500 Word Review: Azuresands 大麻 “Inner Journey”

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A few weeks ago, versatile vaporwave artist, Azuresands 大麻, released his latest project, “Inner Journey”.  For those who might not be familiar with the prominent electronic composer, Azuresands 大麻 has established a reputation of being one of the most innovative artists in the genre’s fairly brief history.  With the release of varying projects that not only directly contrast one another in theme, aesthetic, sound, composition, and influence, but also push the limits of vaporwave itself by creating new subgenres and concepts only imaginable by Azuresands 大麻 himself, Azuresands 大麻 continues to impress the rest of the vaporwave community while simultaneously leaving them on the edge of their seats in anticipation with what he will release next.  That being said, it’s no surprise to see “Inner Journey” recognized as one of the most significant albums in the genre to be released this year.

For this project, Azuresands 大麻 is working alone to create an ambient, atmospheric album.  Despite his recent success with collaborative projects like “Compass Rose” and “American Truck Songs 8”, Azuresands 大麻 is returning to writing solo work, and being a huge fan of not just vaporwave, but Azuresands 大麻 specifically, I was very excited to see how the accomplished artist would approach the album as far as composition goes.

For starters, I really enjoyed the diversity of this project. Every single song is distinct and can be recognized within the first few seconds of its playing time.  For example, in the first few measures of the project “Inner Journey” itself, an ominous, nearly inaudible bass is the foundation of a space, and of course, meditation themed ambient track, as the album slowly fades in, making this first track, “Waveswell”, instantly significant and recognizable. From here, the prominent project by Azuresands 大麻 will quickly change and transform as each track takes on a different sound, influence, and even persona, leaving the listener completely clueless as to what is about to come next.  In fact, the sound of the album constantly jumps around from the more traditional ambient vaporwave sound, to multi-layered synths and soundscapes in the form of atmospheric tracks, to even tracks that feature just percussion or vocal samples, which results in a fairly interesting project.  However, while this is fascinating to say the least, I believe that if Azuresands 大麻 narrowed down the core sound of the album itself and shortened the project to only feature the most memorable and well composed tracks heard, the entire project would strengthen as a whole, easily making “Inner Journey” one of the best vaporwave releases of the year.  What is consistent, however, is the integration of prominent altered samples featuring edited tempos and pitch changes, heavy use of reverb, often heard soundscapes that are a staple for this project, and the slight addition of echo effects that give these songs the distinct vaporwave sound and influence.

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the spoken samples, like those heard on “Tacoshimi” and “Bummerman”.  The overwhelmingly loud samples distract the listener from the superb instrumental tracks through the use of slow, nonsensical ramblings that the album really does not need to be successful.  However, where these songs fail, tracks like “Heartglow” easily exemplify excellence and redeem the previous, underachieving songs.  After “Tacoshimi” finally comes to a close, “Heartglow” enters with utterly captivating and mesmerizing internationally influenced instrumental tracks.  This use of complex composition combined with inspiration from South American culture and music creates an overall sound that is not only catchy but also unlike anything I’ve ever heard in vaporwave before.  Intricate layering of numerous percussion instruments to the point where it sounds like an entire village is recording the track live in one take with simple, unique instruments makes “Heartglow” one of the most memorable Azuresands 大麻 songs in his discography.

Overall, this is definitely a must listen to Azuresands 大麻 project.  While it’s unlike any of his recent material, his experimentation with ambient vaporwave, while also adding in aspects unique to his personal sound, results in a very solid release.  With a track list featuring everything from songs that are unique compared to one another and sound nothing like their album counterparts to a heavy layering of soundscapes, synths, and the occasional light and pleasant arpeggiator heard from the first few measures of “Waveswell” until the last few moment of “Charismaring”, it’s clear that every prominent aspect heard works together collectively to truly make this a relaxing and interesting album.  I will say that the sound quality is pretty low on this project (and not because I listened to the album primarily on cassette tape) compared to my favorite vaporwave releases.  Although, after seeing the aesthetic on the album cover, the muddy recording that features a lack of clarity in sound quality seems to fit the overall theme of the project and doesn’t deteriorate my overall enjoyment of the release.  I give “Inner Journey” an 8.1/10 and highly suggest you listen to the tracks “Waveswell”, “Brookwhisperer”, “Halo Cubed”, “Heartglow”, “Barkcloth Tapestry”, “Many Hands of Fate”, “WishWash”, and “Wholeing”, as these make up the vast majority of the highlights heard throughout the album.  Also, be sure to pick up a copy of “Inner Journey” on cassette (seen below), especially since the tracks “Heartglow”, Osmosis”, “A Dusty Vhial”, and “Many Hands of Fate” have only been released on the cassette format and cannot be heard anywhere else!  Listen to the digital version of the Azuresands 大麻 record below, pick up a copy on cassette, and stay tuned for more vaporwave reviews out soon!

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“Inner Journey” cassette:

https://azuresands.bandcamp.com/album/inner-journey

“Inner Journey”:

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Track(s) of the Day Tuesday: FIT FOR AN AUTOPSY Black Mammoth and TREEREFLECTION Morning

Last week we unfortunately missed the deadline to add a new post to the segment “Track of the Day Tuesday”.  So today, in order to make up for last week, we have two tracks that you absolutely need to check out!

The first track you should give a listen to today is Fit For An Autopsy’s “Black Mammoth”.  Fit For An Autopsy is a band that I have recognized for years as one of the greatest modern deathcore bands.  Their profound lyricism and bone-crushing riffs and breakdowns have separated Fit For An Autopsy (FFAA) from the average modern deathcore band.  That being said, my standards for any material released by FFAA is extremely high, especially after their third full length record, “Absolute Hope, Absolute Hell”, was a very subpar follow up to one of greatest deathcore albums ever to be released, “Hellbound”.  So, when Fit For An Autopsy released “The Great Collapse” last Friday, my skepticism for whether or not FFAA will be able to redeem themselves was very high.  To my surprise, however, they greatly surpassed these expectations, and the track, “Black Mammoth”, was one of the leading factors that influenced this positive impression.

“Black Mammoth” is a track that discusses the vast negative impact of the Dakota Access Pipeline and how the destruction of the environment for various, insignificant reasons in situations similar to the Dakota Access Pipeline case study are not only drastic and inhumane towards those who live in these areas, but they also directly result in negative and irreversible consequences that affect all humans and inhabitants of this planet.  Even though FFAA is known for their remarkable lyricism, I was still pleasantly shocked to see them discuss such a significant topic in one of their tracks.  Not only is it rare that Fit For An Autopsy will discuss environmental issues in their music, but it is also extremely rare for environmental issues to be mentioned in metal music period!  Using their platform and limited space on their fourth full length album to discuss this prominent issue that we face today on a daily basis has caused my respect for Fit For An Autopsy to grow immensely.  Lyricism and lyrical message set aside, the instrumentation heard on “Black Mammoth” is easily the best performance on the entire record.  The melodic, yet still heavy riffs intertwine perfectly with Joe Badolato’s great vocal delivery, resulting in both a successful track and a record that surpasses its predecessor greatly.  Today you need to give this New Jersey based deathcore band a listen starting with the music video for “Black Mammoth” attached below.

The only thing more polarizing than extreme metal is ambient and soothing, soundscape filled electronic music.  After you have listened to the brutally heavy track that is “Black Mammoth” you should listen to the simply relaxing track “Morning” by TREEREFLECTION.  TREEREFLECTION is yet another fantastic artist represented by the successful Chilean vaporwave label, No Problema Tapes.  TREEREFLECTION, like the other well known artists on No Problema Tapes, writes primarily in atmospheric ambient music that heavily relies on the use of soundscapes and various pads.  What makes TREEREFLECTION stand out amongst the other No Problema artists is the incorporation of samples of sounds heard in nature and even slight but noticeable beats that help give “Morning” an electronic music vibe.  This style of songwriting is soothing, relaxing, stress relieving, and in my opinion, helps greatly with focusing on work.  I unfortunately could not find a stream of the song “Morning” individually, so instead I’ve attached the entire album, “Overcast” below.  Without a doubt, “Morning”, along with any other track heard on “Overcast”, is something you need to listen to today.

Even though “Morning” and “Black Mammoth” are two completely different songs, they are both “The Track of the Day Tuesday” and you absolutely need to give them a listen.  Whether it’s the genre defining song writing or even the impactful lyrical content on “Black Mammoth”, or the relaxing, blissfulness of “Morning”, it’s fair to say that these tracks are phenomenal and easily the two songs you should listen to today.  Check our past “Track of the Day Tuesday” installments to see what other songs we recommend you listen to, and of course, let us know what tracks you think should be featured on future “Track of the Day Tuesday” posts!

The Thursday Ten: 12/29/16

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Even though we are a little late with posting this, here is this week’s “The Thursday Ten”!  This segment has been very rewarding to write this year and we’re glad to see that our viewers enjoyed reading these installments as much as we did with writing them!  This post is actually the last “The Thursday Ten” for all of 2016.  It’s amazing to see how many albums we gave ratings to this year and the staff here at Erik’s Album Reviews can’t wait to see what albums will make it onto “The Thursday Ten” next year!  Once again thank you for support and we will be back with more installments to “The Thursday Ten” next year!

  1. Deftones – Gore: 6/10
  2. Shokran – Exodus: 8/10
  3. Abbath – Abbath: 7/10
  4. Phantogram – Three: 6/10
  5. Zao – The Well-Intentioned Virus: 9/10
  6. Solange – A Seat At The Table: 8/10
  7. Norma Jean – Polar Similar: 8/10
  8. Emarosa – 131: 9/10
  9. Angelmaker/A Night In Texas – Split EP: 8/10
  10. Hodgy – Fireplace – TheNotTheOtherSide: 8/10

The previous “The Thursday Ten”:

https://eriksalbumreviews.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/the-thursday-ten-111516/

Breaking News: Aphex Twin Plays First US Show in 8 Years and Releases a Surprise 12″ Record

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Over the weekend, one of the greatest electronic artists of all time, Aphex Twin, performed in the United States for the first time in 8 years.  Playing at Houston’s Day for Night Festival, Aphex Twin performed a two hour long headlining set to close out Saturday night.  The impressive live set is absolutely mesmerizing and easily makes up for the long gap between US performances.

What is even more notable to mention is that Aphex Twin released a surprise 12″ record at the festival.  Apparently, according to festival goers who bought a copy, the artwork and record sleeve is completely white and the only designs seen are on the vinyl disc’s inner label, which features the logos for Aphex Twin, Warp Records, and Day for Night Festival along with the date and location of the festival.  It is speculated that two songs are featured on the vinyl, but further information about the new vinyl has yet to be released.

If you picked up a copy, leave a comment and tell us more about this surprise 12″ record release and let us know how the festival went!  For those who weren’t in Houston, like myself, you can watch the first 30 minutes of Aphex Twin’s set below!  And lastly, If you love electronic music as much as we do at Erik’s Album Reviews, then make sure to check back in for more electronic music news and reviews to be released soon!

The Thursday Ten: 11/15/16

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For those who visit Erik’s Album Reviews regularly, you will know that the staff has been very busy for the last two weeks.  Because of this we unfortunately missed the last two “The Thursday Ten” segments.  However, last week we announced that in order to make up for this lack of album ratings, we will give 20 album ratings for this week’s installment rather than the usual 10!  This week’s post features various releases over multiple genres covering everything from Black Metal to EDM.  Even though twice as many releases are feature in this installment, the rules to “The Thursday Ten” haven’t changed, and of course, we encourage you to check out every album listed on any of the major music streaming platforms.  Let us know what you think of the ratings, which albums you want us to rate next, and don’t forget to check out the previous installment to “The Thursday Ten”.  Here is this week’s post:

  1. Skeletonwitch – The Apothic Gloom EP: 8/10
  2. The Acacia Strain, Thy Art Is Murder, and Fit For An Autopsy – The Depression Sessions: 9/10
  3. Power Trip/Integrity Split EP: 7/10
  4. Dan Mason – Summer Love: 7/10
  5. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool: 7/10
  6. Aborted – Termination Redux EP: 8/10
  7. Lamb of God – The Duke EP: 7/10
  8. Jason Richardson – I: 8/10
  9. bl00dwave – Distance: 8/10
  10. Defeater – Abandoned: 8/10

 

  1. Mac Miller – The Divine Feminine: 8/10
  2. Blink-182 – California: 8/10
  3. Balance and Composure – Light We Made: 8/10
  4. Moose Blood – Blush: 8/10
  5. Wakrat – Wakrat: 4/10
  6. Tesseract – Polaris: 7/10
  7. A Day To Remember – Bad Vibrations: 6/10
  8. Adventure Club – Red // Blue: 5/10
  9. PZA – AMERICAN RITUALS: 9/10
  10. Vaerbitt – Tid: 9/10

The previous “The Thursday Ten”:

https://eriksalbumreviews.wordpress.com/2016/11/25/the-thursday-ten-112416/

Track of the Day Tuesday: PZA “BEAUT1FUL”

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PZA, the prominent vaporwave/trapwave artist, has officially become the first artist to be featured at least twice on the “Track of the Day Tuesday” segment.  This might be due in part to the fact that PZA has an immense discography, but it is mostly because PZA is one of the greatest producers in vaporwave and “American Rituals” is one of his best releases to date.  Being released on New Years Day of 2016, “American Rituals” is a project by PZA that combines the use of plunderphonics, his signature EDM/trap inspired synths and beats, and chopped and altered samples of modern pop music classics.  Taking samples from artists like Drake, Justin Bieber, and Lana Del Rey, PZA puts his own twist on these famous songs, and in return, creates one of the greatest vaporwave projects I’ve ever heard.  This style of songwriting is slightly different from PZA’s usual sound, but the experimentation results in one of his best releases that has the potential to be an Album of the Year contender.

The entire album is phenomenal in my opinion, but if there is one track you have to listen to, it is “BEAUT1FUL”. “BEAUT1FUL”, which samples Lana Del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful”, is probably the best track you will hear on “American Rituals”.  By altering the various Lana samples and adding reverb filled synths and instrumental fills, PZA is able to turn this fantastic pop song into a dreamy, captivating vaporwave song.  If you like any form of vaporwave or Lana Del Rey’s music you need to listen to this song, which is attached below.  Unfortunately, the only stream of the track I could find was the stream of “American Rituals” on PZA’s bandcamp page.  “BEAUT1FUL”, along with the rest of “American Rituals”, is attached below.  I highly suggest listening to the entire project, but if you just want to hear “BEAUT1FUL”, then skip to track 5 and enjoy the stellar PZA track.  I will also attach the link to PZA’s bandcamp page as well for those who would like to check out more releases from the vaporwave artist.  Only a few of his releases are posted there, but it is a great place to start for those who are not familiar with his work.  We often post about electronic music and vaporwave in particular on Erik’s Album Reviews, so if you are a fan of these genres make sure to visit often for more electronic music news and content!

PZA’s Bandcamp page:

https://pza420.bandcamp.com/

“American Rituals” (“BEAUT1FUL” is track 5):

Breaking News: Deadmau5 Releases New Album “W:/2016ALBUM/” And His Single “Ghosts N Stuff” Goes Platinum

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Yesterday, electronic music titan, Deadmau5, released his latest album, “W:/2016ALBUM/”, through his own label, mau5trap.  The 2016 record is Deadmau5′ latest full length album and release since 2014’s, “while (1<2)”.  The album was released with hardly any promotion, and practically had a surprise release, but so far Deadmau5 fans have welcomed the new release with positive feedback and reviews!  Personally, I’ve only heard a track or two off “W:/2016ALBUM/”, but what I have heard is extremely promising and leads me to believe this latest Deadmau5 project could be his best release in years!  The release features a different sound from Deadmau5 that includes a significant amount of experimentation, different from his previous releases, while also showcasing the classic synth sounds and recognizable beats that make Deadmau5′ material iconic and timeless.

In other Deadmau5 news, Deadmau5′ most successful single, “Ghost N Stuff”, recently went platinum according to RIAA.  The single, which features vocals from Rob Swire and is featured on the highly praised album, “For Lack of a Better Name”, is one of the most well known Deadmau5 tracks.  The best part of this news story, however, is that according to RIAA “Ghosts N Stuff” went platinum  on Halloween this year.  Out of all the days in the year for a track titled “Ghosts N Stuff” to go platinum, Halloween has to be the best day for the track to do so.  Regardless of the well fitting date to go platinum, “Ghosts N Stuff” is still a fantastic electronic song and the fact that it is now certified platinum is a huge accomplishment!  Congrats to Deadmau5 for the remarkable feat and hopefully more singles of his reach this notable level of success!

Even though I am crazy behind on album reviews, I definitely plan on completing the review for “W:/2016ALBUM/” in the near future.  For the meantime check out the stream of the album below and let us know what you think of the latest Deadmau5 record.  Be sure to check back in for more reviews and music content and let us know if there are any records that you want us to review in the last few weeks of 2016!