Broughton raps with a sense of affection and hopefulness on “Neptune.” It’s a simple request and appeal, an invitation to come over and hang out and watch a movie and maybe more, listen to “The Neptunes.” The sentiments are direct but not crass, and in the song you hear the words of a person who may not have a lot materially but offers what little he does have and none of the burning intensity that might be too much to deal with. There is a gentleness of spirit at the root of the song. Musically it sounds nothing like the jazz funk of the production style one often associates with the work of Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo of The Neptunes. Rather, it has an ethereal, intimate feel composed of simple, echoing, chill tones accented by a spare rhythm that wraps itself around and compliments well the vocals giving the use of the word “Neptune” a dual meaning of the aforementioned musical reference as well as having an experience out of this world. Emotionally it echoes the shyly come hither dynamic of the words and a fine pairing of music and vocals. Listen to “Neptune” on Spotify and follow Broughton at the links provided.
Imagine yourself able to rest at the bottom of a clear, mountain pond, the liquid flowing over you in its endless variety of textures yet consistent in its calming tactile quality. Sunlight refracted through the water warming your surfaces, the intermittent interruptions in illumination from the aquatic insects skittering atop the water, fish swimming by, plants shifting in currents. Your mind mixes the natural, ambient sounds and abstracts some to tones as textural flow, melodic drones that follow no meter but resonate with its own fractal logic, soothing in the way those sounds chart natural processes with the mathematics that govern the chaos and order of the universe. Haruhisa Tanaka’s “Still” sounds like it was composed imagining that likely impossible scenario and in so doing creates a tranquil audio analog of the experience perfect for letting one’s anxieties dissolve into eternity. Listen to “Still” on Bandcamp and follow Haruhisa Tanaka at the links provided. Tanaka’s latest EP Yusura was released February 13, 2020.
The first single “Audacious” from Ian Chang’s debut album Belonging (out April 24, 2020 on City Slang) features a keyboard line that is percussive in its cadence and synth drones floating in the background like a fog, all while Kazu Makino (Blonde Redhead) provides almost a companion beat with her vocals accenting the melody line parallel to the low end. The deep, layered rhythms of the song allow it to go well outside any pop songwriting conventions which makes Makino’s unique, breathy voice well suited to a song about not hiding behind the usual socially conditioned barriers that prevent direct and honest communication between people. The animated video directed by Qieer Wang brings to the presentation of the song the quality of a graphic novel cast in the visual language of personal mythology and the use of creative visualization to transform one’s own consciousness—it is colorful, surreal and symbolic in blurring any line between conscious and unconscious mind, dream and waking reality, abstracted cultural folklore and concrete existence. And beyond these heady conceits the song and video work as a way that makes an otherwise experimental pop song immediately accessible with its gentle melodicism and sense of coming with a fresh perspective to what might have before been a conundrum in your mind. Watch the video for “Audacious” on YouTube and follow Ian Chang, also a member of Son Lux and Landlady, at the links below.
In scoring the soundtrack to Luca Guadagnino’s (the director of the 2018 Suspiria remake) The Staggering Girl, Ryuchi Sakamoto wanted to incorporate the physicality of the sound of Valentino fabrics. He experimented with using fabric samples and, according to the composer, “utilizing special sensitive microphones, I experimented ‘playing the fabrics. I love the sound and how it forces one’s attention to a sound all round us, yet almost entirely ignored.” The latter quality is captured well on the song “Dance – Ambient Version.” With minimalist piano lines shifting up and down as string figures entwine their way through and background drones bring a nearly intangible lushness to a song that sounds like it would fit a 1960s period piece with underlying tones of mystery as with the beginning of an Alfred Hitchcock film with the menace not yet arrived but lurking in the hints of melancholy and introspection and a sense of new beginnings heard in the theme music foreshadowing the tragedy to come. Listen to “Dance – Ambient Version” on YouTube and follow the renowned composer at the links below. The Staggering Girl Original Soundtrack was released February 14 on Milan Records.
“BEAT 1” by the enigmatic Lonely Gimmick sounds like a meeting of lo-fi aesthetics and modern production methods. The lightly distorted synth, the minimal, warped, slightly clipping guitar sound and the layers of electronic percussion sounds for an effect like something that could have come out of 90s IDM, a collage of sounds and styles bridging decades of hip-hop, techno and early electronic post-punk. The music video shows a dark figure putting a seven inch on a Bush portable record player with figures intertwined sitting in the middle holding the disc down. The background is a dilapidated room in what could be a dilapidated part of the city. The visual parallels the sound of the song and finding the treasures in one’s sonic odds and ends and making it all move and dance in ways it hadn’t before. The video honestly has the same vibe as some of the stranger YouTube channels where something strange and mysterious but simple is going on and which stirs the imagination enough to draw you in but gives away little. Watch for yourself on YouTube and follow Lonely Gimmick at the links provided.
Alex Musatov layers various violin techniques, samples and a beautiful falsetto in the composition of “Deep Water.” Plucked violin traces the meter, legato violin establishes more than one drone and rapid bowing establishes an urgent dynamic later in the song—all showcasing Musatov’s imaginative command of the instrument and its possibilities. At times the violin sounds like a synth especially when it syncs perfectly with his vocal tones where the two sounds blend together in the headiest moments of the song. Another violin part all but replicates the speech of sea birds and dolphins in the background alongside the sample of flowing water. The overall effect is cinematic and a fascinating accompaniment to a song that appears to be about getting in over one’s head with ill-advised conceits and deception and being overwhelmed by the consequences thereof in the end. Listen to “Deep Water,” from Musatov’s debut solo album Songs From Another World, on Spotify and follow Alex Musatov at the links provided.
The title of Conrad Clifton’s “dreambutdontsleep” is a miniature poem on its own. It encapsulates well the deep mood of daring to imagine something more interesting and beautiful than whatever drudgery might be a big part of your life. But in that imagining doing it while awake and letting your dreams go further than the way your waking mind is so focused on what seems likely rather than what’s possible. The title is also a gentle urging to not wait, to not sleep on, making what’s in our hearts and dreams an integral part of our daily life rather than surrendering every waking moment to what is demanded of us on the behalf of people and forces that enrich only the economic and political elite. The track is a collage of lush drones, playful electronic percussion, tastefully arranged samples and vocals that could be your unconscious mind speaking through to your conscious half in a way that transcends linear thinking. The breezy and relentless flow of a song that takes time out amid bell tones glittering around to contemplate is a nice touch that reinforces the song’s message. Listen to “dreambutdontsleep” on Bandcamp and if you’re so inclined, listen to the rest of Conrad Clifton’s new album IS IT YOU Beat Tape out on Full Circle released February 28, 2020.