500 Word Review: Azuresands 大麻 “Inner Journey”

inner journey

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”:

Welcome to the Erik’s Album Reviews Youtube Channel!

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Do you like watching Youtubers talk about their vinyl, cassette and CD collections? Do you enjoy watching unboxing videos of physical formats for metal, punk, electronic, and other genres?  Do you like watching album reviews?  If you said yes to any of those questions then you need to subscribe to our recently launched Youtube channel, which will feature everything mentioned and then some!  Drop a sub at the link below and check out our first ever Collection Update and our Relapse Records 10 LP grab bag video attached below!

 

Erik’s Album Reviews Youtube Channel:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCT2WZ3e5utc9eqs7JF8PnTA/videos

The First Collection Update Part 1:

 

The First Collection Update Part 2:

 

Relapse Records 10 LP Grab Bag + Dying Fetus “Reign Supreme” Vinyl:

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”:

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!

Breaking News: Business Casual Announces BIZBOX 5

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Yesterday, one of the most successful record labels in vaporwave, Business Casual, announced that they will be releasing the next installment to their bi-monthly cassette box set release, BIZBOX, this Friday.  In the past, the previous 4 BIZBOX’s included 1-3 known items and at least 1 mystery item was also included.  However, for BIZBOX 5, it appears that this will be the first BIZBOX package without a mystery release.  The reason for this is because the albums featured in March’s BIZBOX package are extremely important.  The next installment will include releases from the notable Youtube artist, FrankJavCee.

If you follow Anthony Fantano’s, “Theneedledrop”, or any prominent figures in the vaporwave community, then I can almost guarantee you’ve heard of Frank and his music.  FrankJavCee focuses more on the comedic aspect of vaporwave, the aesthetic involved in vaporwave and its art and community, and also in meme and internet culture, and this approach to his social media presence directly correlates to his music.  Actually being a very skilled producer and songwriter, FrankJavCee has seen widespread positive feedback for his two most prominent projects “FrankJavCee Collection, Vol. 1” and “FrankJavCee Volume 2”, and now they are both being released on cassette this Friday through the already historic label, Business Casual.

I can guarantee that these tapes will sell ridiculously fast, and I for one will be sure to snag a copy the minute they are released.  Having already picked up BIZBOX 3 and 4 and really enjoying the products I received in the packages, I definitely plan on picking up copies of future BIZBOX releases, and you should too!  Check out Frank’s latest successful album, “FrankJavCee Volume 2”, below through its stream on bandcamp and view the announcement of BIZBOX 5 “Frank”!  Also, if you would like to pick up a copy of the new Business Casual release, you can do so here this Friday.

 

Track of the Day Tuesday: FLA.MINGO Depression Drive

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This week, the track you need to give a listen to is “Depression Drive” by the vaporwave artist, Fla.mingo.  Fla.mingo’s album “Fantasy” was the first release of 2017 for Business Casual and I already know that it will be one of the greatest vaporwave albums of the year.  I’m not very familiar with Fla.mingo’s music, but based off “Fantasy”, it appears that he mixes both vaporwave/plunderphonics influences with house/EDM influences.  In fact, when listening to his music I instantly think about how some of the synths and vocal samples remind me of Porter Robinson and his two phenomenal full length records.  Combining both my love for vaporwave and EDM, I guarantee I’ll become a huge fan of Fla.mingo as I begin to check out more of his material.

“Depression Drive” is a great place to start when first listening to “Fantasy”.  It has a looping synth very similar to Porter Robinson, Minnesota, Seven Lions, and other notable EDM acts, while also incorporating a pitch shifted vocal track that compliments the rest of the track beautifully.  “Depression Drive” also has a simple, repetitive beat that gives the song a club/House vibe, which further makes the track even more addictive.  “Depression Drive” is a song you absolutely have to listen to today!  I’ve attached the entire bandcamp stream of the album below for those who want to give “Fantasy” a listen.  “Depression Drive” is track number 5, but I highly doubt you’ll be able to listen to only one song, as the entire release is phenomenal.  I look forward to seeing what else Fla.mingo has in store for us in the future and of course let us know what track you think should be the “Track of the Day Tuesday” next week!

 

Breaking News: Business Casual Announces the First Few Releases of 2017

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Yesterday, prominent vaporwave record label, Business Casual, officially announced the first few releases scheduled for 2017!  Through their twitter page Business Casual announced four records that will all be released in January, starting as early as next week! The first release of 2017 will be BIZBOX 4 “Chill”, which is a project I am extremely excited to hear!  For those familiar with Business Casual, you will know that the label runs a bi-monthly release where a selected album, or multiple albums, are sold in a cassette bundle with random tapes of previous Business Casual releases.  This project is a fan favorite, and after buying a copy of BIZBOX 3, I can without a doubt say that these label specific release projects are phenomenal and are something I now look forward to!  Following the release of BIZBOX 4, Business Casual plans to release “Fantasy” by Fla.mingo and “Caffeine” by R-RODD.  I personally am unfamiliar with either of these artists’ material, but just from looking at the aesthetic of the album artworks shown, I assume that at least one of the upcoming projects will feature a sound somewhat similar to future-funk.  Regardless of their genre, I definitely plan on checking out these records due out in the next few weeks!  Finally, the last announced January 2017 release is actually a cassette release for STAQQ OVERFLO’s “Promise”.  “Promise”, which was actually last month, is a very successful album that has found its way on to numerous AOTY lists recently.  I personally plan on giving it a listen before I finalize my album of the year list, and you should too!  All of these releases will be sold on cassette as well through Business Casual’s website!

Business Casual is one of the leading labels in the vaporwave genre and their massive catalog of releases have helped shape the future of vaporwave itself.  If you still haven’t checked out any projects associated with Business Casual, I highly suggest you visit the label’s site, especially since all of their albums are available for free download!  I’m very excited to see what’s in store for Business Casual, and these 4 projects should definitely be a solid start to a successful year for Business Casual!  Check out the list of scheduled releases below, visit the label’s page, and be sure to come back often for more vaporwave related news, reviews, and content!

BIZBOX 4 “Chill”: 1/6

Fla.mingo – “Fantasy”: 1/13

R-RODD – “Caffeine”: 1/20

STAWW OVERFLO – “Promise”: 1/27

 

Business Casual website:

http://music.businesscasual.biz/music