Geez, Hotel Mexico most really really have worn out their copy of Before Today because they’ve full-on embraced the Ariel Pink sound on the teaser for a new song above. The track, named “Dear Les Friends,” is “coming soon” but I can already guarantee you every one who writes about it will bust out the obvious “Bright Lit Blue Skies” comparison.
Two separate articles about 2009′s favorite stoner genre chillwave appeared in the Japanese media this past weekend, all but guaranteeing a new crop of Japan-based artists staying inside and sampling Italian disco records. English publication The Japan Times ran a primer about the genre, featuring interviews with Ducktails and Memory Tapes. It’s a solid enough introduction, but the real “must read” comes in the form of the paper’s profile of Japan’s only known chillwave group at the moment Hotel Mexico. It’s a nice read that gives some much-deserved attention to a very promising young group.
Elsewhere, glossy magazine Snoozer featured an article about “chillwave/glo-fi” in their latest issue (it has Klaxons on the cover). I can’t read the article…all Japanese…but I really wish I could because some of the bands they consider “chillwave” seem sorta baffling. Besides the usual suspects of Best Coast and Toro Y Moi, they also mention…Nite Jewel? Lemonade? BEACH HOUSE????? The first two might fall into the chill-fold despite existing long before the term was coined, but Beach House being included seems just bizarre. Just because they are called Beach House doesn’t mean they just write songs about smoking weed on the beach. I’m sure it’s a good enough intro article (which also mentions Hotel Mexico), but it falls for the same trap that made “chillwave” such an annoying prospect back in 2009…nobody knows what “chillwave” actually sounds like. Delorean doesn’t sound like Ducktails who doesn’t sound like Neon Indian who doesn’t sound like Saint Etienne (beating chillwave by two decades man). Let’s just clear this up now…”chillwave” sounds like the song you hear at the start of this clip but more introverted.
Seriously though, listen to Hotel Mexico, they sound great.
This day was bound to happen…I present to you the first Japanese band worthy of being deemed “chillwave.” Hotel Mexico (claiming to be from “Mexico, Japan” which I would just love to visit) take their cues from glo-fi godfather Ariel Pink, their music recalling some long-lost decade via less-than-ideal recording conditions. Whereas Mr. Pink dolls out AM-pop gold underneath his fuzzy production, Hotel Mexico produce something a bit more formless. Check the sunbath of “Its Twinkle,” those waterfall like synths cascading down before parting way for some muffled singing. Everything builds before an adventure-drum busts through and the song becomes a warm mix of electronics and shapeless singing. “Its Twinkle” borrows just as many cues from Animal Collective as from Toro Y Moi (if you could redo Merriweather Post Pavillion to make it even more blunted back, this song would find a way on), and ends up sounding beautiful because of it. “G.I.R.L” finds Hotel Mexico’s lo-fi technique used in a more structured setting, but “Starling, Tiger, Fox” blows it out of the water. Adopting an almost funk-music frame, Hotel Mexico mix glitzy synths with Bee-Gees wailing, upping the ante with a string section midway through. It’s the bands most stereotypically “chillwave” song, but the clearly going-for-nostalgia elements come together so well being connected to a “hip” subgenere shouldn’t take anything away from it. All three of these songs come off the group’s latest EP cassette (again, another reason) and you can listen to them all here.
Would you really blame me if I initially wrote off The Beaches for being another “makes great summer music” band? I’m currently trying to get my hands on an album by Surfer Blood, which will join the likes of Wavves, Best Coast and The Parasails. Not to mention countless songs about fun in the sun. Great stuff, yes, but I’m burnt out on this “not at the beach beach music” and am welcoming the winter with open arms and Sunn O))) songs.
The Beaches definitely make music best suited for the summer, but it’s a far cry from the “chill-glo” scene of 2009. This group plays…hip-hop inspired latin grooves? Yeah, pretty much, but not like Reggaeton. This stuff is a bit less hectic – “Hi Heel” moves at a slower-dance pace, with sandpaper synths adding a layer of unease to the proceedings. Sunny, but also with some bite. “Furati” (video below) furthers the slightly off-kilter latin sound, the nervous background noises lurking beneath the percussion while the lead singer’s voice gets slightly modified on the verses. Ultimately just a great dance track, but with enough going on in the back to spin away from the club, and enough aggression to make it as unchill as a summer song can be. They get bonus points for that.
Electro-duo Fizzy Dino Pop doesn’t technically hail from Japan (they come from Austin, Texas), but MySpace indicates one of them at least hails from Kyoto and their sound definitely shares a lot of similarities with the Land of the Rising Sun’s pop scene, specifically one teched-out group of girls. A listen over the group’s music available at MySpace reveals that at their best Fizzy Dino Pop sound like a slightly lower budget Perfume tracks, especially the dancey bliss out “Electric Future.” The other available tunes lean towards the “chill-wave” sound of fellow Texan Neon Indian, but still end up sounding awesome. Keep an eye on these two.