Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Quick Hits: Slow Magic / Remedies / ODESZA

October 3, 2014

slowmagic

Slow Magic‘s How to Run Away combines chillwave and chiptune, two of my favorite niche genres, to create a whole album that lives in the tension between lush and staccato. “Hold Still” shows off the dichotomy best, where flowing synths and chill beats in the bulk of the song give way to a mini-dubstep coda with screamin’ single-note synths straight out of a video game somewhere.

Slow Magic does have songs that show off both sides: “Youth Group” sounds like Final Fantasy-inspired chiptune, while “Girls” is right in line with Pogo and Blackbird Blackbird in terms of chopped-vocals/smooth synths chillwave construction. But it’s the songs where the elements cross (and are augmented by insistent piano, as is often the case) where the songs shine. It’s not as high-energy as Anamanaguchi, but this isn’t sit-back-and-relax music either. It strives to make its own path, and that’s commendable no matter what genre you’re in.

remedies

Remedies also has some serious chiptune influences, but they choose trip-hop as their second ingredient. Slow Magic chooses upbeat, bright moods; Remedies chooses downtempo, midnight-blue moods to go along with high-pitched synths. The sounds from all your SNES dungeon gaming have found new life in Believers, re-appropriated in unique ways.

This is most clearly shown in single “Trap,” where the opening riff sends me back to Zelda: Link to the Past, while the dreamy synths and autotuned vocals take the song in a different direction. The vocals appear throughout the album, graduating the tunes of Believers from easily-classified electro jams to a more complex and rewarding description: a hybrid R&B/alt hip-hop project. “Time” is a particularly evocative example of their hip-hop grooves, while follow-up “Good Books” shows off their R&B chops in vocal melodies and spurned-lover lyrics. Chiptune, trip-hop, hip-hop, and R&B in a blender seems like a tough thing to imagine, but Remedies sounds surprisingly assured and mature in pulling it off.

odesza

ODESZA‘s In Return also has some R&B influences, particularly in the Shy Guys feature “All We Need” and the smooth instrumental banger “Kusanagi.” But it’s a side effect of ODESZA’s main mission: absorb every possible electro-based genre into its own version of what electronic music should be. Call it post-dub if you like, but there’s hardly a drop to be found here (even of the artsy version they originally came to prominence on). Instead, there’s flashes of clubby electro-pop (“Sun Models”), soundtrack-ready mood backdrops (“Sundara”), laconic electronic estimations of quirky indie-pop (“Memories That You Call”), and more. The opening of “For Us” sounds like the start of Coldplay’s “Strawberry Swing,” which is more compliment than not from this party.

By absorbing the lessons of many different strains of electronic music (including chiptune!), ODESZA has crafted an album that blows past all of them. There’s not a cloying or cheesy moment on this whole album, which is a testament to the group’s skill and nuance. (I love Anamanaguchi, because cheesiness is the point. When cheesiness is not the end goal, that’s when it gets problematic.) If you’re into electronic music, you really should be listening to ODESZA. For my money, they’re making the most interesting electronic music around.

SXSouthswag

April 1, 2013

I didn’t get as much swag this year, which was disappointing. (I think it probably had to do with the huge buzz that Interactive commanded, which drew some free free free away from the music portion.) However, I do still have some highlights from the stuff I emerged with.

Best Free Album: Separate Tongues by Defining Times. This release blew my mind with its excellent art-rock. The control that the band exercises when deciding between gentle, minimalist composition and towering rock moves was striking. They can do beautiful and powerful with equal success, which is a rare distinction. “Swan Dive” is an impressive earworm of a tune, not relenting its hold on my ears for several days. Fans of Sigur Ros will find much to love in Defining Times.

Best EP: In the Dead of Summer by Desi Roses. Half of Desi and Cody, one of the best bands I saw, continued impressing me with a six-song set of folk/country/Western swing. Desirae Roses’ vocals are impressive in their ability to convey emotion, and the tunes sway with an easy confidence that make me want to press repeat. They’re going on a tour of the west this next two weeks; if you’re out there, you should check them out.

Most Surprising Music: Young Blood Rising by The Del Toros. After seeing an absolutely powerhouse rock performance by this quartet, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that their album finds a neat analogue in Needtobreathe. Both bands can really rock when they want to, but they fill out that skill with pop-rock, acoustic pop, and even some southern rock chops. This creates a varied listening experience that propelled me through the 13-song album. The nearly 7-minute opener “Kick Drum Blues” was especially gripping.

Best Song I Found Buried in a Compilation Album: “Hold Ya” by JKL, on 2012 Indie Music Channel Awards Edition. The joyful sound of it reminded me a great deal of Michael Franti and Spearhead’s “Say Hey (I Love You),” and that’s always a good thing.

Best Flyer I Was Handed: roaldedahls

Their music is pretty awesome too: the opening track of their latest album is a version of the theme from Zelda: Link to the Past‘s Dark World theme. BOSS.

Honorable Mention: O Conqueror‘s slick cardstock flyer got me to their webpage, where their moody, acoustic-led indie rock impressed me.

Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.

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