Tag Archives: Eel

New EeL: “Peekaboo”

What separates the 2012 incarnations manic noisemakers Polysics and EeL? Both made vital albums of spazzy rock in the early 2000’s, unpredictable stuff that kept you focused on the noises bam-powing into your headphones. Both acts also pretty much do the same thing now as they did in 2004. Yet whereas, at some point, Polysics unchanging love of Devo’s discography changed from thrilling appreciation to “oh, Polysics put out another album…hmm yeah I’ll pass,” EeL’s jittery blend of electro-powered cuteness remains captivating today. “Peekaboo” features the hallmarks of EeL’s sound – drum ‘n’ bass percussion, no-concern-for-anything charge forward, steel drums at the end – but it captivates because every song EeL releases has the potential to spin off into a new dimension mid song (where Polysics have become, well, predictable). “Peekaboo” is catchy, sugar-laced pop full of fun little details – catch the cartoon “sproing” sound effect, for one, or the various little sonic twists and turns – that doesn’t take EeL towards any new sonic direction, but she doesn’t need to because her entire style is built around controlled chaos. Listen below.

EeL Covers Ace Of Base: “All That She Wants”

In which pop-spazz EeL looks at all the people disappointed in the forced zaniness of last year’s For Common People by giving them something truly zany and out of nowhere, a cover of “All That She Wants.” OK, she probably didn’t pay any attention to the folks let down by her last album, but her take on one of Ace Of Base’s most popular tunes restores faith. It follows up her late-2011 single “Fuwafuwa Pink Jellyfishes Floating In The Sky,” which also saw EeL edging back towards a more enjoyable craziness. Her version of “All That She Wants” finds EeL singing the words in a way barely different from the original, but with the background gone wild. The music jumps from drum-n-bass inspired jittering to steel-drum accented portions back to the jittering. This is vintage EeL, jumping between aggressive and melodic segments but in such a way it still feels like a cohesive song. Watch the video below.

Christmas Music Round-Up: Love And Hates, Twee Grrrls Club, Cubismo Grafico, EeL

It’s Christmas Eve in Japan, and a handful of artists are getting into the spirit with special sonic holiday gifts or mixes. Rap-happy duo Love And Hates celebrate the most wonderful time of the year in typical Love And Hates fashion – by covering a song called “I Wanna Kill.” To their credit, they add plenty of bells and yule-tide glee to the Crocodiles tune, making this track seem at least a little Christmasey. Download it for free here, or listen below.

Yuppa and Moe of Love And Hates also shared some of their favorite twee-leaning Christmas tunes over at the Twee Grrrls Club blog, along with the other members of the club. Check that out here. Member Sumire also made a holiday mix, which you can listen to hear.

Sticking in Tokyo, Cubismo Grafico put together a special collection of cover songs from a variety of artists. You can download this special collection here for free.

Last, pop spazz EeL thanks everyone who supported her over this year with a free song entitled “Snow World Under The White Moon.” It’s very nice. Get it here, and also trip out to the Rudolph footage playing in the background.

Happy holiday from Make Believe Melodies, may it be great for you! Thank you for reading.

For All People: Milch Of Source

Ryoma Maeda, working under the name Milch Of Source, has worked as the producer on scatter-brained-pop artist EeL’s latest albums. On one end of the spectrum, he contributed to the mess that was her 2011 album For Common People, a collection of songs spinning around like a tea cup ride for no reason other than to make people feel dizzy. Yet he also produced EeL’s Little Prince, rapid-fire pop done right, and one of my favorite Japanese albums ever (quick aside: what separates Little Prince from For Common People ends up being the variety of tracks – her newest album lacks anything like the reflective “No Heart” or the headphone-skittering “A Beloved Child.” Milch Of Source does those sort of restrained songs just as well as the drum ‘n’ bass madness). For that alone, he’s always going to grab my ear attention, and I’m a man of my word after seeing he released a solo album.

Outsider Musics In My Life gathers tracks from all over his career and plunks them down into one space, a space potentially only available via HearJapan. Well, or this place for Japanese speakers. From what I’ve heard, this sounds a lot like the manic-goodness of EeL’s best stuff, almost violent breakbeats elbow-dropping onto cutesy electronic sounds with all sorts of brain-bending touches. Take first track “It’s A Clumsily Sunset,” which initially sounds like how cotton candy tastes before the Aphex Twin-worthy drums piledrive in…and as the song goes on, he even seemingly slows down to time for a split second. Listen below.

The rest of this best-of collection sports more variety – sure, plenty of other skull-thumpers, but also a few slower tracks mixed in for good measure. EeL herself even pops up on two songs. Listen to a teaser below.

EeL Preps New Single, “Fuwafuwa Pink Jellyfishes Floating In The Sky”

Let’s take this introductory paragraph to remember how hyper-pop artist EeL’s earlier-this-year album For Common People landed with a technicolor thud. That full length turned her formerly charming restlessness into predictable chore, the wacky kid in the class realizing everyone else expects him to act that way now and thus always acting “wacky.” For Common People seemed at times forced, but also just struck as EeL trying to make the most out of not many ideas, as a lot of those songs sounded a tad too similar to one another. Considering she’s got a solid discography behind her…exclamation-pointed by 2004 release Little Prince…this latest effort felt strange and not all that pleasant.

So it’s nice to possibly hear EeL edging back to the frantic sound she does so well on new single “Fuwafuwa Pink Jellyfishes Floating In The Sky.” I say “possibly” only because the clip at the top of this page is a teaser, so I can’t tell if the part that starts out as a Little Prince appropriate Disney spazz-out turned animatronic-freak-out (ushered in by a funk keyboard, nonetheless) turned one more time into photo-booth J-Pop is one full song or two. If it’s the prior…well, that’s how ya do it EeL! If it’s the latter…both tracks still outclass anything on For Common People. It’s a small taste of what EeL has been up to post-People but also deeply refreshing after what came before it.

She’s also started up an official BandCamp page, if ya want to get your hands on some other cool stuff.

Review: EeL’s For Common People/Halcali’s Tokyo Connection

Discussing pop music usually ends up being less a slippery slope and more like hiking up a waterfall. The act of just identifying “pop” can quickly turn into something contentious, one individual decrying the “vapid” works of Katy Perry before reminiscing about Green Day’s glory days. “Pop,” to many people, has become a bad word and the only way to engage with it is through careful modification. This is why we get people gushing about Justin Bieber slowed down to a crawl and an entire movement where garage bands making poppy sounds smear some distortion over it to become “shit-gaze.” In 2011 you’d think we reach the point where gimmicks weren’t needed to enjoy any music, yet Girl Talk’s still selling out shows. It’s not all bad though – this mutation of pop music has also rewarded with lots of great music. Most shit-gaze might be forgettable but the movement still birthed great acts like Times New Viking and Vivian Girls. Chillwave sails similar settings and has produced a handful of great artists and the resurgence of R&B music in indie circles as of late (see: The Weekend, Frank Ocean) has been a welcome boon.

In Japan, there is EeL and Halcali. Both toy with the cheery template of J-Pop and produce undeniably poppy works, but these acts have also been screwing with the very DNA of those sounds for the past 10 years. The Kansai-based EeL disregards the idea of “genres” entirely, caging reggae sounds with breakcore while also rubbing against what might as well be described as a computer being thrown out a skyscraper. Halcali, meanwhile, merge the cutesy image of J-Pop with goofy rap – they aren’t Wu-Tang but bring a distinctive style that’s a thousand times more worthy of the word rap than schlock-masters like Funky Monkey Babys. Though the two outfits have seen drastically different popular response – Halcali has landed on the Oricon charts, while EeL has been more obscure but responsible for influencing a lot of young electronic musicians in the country today – both have made some of the more thrilling music (pop or otherwise) coming out of Japan over the past decade.

Now both have new albums out, EeL with For Common People and Halcali with the stopgap mini album Tokyo Connection coming after last year’s Tokyo Groove. These releases stay true to their respective creators, engaging in madcap blending and school-yard rap propped up against bright backgrounds, yet both also manage to feel…well, a little stale. EeL and Halcali spent so long subverting popular music into their own mold that now, in 2011, sounds too predictable. What once sounded so clever now comes off as coasting.

For Common People suffers way worse in this regard than Tokyo Connection. EeL’s music still remains the sonic equivalent of sticking one’s head into a cotton candy machine, mouth wide open. Yet what in abstract sounded like a fucking great idea…”that’s a lot of sugar man”…turns into a stomach-wrecking chore. This time around, she’s letting the reggae bleed through brighter than ever, and also placing a greater emphasis on ska-inspired noises and a slightly more “punk” aesthetic. Interesting in concept for sure, but these forays often end up turning into uninspired ideas as on the lazy horn-jog of “Cherry Blossom” or the pointless “rock” of “I Know Everything.”

More frustrating is how so many of these tracks lean on the same ideas. When For Common People’s title track appeared online in zany video form back in January, that number wowed thanks to an unhinged merging of island sounds and head-snapping rock, complete with a late industrial-stomp bridge that seemed like classic EeL. Alone it sounded great, and the album proper features several similar high-energy jump kicks worthy of private time. Problem is, being corralled onto a 36-minute-long album means these numbers grind up against one another and everything starts sounding the same. “For Common People” sounds a lot like “Hungry Panda” which isn’t drastically different than “Wonderful Ability” which is only slightly different than “Everyday.” Each of those songs sound far more interesting divorced from this album, where lodged together they become a hall of mirrors. Several tracks even start off with the same “vocal sample stuttered up” trick, a gimmick so expected you could make a drinking game to it.

Only two fully-formed songs manage to really stand out. “Come Out Of A Sleep” hurls camera sounds and scratching records over a ragtime piano as EeL sings over it, the track morphing from saloon entertainment to turntable exercise. It’s a more relaxed moment that also ends too quickly. The highlight of For Common People comes on final track “Yurayura.” EeL decides that instead of incorporating reggae noises that she’ll actually make a dubbed-out number of her own, slowing the music down to a sunset-walk pace that holds for its entire six-minute playing time. Following the rapid-fire sameness that preceded it, “Yurayura” is an excellent come down, a towel laid out by a pool after an all-day marathon.

Ultimately, For Common People fails because of its pedigree. If this album came courtesy of some upstart Osaka producer nobody had heard of, I’d be writing much more positive words here. But EeL has a big discography, one swimming with records leaps better than For Common People. Her Kung-Fu Master album, for example, captures her manic energy much better than this 2011 effort ever could. Stronger still, EeL has one legitimate masterpiece to her name, an album so good that I ended up revisiting it way more than I spent listening to For Common People. Little Prince, released in 2004, highlighted EeL’s knack for revved up energy and genre-smashing, but also balanced it all out with softer, more experimental moments (the minimalism of “No Heart,” the lonely twinkles of “I’m Crying On A Straight Road,” the all-around excellence of “A Beloved Child”). The closest For Common People comes to something similar is one the two piano interludes, a pair of simple ivory-driven melodies. More of these introspective moments could have lifted up a boringly busy album like For Common People.

Tokyo Connection fares much better for simply being so much shorter than For Common People. As mentioned, this is an obvious filler move, featuring a lame redo of one of Halcali’s best songs (the endearingly silly “Strawberry Chips”) and a just-there 80kidz remix. It also gets points for featuring a legitimately great Halcali song in “Girl!Girl!Girl!,” which electronically twitches about but makes plenty of room for some solid tag-team rapping. The rest varies – the duo enlist Your Song Is Good to help them skank up Kome Kome Club’s “Roman Hikou,” and your enjoyment of that song will hinge on your opinion of ska in general. Following “Girl!Girl!Girl!” Halcali slow Connection down to play three reeled-in joints, starting with the adorable “Chirichoko,” which uses a male voice and some Foldger’s jingle-worthy harmonica to create a strange toyland vibe. “SUPERSTITIONS” and “Hey My Melody” bring considerably less to the table, the latter basically being the sorta of lazy ballad you’d hope an energetic group like Halcali would never resort to recording.

Tokyo Connection isn’t so much a failure because Halcali have become lazy with their signature playful rapping – when they bust it out, it still can get face muscles grinning – but rather because they seem to be distancing themselves from that style completely. Coupled with last year’s Tokyo Groove it seems like the pair want to remain relevant and thus try out all sorts of musical styles not suited for them to do just that (balladry, hoping for a ska revival). That album last year featured Halcali covering a bunch of other artists’ songs and trying to imitate the robo-pop of Perfume which…well not bad sounding certainly wasn’t like them. Connection just further reinforces what they started in 2010.

These albums are mainly a letdown because of who made them – EeL and Halcali have created so much noteworthy music that to see them now sorta spinning their wheels or trying to grab some Oricon money stings. Listeners should spend time with these acts for sure, by seeking out Halcali’s singles (most of which can be seen on YouTube) and by basically giving any EeL album that isn’t For Common People a go. Meanwhile, leave their latest two releases alone in 2011, where they feel less like interesting mutations of pop and more like the predictable stuff most expect from that word.

New EeL: “For Common People”

Something tells me the “common people” wouldn’t react well to this. For the rest of us who arrogantly think we’re better than the unwashed masses, though, this might sound pretty nifty! EeL’s latest could easily be filed as “techrock” though it might be better summarized as “head-blitzing tropical noise.” “For Common People” might soften the blow a little bit by being built out of rainbow-bright J-Pop sounds and featuring a little bit of island flavor, but it’s mostly cutesy chaos. The drums just drill ahead, sometimes turning into fast-forwarded breakbeats hinting at a song ready to burst into pieces. Most prominent, though, is the clanging late section which latches onto a jackhammering noise sequence before one more pop go-around. “For Common People” sometimes feels a little too sweet for its own good, but EeL balances the track out by making sure dissonance wins out.

You can also hear a sampler of song snippets from EeL’s new album For Common People below.