Listening 2017: July 16–28

Cornelius, K.A.R.D. and Tyler the Creator

There’s a tad longer blurb than usual for a selection this time around. Based on the banner, I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say it’s on Cornelius and his classic Fantasma. So for the sake of it not running past the 1000-word mark, this entry stuck to only three albums. I also had an idea of pairing it with the musician’s latest, Mellow Waves, because I’ve been enjoying that album lately. Maybe I’ll write a separate piece for it? Who knows!

Here are three albums that got me jotting down words.

Fantasma by Cornelius (Trattoria/Matador, 1997)

For all the nostalgia Keigo Oyamada collages for his Shibuya-kei classic as Cornelius, his daydreams about the future on the record is what intrigues two decades later since the album’s release. Was he predicting the pace of the world in the frenetic, drum ’n’ bass-inspired detour “2010”? And was he, too, anxious of how fast we will consume our resources — in this case, music, past and present — in the fuzz-rock jam “New Music Machine”?

Oyamada himself might have been overwhelmed at the abundance of music available at the record shops he would frequent. I know I need to get up and take a walk sometimes just thinking about how much music is out there for me to discover. Can you imagine the seasickness he’d be stricken by had he known about the streaming age, let alone the P2P era coming just a few years after he put out this record?

He lays bare the riches of his findings: jazz LPs, folk singles, break beat compilations, film soundtracks, early electronic tapes — all swirled into acid-tinged Plunderphonics. But it’s far less nauseating of a trip than what the Internet era would birth with, say, Girl Talk as a tribute to the way we listen to music. A big part of that owes to Oyama studying the medium of the long-playing album as much as the sounds making up his beloved singles: not only is Fantasma designed for a one-sitting listen, it also pays homage to the side-flipping ritual.

The more streamlined expression here gives me a more utopian idea of this all-accessible New Music Machine. Nowhere does he give off an impression that this “everything, all the time”-type of consumption takes a toll on a person; the exuberance to which he interacts with all of this abundance is almost enviable in its purity.

So it’s kinda jarring to hear him follow up the excitement behind the New Music Machine with a prediction of it causing some irreversible damage. He says NASA invented it in 2001, but it “breaks the world” by 2010. Joy lasts terrifyingly short. Chilly is how prescient such a story sounds in relation to a rapidly evolving digital music culture.

[8]

Hola Hola EP by K.A.R.D. (DSP Media, 2017)

Seven months since their first single, “Oh NaNa,” K.A.R.D’s co-ed dynamic still has a lot left to be explored. “Don’t Recall” showed promise of the exciting on-record drama they can bring between the men and women. While “RUMOR” matched the heated dialog, the title track dialed it back for a more casual flirt, both with the narrative and production. I prefer the songs full of tension because who doesn’t like drama? And besides, there’s a glut of smooth-talkers trying to get a cute girl’s attention over equally breezy beats on the pop charts. Some upset of these familiar sounds would be nice.

Speaking of the beats: though K.A.R.D. establishes a solid niche with its co-ed membership, the group’s music is so tied with the balmy chill of 2017 that it’s currently difficult to predict how they will do once that hot trend is past its time. Right at this time, they ride the wave just fine, but on the flip side, the expiration date with this sound is quickly approaching. As long as they stick to their concept, though, I think they can survive even if the well dries up.

[7]

Flower Boy by Tyler the Creator (Columbia, 2017)

From early in his career, Tyler the Creator’s taste was clearly defined to the point he sounded almost stubborn in his ways. A constant in his music has been the presence of jazz with the color of its chords bleeding out the margins. Flower Boy’s arrangements are much more cohesive and sophisticated than his past four albums, though you can also hear the links in its core that connects it to his ambitions rooting all the way back to Bastard. “911/Lonely,” for one, recall “VCR/Wheels” from his debut through its two-song structure but also the love letter he pens with an honesty almost too explicit to read.

Quite a few outlets have pointed out maturity in how he sings about his themes, another constant in his music since his MySpace days. Though I’m more intrigued on how he streamlines those themes into a single listen. Tyler played with narrative devices, constructing albums like films. He lets the music unfold freely without much structure, and the cohesion despite a lack of a guide is impressive. I can only credit that to him dedicating his time obsessively to say the same thing he has been wanting to say out loud since he was a teen. There’s faith and an intense embrace from him for his work than any other. It’s only right he’s shouting out loud Twitter right now promoting the hell out of this to make this hit number on the charts.

[8]

More albums that piqued my interest…

  • Daphni: Fabriclive 93 (Fabric, 2017)
  • DJ Tennis: DJ-Kicks (!K7, 2017)
  • Hitomi Toi: Ecstasy (Billboard, 2017)
  • Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit: The Nashville Sound (Southeastern, 2017)
  • Kami-sama, I Have Noticed: Kami-sama, I Have Noticed (Warner Music Japan, 2017)
  • Katie Ellen: Cowgirl Blues (Lauren, 2017)
  • Maison Book Girl: Image (Tokuma Japan Communications, 2017)
  • Meek Mill: Wins & Losses (Maybach Music Group/Atlantic, 2017)
  • Momoiro Clover Z: 5th Dimension (Starchild, 2013)
  • Mura Masa: Mura Masa (Interscope/Polydor/Downtown/Anchor Point, 2017)
  • Nine Inch Nails: The Fragile (Interscope/Nothing, 1999)
  • Starlito & Don Trip: Step Brothers Three (Grind Hard/Empire, 2017)

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music, etc.

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Ryo Miyauchi

Ryo Miyauchi

music, etc.

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