RateYourMusic Reviews Archive (2020)

Review: Cream / Devious

November 8, 2020 on RateYourMusic.
Release: Cream / Devious (Swan Meat, 2018)

Pale twin dolls with dress aprons stained dark, pushing through the surreal white-blue static of a computer monitor in a darkened room. Into our world. Into the world of meat and bones and blood. Unbound by our rules. Malevolent beings born in the in-betweens, no longer amused by the cyber-ether in which they've been trapped until now.

But they're finally out. Now they can play.

Artfully-constructed short form horror. A whole world in just 6 minutes of atmosphere.

Reviews: Robins Jean

September 21, 2020 on RateYourMusic.
Release: "Robins Jean" (dior5tar, 2019)

The most beautiful track to come out of both surge and crushed trap, angelic and ethereal and innocent even despite its sampled lyrical content. A gift from times we can't help but feel were simpler and more innocent now that our memories have softened and faded into a Blingee-sprinkled haze, passed through heaven's filter.

Review: Ye tietia wo so

August 12, 2020 on RateYourMusic.
Release: Version of Ye tietia wo so (Josh Laryea, year unknown) on Spotify from extremely bitrotted disc)

I came across Ye tietia wo so by chance, trying to document an emerging bitcrushed internet genre of mostly trap and trance that seems to have emerged in 2018. You can imagine my surprise and intrigue, then, seeing a 2013 (or 2011, if you trust Spotify) gospel release on Rush_43's ☆¥¥//cRu$h3d\\¥¥☆ list sandwiched between Rare RCB hexD.mp3 (the legend, the paragon of bitmyst) and Crushed. lovelyanimal's quick explanation (currently the only review on the page) honestly made me feel like an animal with how excitingly... bizarre it was even in concept. A super bitrotted gospel CD being put up on streaming, officially, and hard to find in its uncorrupted form?

It doesn't disappoint. Ye tietia wo so really is wildly interesting. I'm not going to say it's good -- it's fairly plain and mediocre. But I revel in its existence, even if I don't particularly enjoy it musically. And the plainness adds to it, I think. It's mysterious in how... mundane yet rare it is.

It looks and sounds like any other mediocre, obscure CD by someone that's supposedly a "household name" somewhere far away that you would find and pass up at any yard sale or small town Goodwill -- or even in your garage, even though no one remembers where it came from -- that would be bitrotted to hell and back. We've all seen and listened to this CD, even if it wasn't this CD.

But that experience doesn't exist much on streaming, and it's an experience that's mostly going away as CDs disappear from our lives. And so it becomes kind of nostalgic... And the way the distortion lifts over time, like a memory coming back from years ago, faintly, too...

I hope they never replace the official uploads with the original, non-distorted version (though I'm sure Mr. Laryea's apparently large Ghanian Christian fanbase would appreciate a normal upload somewhere, too). It captures something so unique that I think I'm going to miss from the age of physical media.

I just want it to still exist somewhere.

Review: Fun Tonight

July 12, 2020 on RateYourMusic.
Release: "Fun Tonight" (マクロスMACROSS 82-99, 2015)

Barely under three mintues of condensed pink and blue and purple summer party romance, of losing yourself in dancing in the moment and not even noticing how much your feet hurt walking home. "Fun Tonight" is future funk at its finest, at its most breathlessly about letting loose.

Review: cav///es

July 8, 2020 on RateYourMusic.
Release: "cav///es" (violet_117^^^, 2020)

Something truly transfixing about this single. Three minutes of the ethereal, the cyber-surreal. There's something angelic to it, something celestial buried underneath the bitcrushed beauty. A spiritual experience.

Review: Bonk (You Got Bonked) // Wrong Way

May 20, 2020 on RateYourMusic.
Release: "Bonk (You Got Bonked)" (Starship Amazing, 2011)

To my best friend,

Back when we were in high school, shit was hard. Fuck. Really, really hard. For both of us. But, god, and, it's because I had you in my life, there for me even when I became a hollowed out scared little animal, I made it out somehow. You did, too. I thank everything out there every day that you did. You are one of the most treasured people in my life. I would do anything for you.

Listen. I love "Bonk (You Got Bonked)" so much. I know, I know, Ruby Dagger is the best, and it's the first Starship Amazing thing I picked up from you, too. But "Bonk" reminds me of your high school creative projects, that passion and creativity you carried and still carry even with so much shit going on around you, and how strong you are even though you don't know it. It reminds me of the hours and hours of wonderful memories, of happiness, you've given me and how you make me smile and how you are part of what makes my life worth living and how lucky I am to still be your friend something like... God, six years later? Or something like that? Wow.

I love you a lot. I know it's weird to say that kinda thing sometimes so never feel pressure to say it back -- but you don't have to, anyway, because I know you love me, too. Even though I get really sappy sometimes.

I'm gonna hug you really tight when I get to see you next, okay?

Review: 初音ミクの消失 -Real and Repeat-

May 15, 2020 on RateYourMusic.
Release: Disappearance of Hatsune Miku -Real and Repeat- (cosMo@Bousou-P, 2018)

There's a lot to think about in The Disappearance of Hatsune Miku (初音ミクの消失 / THE END OF HATSUNE MIKU) -Real and Repeat-.

Let's start from the top. -Real and Repeat- sees many of cosMo's ∞ -InfinitY- series tracks brought together and remastered beautifully as some sort of 10th anniversary-ish rerelease. There was already a pretty hefty layer of meta to the original ∞ -InfinitY- series when it emerged over a decade ago: within the bounds of this fictional narrative constructed with Vocaloid, Miku grapples with her existence as a Vocaloid. Already in 2008, right in the middle (or even the beginning) of Vocaloid's golden age, Miku was lamenting her eventual abandonment. So releasing these tracks again, when Vocaloid has actually mostly fallen... That alone changes the contexts of these songs completely.

There's more, though. There are some new additions in the mix. Among the new tracks is "The Real Disappearance of Hatsune Miku" (リアル初音ミクの消失 / FAKE: THE END OF HATSUNE MIKU), a direct "sequel" of sorts to cosMo's legendary "The Disappearance of Hatsune Miku" and a commentary on the downfall of Vocaloid and, more broadly, the way we treat art as disposable. The song seems a little bitter -- and reasonably so. Should we be consuming art like this?

There's not just bitterness for the end of Vocaloid, though. The release also includes "0→∞への跳動" (Dynamic Leap from 0 → ∞), a new song based on the novelization that references and essentially acts as the culmination of the ∞ -InfinitY- series. Beyond the love and care apparent in this kind of release, in the NND upload description, cosMo says that, "Even so, I love Hatsune Miku." And there's "いままでも、このときも、これからも――" (Always Have, Always Are, Always Will), too, a song originally written for Vocalohistory, a huge compilation of some of the most important Miku tracks that details a nostalgic, long-standing friendship. Its inclusion on this album, too, says a lot to me.

So what's the point here? The Disappearance of Hatsune Miku -Real and Repeat- is an extremely interesting album, an encapsulation of and commentary on the passing of Vocaloid's golden age and the feelings that brings. (Even as the vocalsynth culture Vocaloid started continues on quietly, it looks very, very different, and though Hatsune Miku seems to be known on a meme level by pretty much everyone now, it's a bit removed from vocalsynth culture.) The way it engages with fans' nostalgia is fascinating, and, of course, the music is so good you can enjoy the whole thing without knowing about any of that. An excellent work that I'm willing to put in the work for an imported copy of. CosMo shines here, as always.

Review: 炉心融解

May 11, 2020 on RateYourMusic.
Release: "Meltdown" (iroha(sasaki), 2008)

The "golden age" of Vocaloid may be over, and many of its classic works have likely become little more than faded nostalgia for many of that era's now-grown fans. But there are a few gems that stand the test of time as excellent pieces of music (perhaps even better than we remember, since most of us were just kids enamored with the whole concept and less critical of the music). "Meltdown" is one of them.

Iroha(sasaki) demonstrates an absolute mastery of Rin's vocals here. He doesn't bring her to the levels of realism that might be found in other Vocaloid works, but I don't think that's what makes a vocalsynth producer or their work good, anyway. It's the emotion. Even if you don't understand her lyrics, her emotions are clear and palpable. You can feel how much her heart hurts. And that beautiful, lush, throbbing, anxious production underneath her voice, and the moments of melancholic tranquility, of reflection, of beauty...

I will always believe "Meltdown" is one of the best Vocaloid songs ever created, and that's something I can say firmly without any kind of "but also I have nostalgia so take it with a grain of salt" disclaimer attached. It's simply that good.

Review: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time - Vol. II: The Lost Tracks

April 29, 2020 on RateYourMusic.
Release: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time - Vol. II: The Lost Tracks (Koji Kondo, 1999)

At first glance, The Lost Tracks looks like an ordinary soundtrack selection. Most of it is! The first 20 tracks are straight from Ocarina of Time. So make of that what you will, since, if you're seeing this, I'm sure you already have an opinion on Ocarina of Time's music. But that's not really what I think is worth talking about here.

The last three tracks -- the real lost tracks, hidden away on an exclusive German CD -- are unique. "Hyrule (Princess 'Z' Trigger Mix)" and "Salias Lied (Spooky Groovy Remix)" are playful 90s house remixes, the first evoking the wonder of first venturing out onto Hyrule Field, and the second the curiosity of the Lost Woods. "Waldtempel (X-Dream Trance Version)," meanwhile, taps into the mysteries of the Forest Temple with hazy trance.

Honestly, these tracks are probably too outdated and cheesy for lots of folks. But even if you don't end up liking them, I think their existence is interesting enough to merit a listen. And, if you ask me, they're pretty fun, too, even without that allure.

Review: Zeldawave II // 近藤 浩治 // MM

April 27, 2020 on RateYourMusic.
Release: Zeldawave II // 近藤 浩治 // MM (Polygon Dream, 2020)

Whereas the first album taps into and accentuates the nostalgic beauty of Ocarina of Time's soundtrack, Zeldawave II moreso plays with the bittersweetness of Majora's Mask, with its mystery, with its grief and fear and hope and healing. Those complex feelings in the dreamy atmosphere, beautiful but sometimes a little painful... That's what makes this album special.

Review: Zeldawave // 近藤 浩治 // OOT

April 27, 2020 on RateYourMusic.
Release: Zeldawave // 近藤 浩治 // OOT (Polygon Dream, 2017)

I can't imagine there's better Zelda vaporwave out there. Building off of Ocarina of Time's soundtrack and tapping into the nostalgic power it carries for so many of us, Zeldawave is a truly beautiful, comforting album.

Review: Iku Akume Training Diary

April 6, 2020 on RateYourMusic.
Release: Iku Akume Training Diary (paraoka, 2008)

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Review: Prisoner of Hormones

March 30, 2020 on RateYourMusic.
Release: Prisoner of Hormones (Toxic Lipstick, 2006)

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Review: Aquarium

March 28, 2020 on RateYourMusic.
Release: Aquarium (Aqua, 1997)

As I get older, the complete dismissal of "cheesy" art makes less and less sense to me. There's usually something of worth underneath the tackyness of art written off this way; the bad acting in B-movies, for example, may be obscuring a well-written narrative, or their goofy effects artistic experimentation that's intriguing (and sometimes historically important) in its own right.

In music this "hidden treasure" usually manifests in a simpler way: pure, unfiltered expressions and celebrations of love and happiness, and plain old danceability. Don't interpret "simple" here as lesser, somehow -- actually, I think it taps into something more universal and puts it in easier reach than a lot of other art (cheesy or otherwise). We all like to have fun and feel love and dance a little sometimes. We all want that. We all need that, sometimes. It can become a little tiring after a while, but that's just how sweets are, right?

That's where Aquarium fits in. Most of the album is that cheesy, overly sincere, danceable bubblegum stuff we all crave deep down now and then. And it's just the right amount to avoid stomachache territory; the few slower tracks on the album are mediocre, but ultimately help balance things out without weighing down the rest of the release. If you need a pick-me-up and have a sweet tooth, this'll do the trick.

Review: Yufi

March 15, 2020 on RateYourMusic.
Release: Yufi (Yufi, 2020)

I saw Yufi live just a few nights ago at Pizza Planet, a little single-car garage in Eugene that mostly is played by acts the home's residents are friends with or find truly special. By the time they played, it was pretty late. I was starting to feel that kind of floaty tired happy show energy, and with the garage all closed up and full of vanilla fog and lit up rhythmically by a few bare bulbs, it really looked like we were all floating a little. Sounded like it, too. It was special.

Listening to their new self-titled again (I think they played the whole thing that night, just hours before it officially dropped) it still carries that feeling. While nothing will really be as special as hearing it live in that foggy little garage, the combination of electronic music's rhythm and sort of healing escapism and the emotionality of post-rock and screamo vocals creates a uniquely human, ethereal release. It's truly fascinating work, and even if it doesn't touch you quite as strongly as it does me, its 25 minute run is an interesting one.

Review: Cyberfunk

March 12, 2020 on RateYourMusic.
Release: Cyberfunk (VANTAGE, 2016)

I had never thought too much about the "future" part of future funk's name. Maybe it fits in some ways. City pop, synth funk, disco and more is pulled out of the past, out of 70s and 80s Japan, is slipped into a future decades later. The use of samples from the past, often with a disregard for the law, embodies the information age's entropic way of bringing all information closer and closer to freedom all time.

But regardless of what deeper meanings we can read into future funk's name, very little has a distinctly futuristic sound. Cyberfunk stands apart. It puts a lot more blatant "future" into the mix than I've heard in the genre before, despite ultimately being more future funk-infused house than pure future funk. Overlaying colder, darker house that brings to mind an equally cold, dark future with all the delicious trappings of future funk, in just 15 minutes Vantage captures the optimism we need to face the sometimes unbearably frightening, uncertain future and do something about it rather than giving up hope. I can't think of anything that better encapsulates the idealist's young adulthood in this moment than sampling and splicing a robotic explanation of mankind's complicated relationship with the future and a perfectly generic YouTube guy's perfectly generic game review, savoring funky beats while we still have time on this dark planet and want a minute to breathe and experience and live in between dystopic visions of the future.

Review: Stuck in a Rom-Com

January 22, 2021 on RateYourMusic.
Release: Stuck in a Rom-Com (D-Real [愛], 2019)

The beats in Stuck in a Rom-Com are solid and smooth, and that makes it even more unfortunate that everything piled on top of them is so subpar. With extended clips of anime monologue shoved in seemingly at random, off delivery of lines that include -- on several, unfortunate occasions -- serious, emotional uses of the word "waifu," and a track dedicated to the rapper pining for his "Geisha girl" (Jesus Christ, dude), most of this album falls very flat. It almost feels like the last two tracks got there by accident or some divine act of pity; though "Disco Night" features a short segment of the same unpleasant rapping the rest of the album suffers from, its driving future funky energy makes things right, and the spacey bliss of "Until Next Time..." is totally unfettered.

Review: My First Dungeon Synth Cassette

January 14, 2020 on RateYourMusic.
Release: My First Dungeon Synth Cassette (Baby Dino, 2020)

This is such a bizarre album because, despite its name, it is not dungeon synth at all. It does not evoke a setting, a theme. It does not contain more than a touch of synth, a trace you could only point to as dungeon synth inspired if you went into it knowing it's meant to be dungeon synth, and a very faint one, absent from the first half completely.

This release is children's music -- boring but ultimately fine children's music. But I can't say my interest isn't piqued. Is this just to cash in on the dungeon synth, and specifically comfy synth, "boom," which isn't really much of a boom at all outside of very niche microgenre standards? Why does this look and feel (and in the first half, sound) like Elsa and Spiderman haircut children's lullaby finger family autogenerated YouTube Kids content? What the hell. Who is Baby Dino. I hope they drop more.

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