In the imperialist arms race between the Korean Wave and Cool Japan, let’s not pull any punches: J-pop has the sheer size advantage of any all-inclusive infantry. Over the years, the Japanese charts have made room for everything from electronic pioneers to imaginary rock to soulful noise pop. But in terms of marshalling virtuoso weirdness into a standardized (and internationally scalable) contemporary pop format, Korea has claimed that territory since they discovered it. Even with Nakata-produced powerhouses like Kyary and Perfume, there’s just no way touching a “Fantastic Baby” or “FxxK U” in a mainstream dreamland made of them.
SKY-HI’s “Limo,” then, comes as a pleasant surprise. With the help of producer Broken Haze, the 28-year-old idol – a member of Japanese boy band AAA, who wrote the music and lyrics here – turns out a tidy pop single that synthesizes a classic Rustie vocal barrage, pizzicato synths a la Air France, a pre-chorus drumline fit for f(x), and the type of heavy, dry Nakata synths that were such a formative influence on Passion Pit and PC Music both. There’s even a duple-meter trap ballad outro! They’ve still got something left to learn – “Limo” is at least one chorus too long – but it’s an encouraging start to 2015. The fact that his label Avex even let this thing reach YouTube progress itself.
• SKI-HI: http://avex.jp/skyhi/index.php
F.Ampism is the Smerdyakov branch on the Les Baxter family tree, a branch extending into the edges of exotica, where the jungle is unmade and overgrown, 1970s bush, a different sort of rainforest than David Tudor imagined. Exotica as a function becomes unrecognizable. Nor is it recognizable as a genre. Exotica becomes a feeling lost amid small stinging creatures, unpredictable downpour, whorls of vegetation, and numerous sets of teeth that nibble at nearly every inch, whose bite marks specify where the red and green lights ought to be stashed.
New start-ups with borrowed doo-wop signs pop up along the strip. Their arrows advertise access to the ocean at an affordable price. Reaching the shore, further advertisements and promotional deals micromanage the tourists’ wallets. Tourists pay the fee to become divers for a day, divers who attack the mouths of lushes, leaving hunks of tuna and gashes in their cheeks.
The ocean is a punchbowl filled with Shark Attack! and plankton. It has a bite on one end and an eraser on the other. The tourists wake up, in the morning of a long gin sunrise, pinned under headstones, nude and mossy, while some guy with frosted hair and sunglasses makes his rounds, shoving microphones in their faces.
The White Room
Originally included as the last track on on 3:33’s In The Middle of Infinity CD, The White Room was once a 41-minute, 10-second “album within an album.” A conceptual and sonic bridge to the Bicameral Brain double-disc, The White Room has always taken on a dichotomous character, being initially described as “Inhabited by two mysterious figures,” and a place that “implodes and expands unboundedly in every direction upon being perceived.” Considering this, it makes sense for 3:33 to re-imagine the room on cassette (edition of 90 available here), a two-sided medium perfectly suited to convey the ambient drone of negative space.
In streaming sides A and B below, you might notice that the recording now only adds up to 40 minutes and 26 seconds, which begs the question, “What happened to the other 44 seconds?” While we can’t know for sure, we might guess that this lapse was lost in the mouth of madness, a risk one runs when “splitting the mind” into twin peaks of sur/reality.
“Paper Ship on a Paper Sea”
My mind is constantly down to be atmospherically whisked away by music. Always. Constantly. Like, it’s the easiest hobby in the world to just click play and let the mood loose. Then floats in a “Paper Ship on a Paper Sea,” the newest video for a tune off Paw Paw’s newest EP on Fire Talk Records entitled, StarGazer. And as the title of the release implies, the video for and music airing the mystique of “Paper Ship on a Paper Sea” are together a combine jaunt through the forest of your mind, waiting for a break in foliage to witness the majesty of sky. Almost kraut, Paw Paw draws the line between jam worship and complete synthesia, falling to the whim of collective musical appeal bowing to the color of fluid sound.
Limited to only 50, StarGazer EP got Fire Talk Records on a shipping frenzy in preparation of March 17th, when these new Paw Paw jams drop. Tiddle on some winks with “Paper Ship on a Paper Sea” and let your creativity juices flow:
“Don’t Be Slow”/ “Backpack People”
Chris Weisman is one of the few folks who manages to turn the most dissonant music into some of the most invitingly warm folk pop out there. There’s an overwhelmingly humble intimacy to his spare 4-track recordings that masks the dense harmonic progressions and angular melodies that inform so much of his music. Instead of calling more attention to the strangeness of his music over time, Weisman has instead gradually stripped away all but the absolute bare bones of his music over his last few albums and the recent tunes from his forthcoming Holy Life That’s Coming on NNA Tapes reveal his songs in their most minimal forms yet. Both “Don’t Be Slow” and “Backpack People” re-imagine singer/songwriter pop with the tonality of 20th century composers like Charles Ives. The fact that Weisman accomplishes this with little more than double tracked acoustic guitar and voice is a testament to his wildly inventive approach to minimalistic folk.
Holy Life That’s Coming is out via on February 26th. You can listen to “Don’t Be Slow” and “Backpack People” below:
“Don’t Be Slow”
• NNA Tapes http://www.nnatapes.com