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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Album Review: CHOTTO SUKI Mother Nature’s Silver Seed

Chotto Suki

Being a huge fan of No Problema Tapes, I often check out their new releases or releases I haven’t given a listen to yet.  That being said, Chotto Suki’s “Mother Nature’s Silver Seed” is the latest release from the Chilean label, so of course I had to give it a listen.  At first listen, this project by Suki himself is not what I would expect to hear from an ambient artist, based off the experience I have with the electronic music subgenre so far.  The use of real life action-based samples along with polarizing tracks and song structures gives a different take on the ambient, atmospheric sound No Problema Tapes artists usually show in their releases.  “Mother Nature’s Silver Seed” has many faces as the core sound of the project rapidly changes from track to track. I usually never break down an album track by track, but in this situation, it’s almost necessary to process this album by analyzing each individual song first then the entire project as a whole.

The album starts off strong with an instantly memorable song titled “Night Drive”.  “Night Drive’s” ominous sound made from steady bass lines and peculiar percussion, mixed with their sample of a guy getting in a car and the album art that depicts a Japanese city at night gives me a Bladerunner vibe while listening.  You instantly feel immersed in the music, artwork, and project as a whole, which instantly allows the listener to visualize multiple scenes while listening to this entire record.

“Landescape” quickly moves to a atmospheric, natured influenced track that imagines me getting out of the eerie city into a gorgeous, Amazonian landscape (pun intended) where all I hear is a calming synth, a beautiful guitar, and the nature around me.  I personally wish this track was longer as it is captivating, complex, artfully crafted, and above all, simply beautiful, and it’s mere 3:20 in playing time does not give it enough justice.  It’s hard to not declare “Mother Nature’s Silver Seed” as an instant classic ambient album, even after hearing just the first two tracks, and “Landescape” provides enough proof on its own that this release is not one to be overlooked.

The title track, “Mother Nature’s Silver Seed”, is very similar to “Landescape”, but the vibe transitions from a happy, nature atmosphere, to a more serene, atmospheric one. The new sound and vibe experienced allows me to visualize walking through the Amazonian land to now come across a deserted village that appears to be abandoned, with precious items left behind due to an abrupt desertion. The popping of what sounds like a vinyl record being spun heightens the pensiveness of this song and actually serves as a very smooth transition through this eclectic in sound album. The layered soundscapes also sound beautiful and help connect the use of similar sounding synths in the previous track to what you hear on this song, “Mother Nature’s Silver Seed”.

“On the Way Back” also finds a way to bridge the gap between two polarizing tracks. Moving from the abandoned village pictured in the self titled track to what I envision would be a song set to stargazing, “On the Way Back” uses more bass heavy soundscapes that embody a similar structure and sound to what is heard on the previous track, but when comparing them side by side, the difference between the two songs is very prominent. However, this is without a doubt one of the most mesmerizing songs heard on the album as I instantly imagine lying down on an empty field and looking up at the vast, never-ending universe above.

“Subterranean Homesick Feel” does a stellar job at transitioning from “On the Way Back” to itself as it uses the rain sample heard in the last minutes on “On the Way Back”, but instead as the track starts, the intensity of the storm greatly begins to increase. The track then takes on an almost horror like aspect as chilling effects, builds, and soundscapes are used along with a sample of two individuals interacting, giving the track a suspenseful feel. A lighter lead soundscape intertwines with menacing instrumental tracks that give a feeling of eminent danger. The change from a relaxing, stargazing scene instantly switches to that of distortion and paranoia as the mood switches to that of walking through the city in the artwork with an eerie feeling of being followed. “Subterranean Homesick Feel” is a track that could easily be heard in a modern suspense-filled horror movie.

As “Subterranean Homesick Feel” comes to an abrupt close, which is only fitting with it’s horror-esque sound, “The Wanderer” eases in with sounds of a crashing wave only to bombard you with a chugging distorted guitar that parallels its predecessor in album track list succession. The intensity soon mellows out and fades into a relaxing sample of motorcycles going by and other various city sounds. The eerie feeling of walking through the city heard before has now turned into walking through a club, being smothered by the crowdedness, and of course loudness of the environment, only to wind up outside in a more calm, peaceful environment of the city.  If you are still wondering as to how diverse this album is, just listening to “The Wanderer” alone will give you a great perspective as to how fast the mood can shift.

“Urban Maze”, despite its name, has a composition of mostly isolation. Using primarily one hauntingly sounding soundscape throughout its short duration, gives a feeling as if the neon signs of the city are glaring down so intensely on the people walking below that the lights have almost become an artificial sun for the city streets. The idea of less is more is perfectly showcased in this song as a short composition with few tracks creates a powerful and memorable song.

“Looking For Corinthians”, like most tracks on this release, sounds nothing like the song before it. Using a combination of bells, lighter pads, and soundscapes, and of course smooth yet noticeable bass lines, helps create a peaceful atmosphere nothing like what was heard on “Urban Maze”. Even various arpeggiator synths help give this a lighter sound compared to the harsh noise heard in the previous track. You can picture the city in the artwork during the day and how the peaceful regularness of the environment can be therapeutic.

Not only do I think that “Landing Smoothly, Captain” should be the first song on the album, but I also believe that it should be an entirely separate project. Obviously each track is different from each other on “Mother Nature’s Silver Seed”, but the unique sound and atmosphere heard in this track is vastly different than the rest of the album as a whole, not to mention that “Looking For Corinthians” would be a fine closer to the project if “Landing Smoothly, Captain” was separated and made into it’s own release. The entire buildup with the samples of footsteps and the computer’s voice, the slowly rising synths and basses, and the entire sound that is reminiscent of soundtracks heard on fantastic movies like “Gravity” and “Interstellar” make me believe that a song this unique and absolutely beautiful should be rewarded with a separate release. Not to take away from the rest of the album, as there isn’t a bad song on this entire project, I just personally believe “Landing Smoothly, Captain” seems a little out of place on “Mother Nature’s Silver Seed”. Even the visualization, which greatly benefits from the computer’s narrated sample, depicts a futuristic space ship landing on a new, uncharted planet, which is extremely different than what is visualized throughout the rest of the album. “Landing Smoothly, Captain” is Chotto Suki’s “Palm Mall” and it has instantly become one of my favorite ambient songs I have ever heard.

In conclusion, “Mother Nature’s Silver Seed” truly is a musical journey. This album is without a doubt an example of not only how versatile ambient artists like Chotto Suki can be, but it also shows the complete power and beauty that ambient, atmospheric music can truly encompass when done right.  A lack of percussion really brings the pads, synths, basses, and samples to the forefront of the music and exemplifies the power that instrumental ambient and atmospheric projects can have.  Personally, I will definitely look into what else Chotto Suki has released in the past, and I really hope that he eventually writes the soundtrack to a major film one day, as I believe his superb songwriting and composing skills would result in another fantastic piece.  I give “Mother Nature’s Silver Seed” an 8.7/10 and I have attached the stream of the album below for those to check out to hear how stellar this project truly is.  If you would like to purchase this album on digital format or even cassette tape, a link to No Problema’s merchandise store is also attached below.  While you’re on this site, however, check out what other albums we’ve reviewed lately and check back in for more posts we will have on the site soon!

No Problema store:

https://noproblematapes.bandcamp.com/album/mother-natures-silver-seed

 

“Mother Nature’s Silver Seed”:

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!

Vinyl and Cassette News: Burial’s “YOUNG DEATH / NIGHTMARKET” Accidently Gets Released Early On Vinyl

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In case you missed it, Burial, the legendary English electronic producer and recording artist, recently released his latest project “YOUNG DEATH / NIGHTMARKET (HDB100).  The short EP, which was officially released only a few days ago, features an experimental ambient sound accompanied with reverb filled synths and multiple, altered samples that give the project an overall sound unique to Burial himself.  This new EP is very fascinating and is both relaxing and compelling, causing the listener to feel at ease yet never lose interest or focus on the material.

The release itself is stellar, and I will most likely follow up this post with an official review of the project, but the most prominent news to come from this release actually isn’t about the material, but how it was distributed.  Days before the EP was supposed to have a surprise release, it suddenly surfaced on Discogs.  Stunned, Burial fans quickly reacted to this update and wondered if this was a legitimate, new release from Burial and where they could get themselves a copy of this record.  It was soon realized that the Discogs update was made in response to a Toronto record shop, called Sonic Boom Records, accidentally selling the release early on Black Friday.  Sonic Boom Records, who received the new 12″ records by mail, assumed the new release was a Black Friday secret listing and because of this 5 copies were accidentally sold to Toronto customers.  This project, which was eventually officially released on Burial’s official Bandcamp page on November 28th, is the first solo project of 2016 by the British artist.  Once the vinyl EP was officially released it quickly sold out on Burial’s site and has since been selling extremely fast at local record shops in both North America and Europe.  There are still numerous places that have a copy left to purchase, including the 53 individual listings on Discogs selling the 12″ for as little as $8.57, however this record will definitely sell out completely eventually.

If you are an electronic music fan you need to listen to this release.  In my opinion, this will most likely be one of the best EPs you hear all year.  If you are unfamiliar with Burial this is a very good place to start, however his discography is extremely immense and filled with great material, so checking out any release from the South London based artist is highly recommended.  The link to purchase the 12” vinyl record from Discogs is attached below along with the full EP stream.  Give it a listen, check out the other electronic reviews and music content posted on this site, and be sure to visit often for more electronic, vinyl, and cassette news!

https://www.discogs.com/Burial-Young-Death-Nightmarket/release/9412422