While the synth lines may be the same, the mods/effects/tone sounds different throughout. I get a familiarity with it after listening one time. It’s like I’ve known the song for a long time and I just keep coming back. It evolves like life. Early we’re rough, jagged, not quite round at the edges, to bright and loud, to that same brightness just toned down a bit and maybe a bit more organic. Then we grow, we change, we evolve into confident, friendly, open, enduring. When you hear a tiny vocal sample back up this organic sound at the end fueled with a ride symbol and maybe even a snare drum, you feel like you’re done. You’ve made it. It’s complete.

Check out all of Izzard’s stuff here and I will be working on reviewing A Trip to Soda Island which is a full length LP done by Soda Island in my next one. Catch you then!

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Climbing mt. marcy

Climbing mt. marcy

“You were not there for the beginning. You will not be there for the end. Your knowledge of what is going on can only be superficial and relative” – Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs.

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mt. marcy’s naked lunch ep is a wavy, fragmented and somewhat sporadic lo-fi mix of tracks. It lacks coherency and that’s on purpose. If you’ve ever read Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs, you know the novel was written so that you can read it in any order because of the structure of loosely connected vignettes. Makes sense now, right?

I got to sit down (I’m sure we were both sitting down while on the phone with each other) with mt. marcy’s Jack Follansbee based in the great rust-belt city of Pittsburgh. I got to pick his brain about the current lo-fi scene, his influences and some things he’s been working on.

Follansbee defines his style as lo-fi. Lo-fi basically covers all the bases. You’ve got elements of trip-hop, jazz, hip-hop, ambient, and way more so labeling it lo-fi simplifies things a little more. Although I always hate to simplify an artist to a single genre, it makes it easier to find something similar when I google “dope lo-fi tracks”. Thanks for that.

Follansbee started playing music at the age of 6 with piano lesson. He told me”[he] hated it.” Lol, look at you now. Anyway, after the dust settled on the piano keys he picked up guitar.This was around age 10 and soon thereafter started playing in bands. He’d been in a band up until about a year or two ago and after they split, he bought a cheap sampler and started experimenting. The drive for electronic music came from the almighty Aphex Twin. So, Follansbee wanted to make some crazy complex IDM. It didn’t stick (obviously) because he couldn’t find himself in it emotionally, Follansbee said that with the IDM “[he] couldn’t get any feeling into electronic music.” That led to more lo-fi/ambient music you can listen to in his first EP 愛 My Body はて Tape. I’m glad it didn’t stick because all of his releases have mad V I B E S that make me play them over and over.

Review:

So naked lunch is quick. Altogether it runs 15 minutes with some tracks as short as 41 seconds. Which I didn’t think I would like but the more I listen to it, I don’t feel committed and I feel a progression and flow from any point in the EP. You would think that with a 15 minute long EP, the whole thing would have some storyline or some ebb and flow. It doesn’t. It’s choppy, tracks are singled out, there are abrupt stops and it just ends too soon. I don’t say these things negatively. It was done on purpose and honestly it’s a nice way to break up tracks into fleeting moments rather than tell long stories. Throughout this EP you have tracks that are merely some keys and rain and some that expand to have catchy melodies overtop of crunchy hi-hats and snare sounds made up of “dropping marbles on shit”. Although the backbone of a few tracks is some form of jazz-driven piano sample, it arcs well (even during 40 second tracks like “dilla-redux”). The great part about this EP is how well done the overall sound is. That is the one cohesive part. When you go from a soft/ambient track like “lullaby” into a more driven, energetic track like “figs” while maintaining balance, it really is a great thing to hear. That’s why any part of the EP is a good place to start or end.

When I asked Follansbee about the community on SoundCloud and specifically based around his sound, he lit up over the phone (probably). He showed me some new stuff including SULU (which are the “best beats on SoundCloud”), brother mynor, øxela, and one of my personal favorites (thank you, Jack for showing me) .downtune. Check all of them out because they are dope.

As far as new projects/collabs/sounds you’ll see from mt. marcy goes, I’ll just put that he’s busy. Melanie Rose is doing a remix of “last night i cried in the shower“, he’s working on a few tracks with Sophie Meyers (dope), and there’s one top secret project he’ll be announcing later this year. I’m stoked. You should be too.

Be sure to check out mt. marcy on SoundCloud and Bandcamp and support the music you love. He’s also on twitter at @mt_marcy.

The State of Trip-Hop

The State of Trip-Hop

So, Trip-Hop has an origin around late 80’s hip-hop along with DJs, MCs, and b-boys getting mixed up with the Jamaican dub and house scene in Bristol, UK. They mingled and formed “soundsystems” (which is a pretty dope name if you ask me). Soundsystems were created in Jamaica in the 50’s to identify a group of DJs work collectively to produce and contribute to a sole sound. With all of these influences constantly working off of each other, you can imagine the evolution of Trip-Hop has been nearly never ending. Now it has been growing to incorporate much more sampling including Jazz, hip-hop elements, and downtempo percussion which has grown as those genres have grown respectively.

Now while Trip-Hop had its inception in ’89, it hit some mainstream attention a few years later in the early to mid 90’s. One of the biggest records to start the movement and really let Britain identify with their own iteration of hip-hop was Massive Attack‘s Blue Lines. That was huge. Although there wasn’t really any element of hip-hop because it was mostly sampling, some R&B vocals from Shara Nelson and Jamaican dance hall artist Horace Andy.

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Enough about the history. This post is titled “The State of Trip-Hop” after all. So let’s talk about the state of Trip-Hop and where I think it’s at.

Like a lot of things, this genre is mobilizing to the interwebz. Soundcloud has been a huge instigator in letting artists control their page (thanks, Soundcloud). This has helped mobilize the Trip-Hop industry to some degree. Of course you have to sift through the shit to find the gems hidden behind overrated and untalented promoted songs. But they are there and definitely worth digging for. On my Soundcloud, I do my best to find these gems and repost/make playlists/like their tracks. Trip-Hop is being overrun. There is literally not enough time in the day to find all the Trip-Hop being made and shared on the web. I think this is in part because to create music anymore all you need is a decent computer, very minimal knowledge of music theory and patience. Which is fucking awesome. I’m sure most of the stuff I absolutely love has been made this way. No giant soundproof studio, 100 track mixer, $1,000 mics. None of that. A 2009 Mac/PC with an old copy of Ableton and some creativity will get you to some crazy places. With great places like reddit, Twitter, Soundcloud and more, so many people have so much more of an outlet and connection with people. One of my favorite places for collaboration is reddit.com/r/isolatedvocals because people are literally giving away vocals for others to sample in their tracks. Dope.

I think a huge reason as to why I’m getting back into Trip-Hop so much is because of how minimalistic it’s becoming. It’s devolving into vibe-able, downtempo, repetitive loops. It’s simple. I’m all about simple. It’s perfect for zoning out, driving, being productive, and just about any other atmosphere you can think of. I’m fairly particular about what I listen to and when but I can rarely find a bad time to listen to (new wave?) Trip-Hop. Maybe a funeral. That might not be an incredibly opportune time. But who knows, it might be cool. I digress. I say in my blog that I’m “always searching for vibes”. That mostly comes from the trip-hop I find on Soundcloud. I feel like although there’s so much to sift through, it’s a very niche community. It’s even similar to how I compared newer Chillwave in the fact that it can vary song by song, record by record or even artist by artist. I think that’s the case with any form of art anymore. It’s hard to get labeled down to a single genre, even if you do help with the creation of said genre (looking at you Toro Y Moi).

Keep up with me on Soundcloud. I’m always finding new stuff and creating new playlists. If any of you guys have an artist you want me to check out, please let me know. I’m always open to suggestions. That goes for my blog as well. If there’s something you want to see or have feedback, let me know!

Sources:

http://otaconnachos.deviantart.com

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Hollowed by Ital Tek

Ital Tek first emerged on the scene in 2006 as a dubstep/IDM producer with a play into darker sounds. Influenced by the likes of Aphex Twin on one of his first EPs (which you should definitely check out because it’s filled with Arnold Schwarzenegger samples). Hollowed is Ital Tek’s 10th full length record and it shows his maturity through the use of darker, metallic, and almost machine-esque sounds. Hollowed takes us on a journey through an inviting and subtle soundscape that you can feel break apart as the song progresses. Organic parts combat darker, more mechanic sounds which is perfectly described in the title as A Delicate Balance. You can feel a multitude of layers through the growth of the songs that adds complexity and balance to very little dissonance. Everything seems meticulously organized so as not to interfere with competing instruments and sounds but to create a very layered but not quite unified sound while Redeemer feels like a dark choir sampled over echo-y percussion. Redeemer certainly has a heartbeat but it’s hidden under the sharp vocals that are melodically dark but bright at the same time. They bring a counterbalance to the consistent mechanical swirly synths, guitar drones and sputtering hi-hats.

Beyond Sight is a track almost needing it’s own paragraph (and it’s my blog so I gave it it’s own paragraph). This track is an outlier. While it still contains everything Hollowed is embodying, it has a bounce to it. I’m finding that a lot of these tracks are very contradictory in that Beyond Sight has a very soft synth arpeggio guiding the way, it eventually shows it’s true grit with that same synth getting a little dirty. Kinda like Trent Reznor came in and said, “you need more dirt, asshole!” And this isn’t the grit/dirt that you find in the other tracks. Those are more mechanical in nature. This is like a clean synth got hooked up with a Strat and worked together with a big fuzz pedal while the amp was peaking. This track still takes us through a journey and makes us think about how we felt when we first heard the beginning of the first track.

As we get further into the record, we see some of the IDM and dubstep come to play. Beyond Sight got us in the mood to nod more than we had in the beginning. Terminus has a sense of tension building the entire time while also being enjoyable and easily vibe-able (note: just coined the term vibe-able). That being said, Cobra just gives it to us. We get a little of that cliché dubstep lead in. Yeah, yeah. 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, we get it. Just give us the drop. He does, and it’s good. It’s full, continuously building, and gripping. What makes it better are the smooth and minimal transitions. We fall into a little kalimba party right before going back in to feel that synth drive and bounce back in again and again. Mind you, this happens not even halfway through the record. What an adventure we are on! The next few tracks give us a little more relaxation with simple samples and those swirly synths and percussive sounds we all love. There are a few awkward transitions and what feel like unfinished thoughts especially in Memory Shard. Maybe it’s to make sure we’re still paying attention?

Out of nowhere we get an almost trip-hop sound in Murmur. We get those bouncy drums and constantly crescendoing synth strings. A pulsing bass drives the song which are all the elements of a good Massive Attack or Portishead concoction. Of course we follow it to an abrupt metallic synth which is like putting Ital Tek’s signature on the song. Now, some of the work done on this record is clever and fitting but there are a few things that catch my attention more than the rest. Aquamarine is exactly that. The synth line to start is intelligent and drives the feeling of the song. Hearing Tek’s massive saws and pulsing synth lines on top of this harp-like melody feels like a climax halfway into every bar. To top it off, he adds some beautiful vocal samples that add a rich texture to the pushing and pulling of the layers of synths, percussion, and bass.

As the record continues we feel more of that dirty dirty wub. Wub? Wub. Reflection through Destruction feels like Tek gave Trent Reznor’s (wow two Trent Reznor references) How To Destroy Angels a punch in the throat. It’s big, it’s distorted, and it makes you think about how good (underground) dubstep can be. The last few tracks show Tek maturing. He gets a little spacey on us but retains a lot of that pulsing vibe we’ve gotten used to by now. Jenova is a track I could see on some Tom Cruise space movie as they leave the planet they once knew as home behind. It’s got some great chord progressions that we’re used to in popular music and it’s refreshing to hear it in an atmosphere Tek is creating. It’s dramatic in the good way.

As Vesper leads us into the final track, we hear atmospheric sounds more than anything. No mechanical, saw driven synths. We’re floating. Waiting for the finale. Vacuum I is just that. Orchestral, ominous, but pulsing. This song takes a little longer to grow than the others. It keeps the drama of Jenova but adds the Ital Tek touch of adding a little more bass. It takes a strange turn into an ambient loop of soft, airy synths that eventually falls into echo. Maybe we’ll get a sequel? Vacuum II? We’ll see in a couple of years.

 

Here are some links to Ital Tek’s music:

https://italtek.bandcamp.com/album/hollowed

http://italtek.bandcamp.com

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Meseta Review & a brief history of Chillwave

So, let’s start with a bit of background. I started as a musician but slowly turned into a music lover/enthusiast. My best friend taught me how to first play the guitar back in ’08-’09. He taught me how to (incorrectly) play Seven Nation Army and apparently I can’t let go of the fact that I corrected him on how to play it to this day. Anyways, I was your typical, punk-then-grunge-then-metal-then-back to punk guitar player. I even auditioned for my High School Jazz Band by playing Fade to Black by Metallica. Cringeworthy, I know. The next year I actually learned some chord voicings, how to read a bit of sheet music and I was in. I honestly just wanted to play guitar in school but after a year fell in love with Jazz and some of the stuff I was learning. Fast forward to about 2 years later and I was looking for new music that included some sort of jazz anything.

I stumbled upon Chillwave in about 2011 and it essentially changed my life. The only real tie to Jazz Chillwave had was the consistent use of the Maj7 chord used throughout but I digress.

Now, Chillwave started in the same way Shoegaze or TripHop started. Very few artists involved and it had a very distinct sound. The big names that contributed to Chillwave include Washed Out, Toro Y Moi, and Neon Indian and it was mostly popular on the internet. Now the thing about the inception of Chillwave was that it wasn’t artist driven or even album driven. It was mostly a few songs that the artists had come up with that had a wavy, hazy, dreamy, lo-fi sound (Washed Out’s first record was literally done in his bedroom entirely).

With that being said, Chillwave was similar to Shoegaze in that within a year or so, it died. Almost entirely. There were still hints of it floating around the internet with the likes of Blackbird Blackbird, Teen Daze  (Four Years Strong), and others. Some artists (I believe) became completely mislabeled as Chillwave like XXYYXX, Tycho, and others which essentially diluted Chillwave into nothing.

Meseta

Meseta is a different story. This artist came out of nowhere and currently has two tracks on Soundcloud which are dated 7 months old and 20 days old and that’s about all I know of this artist. So, I’m confused about the timing/structure/all of it but honestly I’m left wanting so much more. I’m not sure how I stumbled upon Meseta’s music but damn am I glad I did. feversuit and mackscorner are both that lo-fi, crunchy, pretty goodness I found when I listened to Talamak by Toro Y Moi or Feel it all around by Washed Out. These tracks encompass just about everything that Chillwave started on and doesn’t dilute it whatsoever. As you listen with a nice pair of headphones you are surrounded by sounds of arpeggiated synths, simple drum loops, and (no pun intended) washed out vocals that makes the song feel like a wave of sound crashing down in this soft, hazy mix of summer feelings. While retaining a lot of the characteristics of the iconic starting sounds of Chillwave, Meseta keeps it refreshing and original while also nostalgic.

Here’s Meseta’s Soundcloud page, which I also linked above. Check it out and show your friends.

#chillwavesnotdead

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#newyearnewme

My blog is already spiraling out of control because of my title. I’m sorry.

But for real.

I’ve always wanted to start a blog in which I just talk on and on and on about the music I dig. I live in Akron, USA which is a super cool place but I haven’t found a ton of people to just spill my guts to about the music I listen to.

I hope you all dig the stuff I listen to and I hope to open some eyes to some great music hidden on the internet.

Peace.