Baroque – Waster Your Time EP
In the post-Justice world we live in, it’s tempting to file Baroque’s debut EP away with every other “electro-house” act that were bumper-to-bumper on Hype Machine two years ago. All the trademarks are here – window-shaking bass, cranked-up volume, a general crunchiness to the music that’s vaguely off-putting but still intoxicating. Just sit back and wait for the Boyz Noize remix, right?
Not quite. Baroque definitely loves the loud on this EP, but he does it well and makes sure to mix things up over Waste Your Time’s short run time. Opener “Breakaway” worms some funky electro-bass through a sea of skittering vocal samples (can you catch the voice J Dilla also sampled on his seminal Donuts?), managing to get across the same disorienting euphoria as his more ear-damaging numbers via a sample collage. Standout track “Feel So Good” finds Baroque making his most upbeat music, dropping acoustic guitar strums and the titular chorus into a woozy spin perfect for a night of $5 Red Bull-vodkas. Even the more abrasive tracks fit in unique elements – beneath the blown-sound-system bleats of “It Doesn’t Come Off” hides a perfectly good disco single, and I’m digging the little rumbles lurking under “Just Like That.” Waster Your Time manages to recall the halycon days of Ed Banger records (aka 2007) while also pushing things forward, adding up to the best Japanese electro album of 2010 thus far.
Galileo Galilei Hamanasu no Hana
The real life Galileo Galilei made countless astronomical discoveries and left a long-lasting impact on the world of science. The Japanese band Galileo Galilei have given the world a mini-album of so-so J-Rock. Sorry, but I couldn’t resist that piece of reviewer cake. Hamanasu no Hana isn’t so much a mediocre album as much as it has a few really mediocre songs on it. Mainly, the back-to-back misfire of “胸に手をあてて” and the particularly dreary (and way too long) dramafest “Answer” stand out. “フリーダム” more uptempo pace and two-person singing fare a little better, but this three-song stretch sinks Galileo Galilei’s first major label release.
It’s not all middle-of-the-road blandness though. The redeeming (or, depending on your perspective, most frustrating) quality of Hamanasu no Hana are the flashes of great music littered throughout. The title track adds a little extra bump via busier guitar work and some clever background inclusions that give this song depth the next three tracks lack. “ロックスター” ups the beat, giving the drums added emphasis as the song builds up to the mini-album’s best chorus. The highlight, tellingly enough, comes from an instrumental – “Ч・♂.Ｐ’s” ren-fair guitars aren’t restricted by the predictable layout marring the other tracks on Hamanasu no Hana, Galileo Galilei free to drift away in whatever direction they want. This freedom allows the band to bust out all sorts of ideas they couldn’t get away with before. Overall, this mini-album sags, but the potential hinted at keeps hopes for this band bright.
Fizzy Dino Pop Hello Party! Single
Despite this particular piece of music breaking two of this blog’s personal rules – this is far from new having come out at the very end of 2009, and has a very faint connection to Japan as Fizzy Dino Pop are based out of Austin – I’m including this in for a few reasons. Fizzy Dino Pop seem to be lopped into the chillwave movement due to their video-game-evoking sound and the whole Austin thing (being Neon Indian’s favorite band on MySpace doesn’t help deflect the image any). Ignore the 80s stuff and let’s focus on the fact Fizzy Dino Pop are the only act, indie or otherwise, actively taking cues from J-Pop. They list Capsule/Perfume main man Yasutaka Nakata as an inspiration, and it shows through in their slightly manipulated vocals and general super danceability.
It would all be cute novelty if the three songs here weren’t so damn catchy. Lead singer Yuria Hashimoto – from Kyoto, making the Japan connection a little stronger – adds the missing piece to Avery Williamson’s bobbling beats (the Fizzy Dino Pop EP featured all sorts of great NES-ish noises, but put screaming sorta like Xiu Xiu’s over them). These songs drip neon – they are packed to the gills with sounds but, like the best Perfume tracks, allow every element a chance to shine. “Electric Future” dazzles with Hashimoto’s choppy singing first, but soon throws the beat into the spotlight. Like the best Nakata productions, the vocals on Fizzy Dino Pop’s songs become just another layer of sheen – don’t expect any heady thoughts or even to understand half the things being said (“Hello Party!”), but expect it to sound good. If most chillwave artists are looking for some sort of retreat, Fizzy Dino Pop prefer to get out there and just dance away.
Added bonus – this is a free download.