submerse

It’s not uncommon for me to have crushes on inanimate objects, cartoon characters, cities, or anything which cannot be turned into an actual relationship (like a flesh and blood human). Back when I was a kid, I went to Georgia and fell so in love with the state (not that weird – I used to also run around saying I was a reincarnation of a T-Rex to my first grade class) that I told my parents I was going to marry Georgia.

Georgia is not a person. Georgia cannot give me any physical love in return. Georgia can, however, give me peaches and Forrest Gump quotations.

Fast forward to 2012 and you have a somewhat older and better traveled 20-something who now has a massive, all-consuming crush on Tokyo. This doomed love affair encompasses people who have a similar affinity for the city and Japan, especially musicians.

Cue in submerse. Around half a year ago, Rob Orme, the mastermind behind fusing Japanese pop, garage, and an onslaught of various sub-genres moved from his home country of the UK to Tokyo. Some, like myself, would say it’s one of the smartest moves he could have made.

Since the move he’s released vinyl EPs through Apollo and Project: Mooncircle. His songs are full of life, from sampling day-to-day sounds of the high-pace Tokyo lifestyle and the breath of the city, you can feel what Orme is experiencing as his music plays in your headphones.

Having been to Japan a couple of times now, I’m right there with Orme. I walking through Yoyogi Park, meandering through Shibuya, ogling the shufflers in Akihabara, and spending hours riding on the subways.

I’m not that well versed on garage music as a whole but from what I’ve heard out of this guy (young man, rather) is impressive. The female vocals are fairly common in garage from what I’ve read and heard in the past, but they’re familiar to me in all the haunting music I have in my library. One of the best examples I can think of is Myrkur’s “Why,” with its brooding, terrifying video game quality to it. Not necessarily bleepy, just the vibe of it – kind of like going into the End of the World level of Kingdom Hearts, y’know?

“Never Again” has a very different feel from a typical submerse track because it’s more of a sub-genre than a garage-centric track. This song has been a long time favorite of mine by submerse because of its depressing quality (noticing a trend here?) and of how lush it is. He really is a Midi wizard and you can hear how much time he puts into each song, even if they come off as something fairly simple. Brilliant.

Submerse started popping up on my radar after Nakata Yasutaka released “Pon Pon Pon” by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. Submerse remixed it on his soundcloud page and I found myself bobbing along to it and began hunting through various tumblrs trying to pick up more of his heavy-handed Japanese inspired music. I quickly discovered, however, that his darker music was equally entrancing. His “Mix About You” made me cry immediately after he opened with one of my favorite Stars of the Lid song, “A Meaningful Moment Through a Meaning(less) Process.” It’s not too often a mix tape is so well done that I listen to it over and over again, especially at night.

I realize this post is not as heavily focused on the breakdown of individual submerse songs as I typically do with other artists. This is mainly due to Orme’s extremely well-executed production style. One soundcloud comment remarked that his drums were so clean that you can eat them. Yes, it’s absolutely true. You can literally taste how beautiful each part of a submerse track is on its own, and as a full product. Delicious.

I recommend hitting up his soundcloud page (linked in the image above) and listening to more of the songs he’s put out this past year while he’s in been in Tokyo. Even if you’ve never been there, any appreciator of night walks and introspective cities will find a comrade in his music. I’m looking forward to hearing more city oriented tracks from him  – he’s going to be in Tokyo for another year before heading back to the UK, and by that time, you’ll be able to hear his growth and thoughts on living abroad spread out in all of his releases.

An interview Orme did with Factmag, which is a personal favorite he’s done so far, can be found here. It’s one of the best written interviews I’ve read in a long time, and does better justice in explaining Orme’s thoughts on J-pop, garage, and what his music actually is than I ever could.

Also, for added reference, here’s a link to Myrkur’s “Why” so that you may add an older, glorious song to your night drive playlist.

-jo.

mister lies

There’s something about summer nights in Chicago that puts me in a funk. Maybe it’s my distaste for the heat mixed with perfect circumstances for night walks that makes me all moody yet excitable for music.

Such is the case when listening to Mister Lies.

This kid (yes, a child, he is only 19) is a wizard with ambient music, down tempo, and something he and Different Sleep coined ‘ambient gospel.’ He’s a Chicago local with a penchant for dream making.

This past Wednesday was his official debut in Chicago as a producer at this dive bar/music venue in Wicker Park called Empty Bottle.

Holy goodness.

That kid knows how to build a solid set list, not to mention listening to any Mister Lies song on massive speakers is a very humbling experience. The music has a cascading effect on your body – my friend and I didn’t speak for the entire set. That’s a very rare occurrence for us. The only qualms I had about his live performance is the amount of time he spent fiddling with effects. I get that for this kind of music it’s difficult to throw curve balls, but it would’ve been cool to see him deconstruct his songs and put them back together on stage. Baths, Nosaj Thing, Daedelus, Star Slinger, among others, have a similar MO as trigger artists. Having DJed a decent amount and seeing enough electronic shows, I can say that just messing with the effects and EQ’s isn’t enough for me to stay interested.

I’m being hard on the guy, he’s only done a few shows. He’ll figure out a solid groove for himself soon enough.

Earlier this year he released his Hidden Neighbors EP which is absolute gold. I can’t tell you how many nights I spent walking all over my campus at night, or laying in bed losing myself in thought to “Cleam” and “Morgan.” The Jessica Blanchet vocals on “I Walk” are ethereal and yet grounding in the way Mister Lies messes around with them. The music surrounds you rather than something you only listen to.

I don’t know, this kid makes me act a damn fool when a track of his comes on.

Overall, Mister Lies has a very clean production style. It’s minimalistic (which I adore – how very Japanese of me) yet still lush and dynamic enough to keep interest. A friend of mine and I had a long conversation about the way Mister Lies makes music, in that, while it is heavily ambient, the bass lines and drums he sneaks in makes for a more musically rich experience. I find that, while being a big fan of ambient music, songs tend to get wrapped up droning instruments that the song loses itself. It becomes repetitive, boring, and overall a general waste to listen to multiple times.

“Cleam” comes dangerously close to doing this, with it being roughly six minutes long. It’s such a gorgeous composition though, that listening to it alone at night keeps it from falling into the stereotypical down tempo trap. The song has, wait for it, an unbelievably sexy bass line. The vocals make you want to sleep with someone in a destructive way with a man saying to “make a move.” How can you not?

The kid has a gift for composing his music. From the pianos, synths, drums, and especially the bass lines, he proves himself as a natural musician. He recently tweeted that he was heavily considering not making music anymore, not even three months ago, but holy damn is the music community glad that he did not partake in said decision.

We’re just over halfway through the year and Mister Lies has an impressive array of releases on his bandcamp and soundcloud pages. I hope he spends some time working on his live sets ’cause I know there is a lot of greatness coming from this kid in the near future. My spidey senses are going off non-stop about it.

-jo.

empty pockets

I’ve always wondered what kind of criteria someone has to have to become a crayon/ice cream flavor namer. It’s a job I’ve always coveted because equating colors and flavors to unlikely material is one of my favorite past times. Clearly I have too much time on my hands, but in any case, it would be a bomb job to add to my LinkedIn account.

Some of these people, I think, are on the song-naming circuit. Sometimes song names make zero sense when you listen to a song, kind of like a good portion of modern art. Dance music, especially, can piss me off with names. Making the repetitive vocal track as the name of a song is really clever, you know? It never gets old.

That got slightly side tracked, my bad. Back to the main point of this post which is highlighting one half of the beloved James & Evander dyanmic duo, Adam Myatt, also known as Empty Pockets. He branches off from his usual dream pop production pair to create a melancholic downtempo medley of delicious songs. Gosh, nothing makes me happier than downtrodden, depressing beats.

1. Can’t Decide

Like the bandcamp page described, the murky vocals and slithering acoustic guitar is a perfect blend of sunny rain. Not the annoying kind with rainbows and crap, but a constant transition between the two. This had an Iron & Wine feel to it (probably with the vocal bending) but not in a twangy way that can annoy me about the band. This song is riddled with nostalgia and coffee, making for a well balanced early morning tune.

 

2. Jan. 25th, 1982

Sad song. While there’s no clear indication of what the date means to Myatt, there’s clearly an overwhelmingly melancholic quality to the song. It wasn’t as big of a stand out to me as far as the EP goes, but it does make for a song I enjoy thinking to.

Screw grammatical errors.

3. Shipwrecked Shell

The first thing I thought when listening to this track is a Postal Service esque feel to the rhythm and timing of the song. It brought me back to middle school and listening to their music on bus rides home. Maybe I was one of those typical angsty teenagers, but it did bring an onslaught of memories one late night while listening to this song. It’s got this gritty feel to the synths and drums which, not only makes you depressed, but also angry. It’s an interesting composition with the perfect name to go with it. It makes you feel empty and lost just like a shipwrecked soul.

 

 

Listening to all of this James & Evander music, as well as shortcircles and other Oakland based producers makes me want to move out to that city. Who knows – it may join the list of prospective cities I move to after Vancouver and Tokyo.

You can download the free Empty Pockets EP off Myatt’s bandcamp page which is linked to the photo above. Go have fun and stuff.

 

-jo.

bwana – baby let me finish EP

One of the best parts of having an open, musical dialogue between people all over the world is that you’re bound to find new obsessions through their own tastes. I’m one of those people that opens all the links friends post in their gchat statuses, Facebook posts, and tweets – how can I not? The internet is too huge for me to sift through all the music the world has to offer.

Last night, an out-of-touch friend posted a complete gem on their gchat status and I had to discuss the find here. Bwana, after nearly a year of having “Baby Let Me Finish” published on the internet, is set to release his EP, Baby Let Me Finish, on July 30th.

FIRST LISTEN

1. Baby Let Me Finish

In the first ten seconds, it’s apparent how much Damu’s Unity influenced the production style of “Baby Let Me Finish.” It screams similar vocal lines, breaks, and rhythm to “Don’t Cry in My Bed.” Although I was hoping for an A-side track from Bwana that would make itself stand apart from Damu, it still makes for a great “desperate” feel Bwana aims to emulate. One advantage to “BLMF” is it’s no where near as bleepy sounding as “DCIMB,” which gives it a more relaxed feel. The heavy bass adds a sexier element to the song and it makes it such a throat grabber. It’s also a happier song comparatively because despite the fact “DCIMB” is, literally, upbeat, “BLMF” legitimately is more jovial feeling. There’s a promise in the lyrics when the vocals go “baby let me finish/ I’ll be back in the morning” whereas “DCIMB” is usually desperately yelling “listen.”

Here’s Damu’s “Don’t Cry In My Bed” for reference.

2. Nami Swan

The second track off the A-side and it serves as the antithesis to “Baby Let Me Finish.” The vocals have taken a darker route as has the overall drum, bass, and synth lines. It’s the introspective song to the EP, where this track is the lover who has been left alone to sit in their own festering doubts of their lover returning to them. From the get-go I sat in a pool of nostalgia wanting to go back to Tokyo. Listening to this song felt like I was looking out of the train windows coming back from one of many solo night trips to Odaiba. It may not be as initially catchy as “BLMF” but it serves as a strong accompaniment to the first track to create a stable EP release.

SAS

I’m still playing “BLMF” the most mainly because I’m writing about this in the daytime. I think “Nami Swan” is best suited for nighttime listening, between 1-2AM when you happen  to be alone on some random weeknight. Pair with brandy and let the music roll.

The EP is set to have two remixes accompany its B-side which have yet to be released. Keep your eyes out for the official release on July 30th.

-jo.