We’ve been exploring the back catalogs of several little-known bedroom synthwave artists lately, and we found an old release by The Pillars of Creation yesterday that we’d like to shine a light on today. The Soft Sound EP was released by Chicago’s Marc Zielinski (The Pillars of Creation) to little to no acclaim just over two years ago, due only really to the bite-size niche market that consumes these kinds of warped lo-fi synth jams. The track at the tail end of the four-track EP, “Gloom”, samples Reflex’s proto-chillwave “Night Jam A” as its base melody, building upon it with layers and layers of melted loops and whirling lead synth tracks. All in all, the rework alters the original tune enough to merit its own acclaim, creating a new beast out of Reflex’s seminal pre-Neon Indian synth track. Come for the funky key-bass and stay for the splashy, smeary surround sound synesthesiæ brought on by The Pillars of Creation’s notable 2011 song “Gloom”, which is anything but morose in tone. Do tha right thing, and grab a free MP3 download of this oft-overlooked jam gem, and then do some traveling into the deep space that is The Pillars’ repertoire of self-released full-lengths and EP’s.
This jam came out two years ago. Considering our penchant for minimalism, you would have thought we would have posted it before, but nope. That is an error we now intend to remedy. Despite the myriad club, house, ambient, and IDM artists out there creating simple build-and-release-based loops, very rarely does one stumble upon an artist or tune that creates a distinctly memorable moment with all of the subtlety that one would expect out of that brand of electronic music. With Moomin’s “You”, a warm, gentle desperation is created, built, and sustained over the course of nearly seven minutes with nothing but ambling rhythm synth loops, four-on-the-floor deep house beats, and a persistent digital whine. That is literally the entirety of the track, but you have to hear it to believe it. Named for the fairy tale characters featured in Swedish-Finn artist Tove Jansson’s children’s books, Berlin’s Moomin manages to tenderly captivate while remaining perfectly energetic and danceable without getting boring at all (at least, in our opinion). Along with greats like The Field and The Sight Below, what makes his minimalistic electronic music so impressive is that so much can be built from so little, and with 2011’s “You”, Moomin succeeds. So, despite the age of this song, do tha right thing, and grab a free MP3 download after the jump. Afterwards, you can purchase The Story About You via Amazon, iTunes, or from Smallville Records.
AMDiscs is a bedroom record label known (along with Beer on the Rug and Fortune 500) for its expanding portfolio of artists and releases in the vaporwave vein. Featured on AMDiscs’ 2013 compilation, this particular jam by Saint Pepsi is of course no exception to that generalization. Saint Pepsi seems to be the new flavor of the month, especially among followers of that incredibly weird but incredibly chill sounding microgenre of experimental electronic music. “Balancing Towers” is essentially just chopped and screwed early 80’s synth-funk, but the effect on the subconscious that this increasingly popular slice of VHS-wave has is definitely noteworthy. Where witch house once turned culture on its head with its chopped and screwed covers of pop hits, the vaporwave vibe of artists like Miami Vice and Vektroid crafts a particularly sterile retro-futuristic vision. With “Balancing Towers”, Saint Pepsi simultaneously reminds us of the duality of high class living with vintage bassline, glittering electric piano, and soulful musing. Despite the nostalgic smell of success present in the slow jam, one is unable to shake the sneaking feeling that’s all just a pixelated house of cards, waiting to crash like a cocaine-fueled stock market bought and sold exclusively by labor saving devices. Do tha right thing, and grab a free MP3 download of Saint Pepsi’s smooth retro track “Balancing Towers”. Afterwards, check out the rest of his repertoire, or definitely check out AMDiscs’ 2013 playlist for more similar songs.
Synesthesiæ Films is not only our single favorite Youtube channel, but is also the creator of the official music videos for many of our favorite artists. Utilizing retro found footage and heavy visual editing, Synesthesiæ Films crafts nostalgic video montages for the vintage vibes purveyed by acts like 18 Carat Affair, Holy Other, Klockhaus, and many more. Periodically, they’ll put together a very short “station ID”, melding a choice cut from some lucky VHS-wave artist with washed out footage or decades old vector art. Do tha right thing, and enjoy these teasers created by Synesthesiæ Films, and then subscribe to their Youtube channel for more creative visual insight into the best of today’s electronic acts. You can even download their podcast mixtapes, deemed “Colourcasts”, at their Soundcloud page.
R&B-infused glo-fi superbeing Giraffage churned out a quick rework of Owl Eyes’ “Closure” the other day, complete with all the fringe benefits one might expect from the San Franciscan producer. Free to download, the jam gives a hazy, magic hour vibe to the original composition by heavily appropriating the eloquent howls of today’s chopped and screwed musical movement. Notably toward the end of Giraffage’s remix of “Closure”, Brooke Addamo’s soulful vocals, the retro guitar, and sensual R&B time keeping fade into the background as Charlie Yin (Giraffage) slows that shit down, turning the last bit of the tune into a haunting Chris D’eon-esque concentration on the titular refrain. Do tha right thing, and grab a free MP3 download of Giraffage’s dreamtrap improvement on Owl Eyes’ Australian electro-pop single “Closure”. Afterwards, check out the original version of the track, and definitely grab a copy of Giraffage’s latest full-length, Needs, as well.
Capo Blanco kicks fucking ass. Our favorite Russian VHS-waver brings energy and sass to the table with every single last little thing that he releases. The slow tempo and sparse analog synth sections in February’s “O’Love” are a match made in heaven with the peaking reverb-soaked percussion and the retro bassline. This tune is a wordless concentration on the core makeup of those funk, boogie, and soul jams of times past; a chopped and screwed italo-disco track, if you will. Come for the vintage electric kickdrumming, and stay for the warped atmospheric synth tracks towards the ambient midsection. We truly believe that Aidar Salihoff (Capo Blanco) is one of the best artists in this subgenre, and we hope that he never stops making music. Do tha right thing, and grab a free MP3 download of “O’Love”, by Capo Blanco, and soak in the sweet summer vibez today.
After hearing Heathered Pearls’ hypnotic avión remix of Diana’s “Born Again”, we were curious about the quality of last Summer’s original composition. Quite frankly, we’re fast fans. You know how smooth and dreamlike School of Seven Bells’ jams used to be? Then one of the sisters quit, they got signed on to Vagrant Records, and now their sound is mediocre at best. With “Born Again”, that lucid dreaming Balearic vibe is present in full force, and it sounds a bit like what we imagine School of Seven Bells would resemble today if they hadn’t gone to shit. A churning, bubbling layer of synth sounds underscore a selection of retro basslines, analog synth tracks, and exotic samples. In “Born Again”, that smooth late 80’s mood music style that comprises the lion’s share of VHS-wave tunes is the backing instrumentation for a sensible, radio-friendly chillwave song with strong, clear female vocals. Do tha right thing, and grab a free MP3 download of the Toronto foursome’s experimental pop hit “Born Again” below, and then check out Heathered Pearls’ powerful ambient rework afterwards.
Phaseone needs to stop releasing snippets of his upcoming album If I Tell U, which is due out May 7th via Williams Street Records. Brooklyn’s Andrew Jernigan (Phaseone) really knows how to build that anticipation, because what he’s putting out is fuuuuucking good. After “Blood Spirit I” and “Hunter” were purposely leaked, two further jams from the release showed up on XLR8R on Thursday, “Arsenal Magnolia” and “Bianca”, the latter of which is posted above. A thick, dark deep house tune featuring the hazy crooning of Alessio Natalizia (Banjo or Freakout), “Bianca” is easily the stronger track. Layer after layer of impermeable atmospheric synth tracks pile sparsely one upon the other, interrupted only slightly by a chilling underground hip-hop-esque synth lead and a bleary pitch-shifted moan. Perfect for fans of the droning atmospherics of Foxes in Fiction, the urban witchiness of Friendzone, or the haunting house of Holy Other. Do tha right thing, and preorder here, or mark your calendars for May 7th, and hope that Williams Street Records will charge us a reasonable price for Phaseone’s If I Tell U, because we will pay whatever they ask.
Considering the official release date of this album is February 18, 1990, but the opening track “199X” didn’t appear on Soundcloud until about four months ago, all bets are off as to when </3 hit the airwaves. After falling in love with Dreams West’s self-titled debut, we frequently revisited his spheres of influence in hopes of new material, and this LP just appeared one day, cohesively comprised of material created throughout the past couple of years. Some of the tracks seem to have been released as stand alone singles before Dreams West even came out in 2011. Your favorite producer’s least favorite producer is slowly but surely creating again, but not without this first releasing this beautiful montage of the many shades and facets of his work since the inception of Dreams West. Kicking off with a sprawling Chuck Person-esque mashup of found foreign sound, retro samples, and a wall-of-sound, “199X”, while easily the most experimental jam on </3, really prepares the listener for the coming onslaught of varying vintage sound palettes. Segueing perfectly into the retro Balearic vibe of “Disengage”, one of Dreams West’s better known singles, the album remains steadfastly lo-fi and mid-tempo, yet punchy and user-friendly throughout. Its predominant tone is chopped and screwed funk, boogie, and soul samples from the early to mid-80’s, with the occasional detour into ambient analog synth music and early 90’s dance, the above featured collaboration with Tokyo Hands being an excellent example of that. That title track is easily the strongest song on the release, being a thick colloidal mixture of tape reel-based synthwave and awful 90’s techno haze. It almost sounds like something that Pictureplane may have secretly engineered. “Battery View” and “Sweating”, both being short vignettes, add facets of warped, looped audio glaze and pitch-shifted vocal sampling to the heavily edited VHS-wave experience. “Mind Over MIDI” regresses pleasantly to that sunny, beachside turn of the decade tone, utilizing the synth leads and reverberating toms that truly distinguish the artist from his brethren. At the end of the colorful, exotic journey, the closing track channels Blade Runner- and Apocalypse Now-era Tangerine Dream with an eerie beatless synth symphony of space age triumph and a deep sense of impending doom. If you haven’t already heard the lion’s share of Dreams West’s newer full-length </3, do tha right thing and grab a download of the album at his Bandcamp page. He’s not asking anything for what we consider a fun-filled, nostalgic cinematic excursion, so we think you really ought to do him a solid one and at least pay what you would if you found it at a shop on record day. If you are already well acquainted with the album, then join us in begging Raleigh, North Carolina’s cassette obsessed beatmaker for another one, and soon!
Joel Ford and Daniel Lopatin, when not releasing original compositions of the smeared neon variety, are apparently given to the odd mixtape. The ultra rare cassette tape run of 2010’s Spend the Night With…Games is a gargantuan collection of some of the best of the best in 80’s and early 90’s funk, boogie, soul, and R&B, most of which is only edited in very minor ways. A couple of the jams are looped or have the BPM turned down a bit, but only in ways that intensify the vibe in the original version. The Curatorial Club mixtape is nearly two hours long, and there’s not a chance in hell you’ll ever get a hard copy, so we recommend you use it as a guide for the highlights of that scene in that favorite era of ours. Here are some of favorite cuts:
THE COOL NOTES - “SPEND THE NIGHT” (1985)
ALAN SHEARER - “SONS OF THE SNAKE” (1985)
THE MANHATTANS - “CRAZY” (1983)
LOOSE ENDS - “HANGIN’ ON A STRING (CONTEMPLATING)” (1985)