Bangers: DJ Paypal, 猫叉Master, The Internet
Music is hard to talk about, it seems, in part because almost all conversation has to do with the personalities behind it, or the most recent controversy, or anything but the actual music. But there are amazing releases coming from all over and they deserve to be highlighted properly. This column is a place where the stuff I’ve been bumping lately can hopefully get some credit for the sounds contained therein, not for context or thinkpiece nonsense. This is all going to be music that I find worth my time, not slams of things I didn’t care for or a place to talk about what everyone else might be. Because at the end of the day, the most important thing is what comes out of your speakers.
DJ Paypal – Buy Now
Buy Now really does live up to its title. Five star review on Amazon with no complaints, honestly. One really easy metric for quality in a release, especially with dance music, is how many of the tracks get savored on each playthrough and how many get skipped. It’s a rough estimate, but in a scene with a focus on quality in shorter releases (singles, EPs, soundcloud throwaways) rather than quantity (full-length albums), it’s the fastest way to determine if something is worth your time. And there isn’t a single skip-worthy song in the bunch. The high-speed juke coming out of DJ Paypal’s laptop is sonic pointillism: dizzying and impenetrable up close, a rush of new color and perspective from a suitable distance. Samples fly out in a Nintendo-addled rush, pop and hip-hop and twenty years of dance music are distilled into a potent cocktail, and the energy level never dips for a second. But this isn’t just a producer using the same few tricks on each track. DJ Paypal expertly layers it all into some of the most incredibly fun and incredibly smooth party music of the last five years. Buy Now is propelled by a perfect ebb and flow of craftsmanship and straight-up fun. Always smarter than you, but never too snobby to get down.
猫叉Master – follow slowly
follow slowly is the fourth solo album by Naoyuki Sato, alias 猫叉Master, a composer who moved from freelance work to scoring video games for Konami in 1999. Half a decade later his songs began cover the catalogs of the company’s long-running Bemani arcade rhythm game franchise. He now provides sound direction for large aspects of the series, including the flagship Bemani series beatmaniaIIDX. Where Sato finds time to continue a steady solo output of four albums in the past six years we may never know, but follow slowly is a sure sign that he’s not slowing down. There are clear signs of his day job at Konami all over; from the choice in rhythms and song structures to the way the melodies are designed to stick in your head for days this initially scans as very well-made video game music. But underneath that surface beats a sweet J-pop heart. Guest vocalists don’t get solos but rather folded into the rest of the song. 猫叉Master also lets a more experimental and classical side loose, which turns follow slowly into easily 猫叉Master’s most fun set of music to date. He’s just as comfortable throwing cat meows in with electric guitar and traditional Japanese instruments as he is going for high-speed techno thump. And that polyglot musicality thrown in with a heavy dose of exploration keeps the entire way through these 17 tracks loose and airy. follow slowly is impressionistic music, then, something familiar and different and bracing and requiring two looks to properly take in. This may seem to be a display of compositional chops but it’s really a roadmap to imagined places with stunning vistas.
The Internet – Ego Death
Hopefully the title Ego Death isn’t a jab at Odd Future’s demise, although The Internet seem to be doing just fine on their own, and this project never felt too close to its mothership anyways. The collective members of The Internet have grown in number but the presence of more personnel has only tightened the songwriting. The evolution has as much to do with the performance as the songwriting itself. Syd tha Kyd stepped from acting as Odd Future’s in-house DJ and producer to singing about the highs and mostly lows of dating and sleeping with other people. Sometimes funny, always honest, it nevertheless needed room to grow on The Internet’s first two efforts. What’s most striking is that Syd has found a positively electric creative vein for Ego Death, and it’s carrying over to the rest of the band as well. The volume is more of a kind with The xx’s debut than, say, Earl Sweatshirt’s newest album I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside. There’s too much going on in its close, small-room setting to call it minimalist by any stretch. The interplay between sections makes a sensuous and downright wired R&B using music that influenced it and it continues to influence. There’s heavy emphasis on drums and bass, both emulating the relaxed boom of classic West Coast hip-hop, while the rest of the band fuses psychedelia and jazz and rock to make something too interested in making actual left turns to be labeled “alternative” and too locked-in to really be called “experimental” either. It’s a heady mix, like incense, and it fits the bedroom atmosphere of these songs. Ego Death finds The Internet maybe not quite undergoing a complete rebirth, but coming into its own and releasing its strongest and most confident set of music to date.
Peter McCracken is a student, tech support drone, and music aficionado from Milwaukee.