July 19, 2021 on RateYourMusic.
Release: PSY2K (Meganeko x Shirobon, 2021)
PSY2K has immediately become one of my favorite releases of the year, combining the ethereal, atmospheric hardcore and trance of the y2k revival with dark and abrasive cyberpunk psytrance and complextro. I lose myself in every little detail in this gem, in the beautiful but mysterious and urgent future they build, in the spaces where utopia and dystopia meet in sound.
June 8, 2021 on RateYourMusic.
Release: ななみっくす! -NanaMix- (Nanahira, 2012)
When I first put on ななみっくす! -NanaMix-, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that particular charming, slightly-robotic, slightly-blocky vocalsynth timbre over Nanahira's iconic voice. Somehow I had never stumbled across Nana Haruka, the UTAU voiced by the queen of modern moe-denpa. What a fun way to find out! But I was even more delighted when Nanahira's natural vocals kicked in to sing along with Nana. Collabing with your UTAU is such a fun concept, especially for an already-fun little denpa EP, and the slight differences in timbre create such cool textures (and highlight the unique, intriguing way the voicebank creation process slightly alters the character of a vocal no matter how faithfully performed its samples are). Such a treat.
May 30, 2021 on RateYourMusic.
Release: Hot in Pursuit (Hot in Pursuit, 2008)
The packaging for Hot in Pursuit's self-titled is insane. It looks like it came directly off 2000s Newgrounds, like the white dudes whose stiff Mario and Luigi cosplay photos are superimposed over a Mario level in that slightly edgy but still playful "what if Mario was fucked up...??" style were early YouTuber parody rappers trying to tap into into Smosh's success. Anyway most of this is very pessimistic, moody Christian rap that laments the horrific violence of our world, such as gang violence and child sexual abuse, with the occasional Super Mario Bros. jingle thrown in for good measure so like
May 6, 2021 on RateYourMusic.
Release: Chocolate Hearts and Stag Beetles (AERO GROS M, 2021)
Chocolate Hearts and Stag Beetles fascinates me. Aero Gros M insists that it was meant to be satire, criticizing the hexd phenomenon as unoriginal and bad. But the lyrics fail to convey that critique, or even hint at their intended subject matter -- they are opaque and intricately abstract. (The line "72 virgins and they all listen to shoegaze" is pretty funny knowing that she meant to mock RateYourMusic users in "lovesliescrushing," though.) In the absence of textual satire, parody through production is all that's left -- and yet, the album fails here too because it's... really good? It's really fun and beautiful and refreshing. I came away from the album thinking not that hexd was unoriginal and bad, but that the style has so much potential in the right hands.
April 18, 2021 on RateYourMusic.
Release: "Secret Police" (BuriruP, 2010)
The relentless drums, defiant vocals, complex, delicious blend of synthesizers and growling, sometimes virtuosic and desperately-rebellious, guitar in the heart-pounding, dystopic "Secret Police" keep it among the best vocalsynth culture has to offer, even more than a decade since its release.
April 8, 2021 on RateYourMusic.
Release: How I Wish You Were Here (Origami Girl, 2018)
A delicately lovely world of ice and crystal. A thousand untouched icicles and outcroppings of crystal are transformed and stylized into ethereal sound in glassy synths, cold rain falling just beyond the glittering mouth of a cave only you can know. There is snow crunching underfoot and you can still hear the rain falling outside even as you walk deeper, entranced, but these impossibilities feel unimportant. You have found something truly special. This is the kind of place Origami Girl's How I Wish You Were Here takes you, just for a short while.
April 6, 2021 on RateYourMusic.
Release: Vierge (Ascendant Vierge, 2020)
I've found myself depressed much of the past few weeks. What felt like a cataclysmic breakup after a short-lived but passionate relationship left me sobbing miserable in my (other) partner's arms for a week and a half, and the quieter kind of depressed, the watching-paint-dry kind, the turning-into-a-zombie kind, for the weeks after.
I found myself looping most of Danny L. Harle's discography, losing myself in the sweet and the bittersweet and the outright melancholy of love and sex in his tactile worlds, his amalgamations of pop and club music. "In My Dreams." "Blue Angel." Broken Flowers. Most of all, 1UL EP. Something about the losing-yourself of dance music tinged with that ache. God, that ache.
Ascendant Vierge's Vierge has something of the same feeling to it. Combining gothic sensibilities with trance and hardcore, it's a uniquely dark, ethereal, beautiful EP. Restrained by its moodiness but still indulgent. Giving you the room to both feel that pain and to let it breathe for just a little bit. To lose yourself in both the ache and a moment of relief. To just feel for a little while.
March 14, 2021 on RateYourMusic.
Release: "Chug Jug With You" (Leviathan, 2018)
I'm not going to pretend this song is good, but it makes me smile. I love this kid's sincere, goofy expression of having fun with friends in a silly video game. Simple sentimental fun, yknow?
March 11, 2021 on RateYourMusic.
Release: "Faint" (Himera, 2021)
And as long as you hold my wings / I'll sit quietly, / promise.
As delicate as the trust of loving again after so long. As breathless as the ache of being hurt again. A moment so unreal it feels almost weightless.
February 21, 2021 on RateYourMusic.
Release: Voyage (Calum Bowen, 2021)
Voyage is a pleasant, sentimental little album, where we see Calum Bowen's usually springy, playful style subdued, distilled (mostly) into melancholic, classical-influenced ambient. It's different from everything else the British video game composer and experimental pop artist (you may know him as bo en) has done so far, and the result is comfortable, solid.
The tracks that are largely divorced from his usual style are good! They're pretty and atmospheric and just... nice. But then there are the special moments of this album, the tracks where his signature eclectic, curious sound palette and that very specific kind of string-playing slips in. And that's what excites me most about this work -- getting to hear Bowen's singular sound being used in such a different context, doing such different work, and finding that it's still beautiful.
January 6, 2021 on RateYourMusic.
Release: NEO420KEI (C/id, 2021)
⭒☆-NEO420KEI-☆⭒ eschews the hip hop, electronic dance music and ambient forms hexd usually takes, instead bitcrushing sunny Shibuya-kei. The result isn't just interesting -- it's also extremely fun! Just the right amount of detail left uncrushed to feel the summer sun. Just the right of amount of audio-pixelation to add a blocky bounce and a unique playfulness. A nice little mix to make you smile.
Full disclosure, I'm friends with the person that made this :)
January 5, 2021 on RateYourMusic.
Release: Zelda 3: The Light World (The Amazing BrandO, 2012)
I gave Zelda 3: The Light World a shot because it was a Zelda rock opera, an idea I love and have yet to see pulled off properly -- one that was unfortunately not executed well here, either. The lyrics just drip with unclever vulgarity and misogyny and the blatant mischaracterization of Link as a self-centered, arrogant, unbearably horny prick you can find in any other early-2010s Zelda rock or rap track with lyrics. It's to be expected, I guess, but still a bummer. That said, it turns out some of the instrumental tracks are very good when you listen to them without the crude drivel they're buried under! And there's one brief, heavenly twist at the end of the rock opera's third episode, "The Chosen One." The vocalist suddenly switches to The Penguins' "Earth Angel," crooning over that thick layer of electric bass and guitar and that simple, almost-delicate piano loop of the Kakariko theme in a moment of sweet, sentimental bliss, rising up out of the trashiness around it for a minute. A dumpster dive of a listen, for sure, but at least one with some neat trinkets in the muck.