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2012/03/20 / monteurhulot

NOTE // On 8-Bit, Impressionism, and Loveless

The mass of 8-bit music forms, to coin an awkwardly paradoxical phrase, a novelty genre which thrives on familiarity, making it conducive to the occasional bout of viral distribution. When such an outbreak occurs, it can be diverting to spend a few moments losing oneself in the ocean of 8-bit pop music transformations to be found on your YouTubes and Soundclouds. Much of the appeal of these cover versions surely lies in nostalgia for a certain era of video gaming (or a nostalgia borrowed from an older generational segment who experienced those games first hand) and the associations with the direct, simple, adventure experiences those games provided and the childhood they are associated with, seen in hindsight as also simpler and more comfortable. Most of the these bechiptuned versions have, then, a short, shallow appeal, sounding like an amalgam of the worst instincts of Chillwave buried under two decades of discarded Ataris. However, there is at least one combination that brings out some of the most interesting elements of both the original material and 8-bit as a genre.

I speak of 8-bit covers of songs from My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless.

8-bit can also be seen as a distinctly impressionistic form of music, because, like the 19th century school of painting (especially Pointilism, which I’ll fold into Impressionism although it may enrage students of art history) it represents its subject, whether from scenes of life or the existing body of popular music, by breaking it down into simple bits of information, enough to communicate what is being represented, but in a low enough fidelity to allow the brain to fill in all the details of the original. Some neuroscientists would have us believe that this extra creative work given the brain of the viewer is the reason for the inveterate popularity of Impressionist painting, and it may be responsible for whatever appeal 8-bit covers have that is not attributable to 1980’s nostalgia. They give listeners the minimal amount of auditory information required to convey what the original material is, and then the brain can enjoy filling in all the textural richness remembered from the song being covered.

Converting a song from Loveless into 8 bits is a particular intriguing exercise. That album is rightly considered to have one of the richest and most exhaustively labored upon sonic palettes in modern guitar-based pop music. Yet the sound of the album is itself very impressionistic: much of the work done on Loveless serves to obscure the basic elements of the music under a thick swaddling of sound, so that the brain is again assigned the task of filling in the details of the ideal music we imagine lies at the center.

In 8 bits, this impressionism is replaced with its inverse. By bringing the constitutive parts of the songs to the fore, we are reminded (yet again) of how excellent the obscured melodies of Loveless truly are, but are also put in the intriguing position of being asked to do the opposite of what we do when we listen to My Bloody Valentine, thereby completing a curious loop: we imagine the remembered rich textural details which originally functioned precisely to make us imagine the very musical elements which are now being used in their most basic form in order to invoke the memory of their own concealment.

I don’t know how intentional this effect may be, but it’s a rare pleasure to stumble upon a series of novelty covers which introduce such conceptual complexity. It’s certainly enough to make me hope for the rest of the album to receive the same treatment, even if I don’t commit any more time slogging through pointless 8-bit versions of early Lady Gaga singles.

Coming soon: the finest in 8-bit Latvian skweee! FOR REALS.

t.

2012/03/14 / monteurhulot

EP // Balue – Worry Toobs

Hey there, everyone who’s not at SXSW!

The ‘beach pop’ phenomenon of the last few years has resulted in a body of pleasant, inoffensive, but fairly insubstantial material, along with some good songs from acts like Best Coast and more sterling music from Beach Fossils last year. If you live in a temperate location in the Northern Hemisphere and presentiments of Spring leave you longing for a return to that sound, you would do well to consult with Balue, hailing from the sandy beach mecca of Denver, Colorado. They’ve mastered the wistful mid-fidelity aesthetic that serves as the (sub) genre’s entry requirement, added some correspondingly wistful lyrics and then made the crucial next step of finding noteworthy hooks, especially Worry Toobs lead track, “Australian Summer,” “Looking for a Pearl,” and on “Darlin’,” which kicks off by playfully stepping up to the brink of simply becoming Ducktails “Hamilton Road” before repeatedly pulling back at the last moment. “Brain Folds” deserves particular admiration as  a well-considered nod to Olivia Tremor Control (by way, perhaps, of Dr. Dog)

Go download Worry Toobs for free and pretend you live on the Pacific Coast.

t.

2012/03/08 / monteurhulot

MIXTAPE // March 2012

We said we were reviviving the tradition, so to make good on the promise, here’s an amalgamation of our favorite music of the month past.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

2012/03/06 / monteurhulot

ALBUM // Musette – Drape Me In Velvet

2009’s Datum was a very pleasant amalgam of chamber folk and instrumental pop redolent of days gone by, but this new offering is something altogether more magical. Drape Me In Velvet sounds like a lost work of The Clientele produced by the Avalanches which has spent the last 12 years sitting in an attic where rays autumnal light are always filtering through clouds of dust motes. Rarely is instrumental music this bursting with melody or so evocative in texture. An album one listen to repeatedly with never lessening delight. It might be the anti-Chillwave, and I’d rather smile mistily at all its gentle little turns than say another word about it.

Drape Me In Velvet is out from Häpna.

2012/03/01 / monteurhulot

LABEL // First Second

Keeping abreast of – and thinking about – electronic music, particularly that subsection designed for dance floors, can be exhausting, not so much because of the pace at producers and their machine symbionts flood the world’s communication systems with new variants, fusions and sub-generic tweaks and re-imagingings, but because of the endless debates about stagnation, commercialization, and authenticity that quickly follows each new permutation.

It is most soothing, then, when artists come around who approach established electronic genres with enough skill, craftsmanship and discernment to wash the grime of internecine quibbling from one’s mind.

Yes – I can use the word ‘dubstep’ again.

That’s thanks to Pachydermy EP from Ickis Mirolo, member of an Irish production cadre and its attendant Dublin-based netlabel, First Second. “Crickets” and “Insects” finds a position between turn-of-the-millenium originalism and “future/post” texturing from where the music can sound like a vital distillation of a genre, neither a tired rehash, a failed experiment, a regrettable fusion or a didactic bore. “Moth” plays with house and techno, which are actually the mainstays of the label so far – their introductory compilation, Zero One, is full of slick, tasteful house and techno numbers, alluding to many eras and locales without sliding into mere homage. David Kennedy’s two-track XOX/OXO joins feathery rave to steady disco, Bobofunk goes more of straight 2-step route, indulging along the way in a chintzy, fun garage remix of Madonna, Cult Clone drops two delicate tracks that fall between Four Tet and the Field, and Cameron Duffy makes some velvet-smooth with just enough force to drown out any complaints of gentrification.

Oh and hey, all these releases are available as free downloads.

Go give them all a try, and keep your ears peeled. First Second looks to have a great year ahead.

t.

 

2012/02/24 / monteurhulot

ALBUM // Peter Broderick – http://www.itstartshear.com/

Just last month we nominated Peter Broderick as the person responsible for the largest body of wonderful music in Two Thousand and Eleven, and now he again presents a collection of sounds that you very much need to hear. We won’t say much of anything about this new album; it speaks for itself not only in terms of quality, but also in a more direct sense as it is also a website. (And you thought that was only for terrible ideas from the 1990’s!)

So just start there.

http://www.itstartshear.com can also be obtained in non-website form.

t.

2012/02/24 / Anton

MP3 // Russel Harmon – Tragedy Fractures

I’m very glad that I found this amazing drone-ambient piece by Reykjavik-based artist Russel Harmon on NFOP just now. The Ben Frost reference definitely makes sense – yet the beauty and harmony (ha, almost a pun – so close) Russel, who also plays guitar in the Icelandic instrumental outfit PORQUESÍ, manages to add to the intense sounds made me play this one over and over again.

An EP will be out his March, so until then close your eyes (press play before that, sorry I forgot) and enjoy the “Tragedy Fractures”.