Welcome back to Quick Shots: the monthly album review column in which I seek out some of the newest music the scene has to offer and do my best to help you determine if something is worth your time. This month, I have three albums from some lesser known artists who offer unique listening experiences from one another. One wants to see you get down on that dance floor and strut your stuff. The second wants to share a moment in time in with you as they reflect on their life in relative solitude. The last wants you to indulge in some work they’ve contributed to an upcoming game that is just as easy to groove to as it is to zone out to it. With such a wide offering of experiences on the table this month, I think we should jump right in. Join me as I dissect sophomore releases from Libla and SemiProcastinator, and take a closer look at Mint℠’s third LP.
‘Boogie Alert’ by Libla
First up to bat is an artist I’ve reviewed before by the name of Libla. A Finish native who first caught my attention when he messaged my artist page back in 2015 and requested me to review his work. Since then, Libla has held a special place in my collection and memory as an artist whose confidence matched his infectious, charming arias and equally adorable graphic art. His latest offering, ‘Boogie Alert’, doesn’t fail to deliver on that front. Featuring six stylish, whimsical tracks that combine the crunchy, noisy sounds of the Game Boy with warm, synthy goodness of a Korg MS-20, Libla’s digital spin on disco is bound to make anyone smile. Starting off with the EP’s eponymous track, Libla shows that he’s managed to stay true to himself while honing his craft by whipping out a track that’s easy to groove to but is deceptively complex. Despite the simplicity of the that classic four-on-the-floor beat Libla lays out, ‘Boogie Alert’ has hints of inspiration from early Daft Punk, as light vocoder work interweaves along an increasingly busy melody that doesn’t fully open up until the song’s bridge at the 1:47 mark. That bridge is a damn nice touch to a song that seemingly doesn’t have much going for it at first as it shows off Libla’s impeccable sense of timing, and seems to imply that he’s gained a better sense of anticipation and with his song composition through live performances.
This is sense of timing and technical improvement is present in many of his other tracks, but I feel it shines best in ‘Hyperdrive’, which incorporates elements of synthwave into its composition. The result is a track with a slick, polished feel that’s feels like it belongs in a compilation album alongside work by Make-Up and Vanity Set and Slothfella. It’s a fantastic offering that I would argue is strongest offering Libla has ever released, and really helps pull the album together. It also helps make up for the lackluster ‘Tunes from the Tube’, which isn’t a terrible track, but feels like a holdover from Libla’s first release and doesn’t do him justice as a composer. I’d even argue that I’d rather another track that hit’s the same compositional beats as ‘Boogie Alert’ the way ‘Eat Your Soul’ does, as it would have created a stronger sense of flow or cohesion for the album. Regardless, the album more than makes up for that shortcoming with the diversity of the last two tracks. ‘The Groove Is Strong With This One’ is perhaps the most chiptune sounding of all the tracks Libla’s put forth on this EP, as it’s filled with growls, arps and tri-waves that are delightful on the ears. Conversely, the final track of ‘Boogie Alert’, ‘Libla To The Past’, features militaristic snares amid a somber melody that evokes a sense of both sadness and hope in the face of inevitable duty. It’s a touching piece that’s reminiscent of tracks such as ‘Cid’s Theme’ from ‘Final Fantasy VII’, as it has moments of almost cartoonish quixotic sounding instrumentation amid a tireless rhythm. and I’d be surprised if this wasn’t part of an upcoming game’s soundtrack.
Ultimately, Libla has done a splendid job following up his debut EP from two years ago. With time and dedication, he’s shown it’s possible to supersede what was an impressive debut, even if he stumble a bit along the way in doing so. If you’re looking for an album that offers a fun listening experience to warm up your day, you can’t go wrong with ‘Boogie Alert’, because even at its lowest, Libla knows how to hold the bar high enough to pass muster.
Fave Track: ‘Hyperdrive’
Bang for Buck: 4/5
Replay Value: 4/5
Overall Grade: 4/5
‘Weather Music For Spending Your Nights In An Empty Cafe Alone’ by Mint℠
Up next for review is an album that’s more emotionally diverse than Libla’s. Featuring a title that’s an accurate representation of the feelings and experiences it seeks to convey, Ontario native Mint℠ has crafted a collection of aria in his third LP that is worthy of acknowledgement. This is not only because of the breadth of experiences Mint℠ has created, but because she has done so with a visual and musical flair that is highly reminiscent of Khaz’s ‘Music 2 Shrug 2’. ‘Weather Music…’ oozes with an awareness that’s highly intriguing among this younger generation of chiptuners coming into the scene through avenues like YouTube, Tumblr and Twitter. Everything from the underplayed, color analogous presentation of the cover art to the embracing of one’s personal experiences and pain as a sense of strength worthy of artistic expression is something that feels much more raw and vital in releases such as Mint℠’s LP, and the results of this pain made manifest is fascinating.
The album opens up with ambient street noise that gives way to warm synthplay in ‘Crystal Shrimp Cafe’, creating an atmosphere that’s altogether familiar and empathetic. It’s a song that’s just as comforting and nostalgic as any old corner cafe, and is personally redolent of a Nathan’s that I used to visit from time to time to clear my head that was always empty despite being right across the street from Madison Square Garden. It was strangely soothing to have a place in the middle of a big city that felt like my own: that felt like a home away from home when I needed to be alone in a place where everyone is forced to be together, and the fact that a relatively happy song almost made me cry in reminding me of something that no longer exists that was once so dear to me is a testament to Mint℠’s ability to convey emotional context in his music. It also threw me for a loop, as ‘Weather Music…’ reveals itself to be varied than anticipated as ‘Crystal Shrimp Cafe’ is followed up by ‘I Puked On A Kyoto City Bus’. This little ditty revels in its brevity, and embraces the speed at which noise songs like it tend to run at, as the whole experience is less than a minute long. While it’s definitely a shock to the system after ‘Crystal Shrimp Cafe’, I have to commend Mint℠ for going the extra mile to make a noise track with a melody that plays to her strength of crafting familiarity with sound, as it’s easy to hum along to this song despite the static that runs throughout it. It also acts as an excellent palette cleanser, as it makes ‘FN TIME ZONES’–a song rife with breakbeats and super sines–much easier to take in after the trip down memory lane that was the LPs opening track.
Conversely, ‘Online Picnic Date’ is a return to form established in ‘Crystal Shrimp Cafe’, as it’s a return to the feels train that encapsulates the beauty of working through a the hurdles of a long distance relationship, and doing what you can to make the moments you have with someone else special. It’s a sweet return to form that makes excellent use of Mint℠’s skills as a keyboardist, which are accentuated fondly by the clap percussion which keeps the track moving forward. ‘Japanese Dream Recording Machine’ turns up the feels even more while lowering the tempo and recreates the fuzziness of trying to remember a pleasant dream so you can hold onto the good feelings it gave you. It’s marvelously subdued and hearkens back to Mint℠’s aforementioned strength of establishing atmosphere, but it ends on a somewhat jarring note that brings the listener back to reality as ‘All’s Well That Ends Well’ comes on. ‘All’s Well…’ is interesting in that it has some orchestral sounds going on in the background that are somewhat reminiscent of Moby’s work on his ‘Play’ album. This makes the song sound full and lush, and let’s Mint℠ tug on your heart-strings a bit more before ‘Weather Music…’ ends with ‘Where I Spend My Days Lest Someone Get Hurt’: a morose song that mimics the reality of being the last customer to leave a place and the lingering feeling of loneliness the journey back home entails. It’s an admittedly depressing listen that still manages to be soul-stirring and helps bring the album full circle in a way that seems only fitting to an LP that mimics the desire to be lost in a crowd and in your own head so that you can have some time to yourself. That desire for loneliness is an essential part of life in a large metropolis, and the need to pursue that feeling is something I forgot about after having moved out on my own. I didn’t need to chase my solitude anymore because my apartment became my solitude at a time when those safe havens I felt were my own started to give way to the juggernauts of gentrification and time. Those moments and those places may be gone now, but they were important because they offered safe haven and privacy, even in the face of millions of passersby. Being reminded of how special they were is something I’m truly thankful for.
To that end, I can honestly say I fully recommend ‘Weather Music…’ to anyone needing an auditory escape. whether you still have your own Crystal Shrimp Cafe or not, I know Mint℠ will take you to that place you run off too when you need to be alone, and you’ll also be grateful for what it is she’s managed to capture on this album.
Fave Track: ‘Where I Spend My Days…’
Bang for Buck: 4.8/5
Replay Value: 4.8/5
Overall Grade: 4.8/5
‘The Capricorn Work Playlist’ by SemiProcastinator
The last album up for review this month is a brief EP that’s part of a larger project called ‘Virgo vs The Zodiac’: a turn based rpg about a celestial sign looking to restore order to her world by purging the other constellations of their perceived sins. While the game is still in production, it seems several artists have been reached out to and asked to contribute towards the final product. SemiProcastinator is among the list of musicians to have offered his talents to this effort, which we now have the distinct pleasure of hearing for ourselves.
Clocking in at only eight minutes and fifteen seconds of playtime, ‘The Capricorn Work Playlist’ is a dreamy, spacey collection of songs that effectively combine static, ambient noise, and warm waveforms to produce music that’s quite bodacious and will appeal to many a fan of ambient and synthwave music. This is made apparent immediately as the album opens up with ‘Cubicle’, which features some excellent use of noise channels and snares to fill the space left between swelling rhythms and slick synth play. It’s a dark, gritty experience that is reminiscent of some of Abducted By Shark’s more conceptual work featured on albums like Ronin, and paves the way for the rest of EP, which only gets darker still. ‘SN 1006’ is a track defined by its quiet, a song that’s very much about the negative space in between the haunting static swells that peak towards the end of the track and flow into the album’s third track, ‘алпака’. ‘Aлпака’, which is Russian for ‘Alpaca’, is a gorgeous, meditative piece reminiscent of ‘Chill’ from ‘Undertale’, the song that plays when you lie down on the floor and feel like garbage with Napstablook. It’s a pleasant listen for all the same reasons ‘Chill’ is, and makes the final track of the EP, ‘HEAD HERETIC’, all the more haunting because of it. ‘HEAD HERETIC’ is simple melody that recreates the aesthetic of 80s horror soundtracks and fills one with a sense of urgency and anticipation, and for that, I have to commend SemiProcastinator, because this EP has filled me with anticipation for the finished result of ‘Virgo vs The Zodiac’.
Brief it may be, SemiProcastinator has done more than his fair share to entice the audience with his musical talents. I’m not only encouraged by this EP to wait with bated breath for ‘Virgo’, but this EP has successfully made me curious about SemiProcastinator, as well, and is an excellent introduction to their body of work. If you, like me, haven’t heard of SemiProcastinator before, this is the jumping on point. You won’t regret it.
Fave Track: ‘HEAD HERETIC’
Bang for Buck: 5/5
Replay Value: 4.8/5
Overall Grade: 4.8/5
Well, folks, that does it for this month’s edition of Quick Shots. If you liked what you heard, I strongly encourage you to follow the artists you like on their respective social media platforms so you can keep up with their latest exploits and show them support. If you like what I do here, don’t forget to check back on the blog regularly, as we post articles every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Last but not least, if you’re an artist who has yet to be noticed, please keep doing what you do. You never know when Kuma-senpai might notice you.
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