Cosmo’s Midnight – Surge

Cosmo’s Midnight is an electronic duo comprised of twin producers from Sydney, Australia. Being their debut original release, Surge was mounted with a bit of hype (at least for me), and I think it lived up to every bit of it. I discovered Cosmo’s Midnight through a video by the glover Ahuh on the EmazingLights channel where he used the single preceding this EP “Phantasm feat. Nicole Millar”. After hearing the song I instantly looked it up only to find it was their only original track released but an EP was coming out soon. The day it came out (yesterday at the time of writing this I believe) I snatched it right up and gave it a bunch of listens.

I would describe the sound as chillwave but with a little bit more emphasis on the beats than is typical and I love it. It’s got everything one might love about a good chillwave release: the floaty vocals with memorable melodies, the sidechained keyboard and basskicks, phasing background synths, and it’s all executed with great cleanliness and professionalism. When the title track begins it starts with a flowing beatless ambient section before the beat kicks right in and the realization washes over you that this is going to be an awesome EP, even assuming you hadn’t heard Phantasm already (which is one of my favorite tracks of the year so far). Something I noticed that I thought was nice was the melody tie in from Surge to Phantasm with the plinky keyboard, which gives some nice flow to the ideas of the EP right off the bat and you can immediately tell this is going to be a concise and well put together release. The production is spot on and the songwriting is catchy and feely, the perfect combination in my opinion. My favorite aspect of the EP is probably just how well all the different sounds are layered and put together to create the final product, which I’ve got to give mad props to Cosmo’s Midnight for simply for that in itself, not even taking into consideration all the other great things about this EP.

I recommend Cosmo’s Midnight to pretty much anyone who likes anything remotely chill, but to be more specific; if you like XXYYXX, Blackbird Blackbird, or MillionYoung you might like this, those 3 artists just being 3 that I thought of off the top of my head.

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Overall Rating: 9.2/10

Favorite Tracks: ‘Phantasm’, and ‘Lover’s Shadow’

Released: 7 June 2013

Links: Cosmo’s Midnight on Soundcloud

-Eric

Celer and Hakobune – Vain Shapes and Intricate Parapets

‘Vain Shapes and Intricate Parapets’ is a 2 track ambient drone collaboration between Japanese musicians Celer (Will Long) and Hakobune (Takahiro Yorifuji), released on the Chemical Tapes label with the catalog number HOT-2 (2,5-dimethoxy-4-ethylthio-n-hydroxyphenethylamine) on limited cassette (of which I have a copy of the first press).

When I saw Chemical Tapes post this on Facebook I was surprised to see Celer showing up on that page, but with spending money in my Paypal I decided to buy the cassette (I think I was one of the first people to buy it) and immediately afterwards listened to the album. To say the least: I was impressed. I wasn’t expecting it to be much more than a decent drone album but Celer and Hakobune both proved me wrong on that one because it put me in some meditative state and it was pretty amazing.

The first track is a kind of low-mids drone without low bass and is very smooth with nicely timed changes in sound throughout the entire track. Very mellow, very gentle on the ears. The second is more quavering and slightly more metallic, though still very relaxing, staying focused on low to high mids it reveals some highs when it gets towards the end and actually almost gets a rough wall of noise sound before fading out. Another thing is this release has definite staying power. I have logged around 90 full plays of the album (that’s almost 200 plays total), and I’m still not quite bored of it yet because it seems like such a ‘classic’, for lack of a better word, something that is just good and doesn’t really get old because of it’s uncomplicated method of being good.

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Overall Rating: 9.5

Favorite Track: ‘Merges of Hysterical Exhilaration’

Recommended: Other Chemical Tapes artists.

Released: February 8th, 2013

Links: Celer and Hakobune on Bandcamp

Graham F – I’m Warm

This four track EP is the second release by ambient musician Graham F. Much like the album cover, the whole of this album is surrounded by separate sounds spiraling into each other, swirling together to create a sound filled colorful synths and mostly structureless ambient music.

‘I’m Warm’ features an eclectic mix of sounds; samples, field recordings, and thick analogue bleeps and bloops that really do the name of this recording justice. The synths are rich featuring bright swells with bassy undertones riding almost unnoticed beneath them. The first track reminds me a lot of ‘Emeralds’ with a collaging of sounds that overwhelm the listener as it carries over into ‘A Step In Two’ that brings a little structure into the mix with more defined bass and disjointedly arranged synths. The third track is full of more of the same floaty swells, riveting tones, and pulsating synths but again adds more definition by bringing the elements of the music closer together, getting them to interact a bit more where they did not on previous tracks. ‘I’m No Longer Warm” is the most beat oriented of all four and really unleashes some of the built up tension that results from the indirectness of the other tracks. This is an EP I highly recommend listening throug in one sitting given that all of the tracks run into each other, each one setting up the next; it kind of works as a mini epic of sorts, each track becoming more organized and fleshed out, building toward a finale until the final track which features some solid beats and the realization of what Graham F has been working toward throughout the EP.

‘I’m Warm’ shows a departure from the largely beat influenced music heard on the ‘Night Lights’ EP with this new release focusing on the atmosphere and progression throughout four tracks that doesn’t always satisfy so much as it does meander. The nice sounds are there, the synths are resonant and appropriately layered making for nice textures but the music just doesn’t quite flow or bring these components together. It would be different if Graham F. were creating a completely formless piece of music but the music just teases at becoming a unified entity which never actually happens until the final song. In certain parts the EP lags a little but where ‘I’m Warm’ shines is with it’s bright and cheerful tracks, all of which give off feelings of nostalgia and child-like wonder that I can’t help but like

Overall rating: 7.0

Favorite Track: ‘I’m No Longer Warm’

Recommended: Emeralds. Listening to loops of waterfalls and faint memories of wanderlust.

Released: 09 December 2011

Links: Chill out on Bandcamp

Redntoothnclaw

Fuyuko’s Fables – Fuyuko’s Fables

Scott Maynard, Jeremy Hunter, Al Green, Matt Maynard, and Mike Isaacs form Fuyuko’s Fables, a band that creates dreamy folk compositions with the combination of well arranged instrumentation and harmonious vocals.

With folk music it has never really been about the musical technicality or even all to much about the ability to sing even, at least not in my eyes and I’m sure many others as well. Instead, the appeal of folk comes more from the ability to write good songs, something to sing to, something to relax to, something you could easily play on a guitar with all of your friends; it is a social type of music that is only made better when you have other people to share it with. Fuyuko’s Fable’s keeps the traditional elements of folk, these personal warm arrangements and expands on them with significantly more focus on graceful melodies and harmonious vocals than you would find otherwise.

Scott’s voice is very pleasant from the beginning of the first track to the end of the album. ‘Buildings’ begins with this supple boyish vocal that is accompanied twiddling guitar and a lush combination of strings and horns with more instruments eventually jumping in, all contributing to a slow build up; it all comes together to make up an organic end result. When there aren’t lyrics to sung the vocals are usually filling in certain areas with these harmonized “Ooos” and “Ahhhs” backed by other members of the band that are completed with clarinet rising up out of a medley of other instruments. Just the beginning of this track features some of my favorite playing on the EP which is sprinkled throughout in the form of tranquil breaks. The band isn’t simply playing together, it doesn’t sound planned in the same way Holden Caulfield sees the actors in a film act, instead each member fulfills their role in other ways by working as separate units with each combining there individual duties to create something that sounds, at times, instinctive.

If you aren’t listening for the great instrumentation or the breathy vocals you will likely be listening for the thoughtful lyrics, the almost poetic words that remind one of simple things such as youth, innocence, love, and all of these vague but personal emotions that we all experience, emotions that are particularly noticeable on ‘Drag em’, the second track on the album. ‘Drag em’ switches gears into a more upbeat and straightforward approach that is full of calm well placed lulls and plenty of falsetto vocals. As the end of the final track indicates so bluntly, “we’ve all been loved” and we’ve all heard songs about it, songs that sing of vague emotions amongst other clichés. Its no secret that these concepts get old but in a way I kind of have to applaud Fuyuko’s Fables in the sense that they make it easy to connect through these unclear passages. You aren’t forced to guess the meaning of a song in terms of what it means to them, instead it is very easy to form your own stories, take from these songs their meaning and apply it to something that we have all likely experienced such as love and if there is any indication of good songwriting or a reason to enjoy this band, for me it is this.

As stated at the beginning of this review, the success of this band, the attractiveness of their sound lies in their ability to create easily digestible folky pieces of music but at the same time this is also where they reach a negative point for me. The fact that there isn’t the slightest hint of dissonance or anything at all negative about this band’s sound; even when they are singing about something sad they are doing it in such a positive and enjoyable way. Their consistency, at a point begins to change into a lack of variety which can become a headache after so long and as much as the vocals are a highlight for me it would have been nice to hear some variation.

Despite this EPs very minor shortcomings all of the positive attributes of the album overcome them. The strengths this band has, the straightforward  and simplistic way they work together to deliver emotions to their audience is all so relatable and makes for a great way to spend 25 minutes of a spring or Summer evening.

Overall rating: 8.0

Favorite Track: ‘Buildings’ ‘Drag ’em’

Recommended: Your childhood or a summer’s day in the woods.

Released: 07 September 2011

Links: Folk with Fuyuko’s Fables on Bandcamp

Redntoothnclaw