Monday, August 19, 2013

Akira Rabelais

Fragmentary seems like the perfect introduction word to Los Angeles based musician Akira Rabelais.  Either that or innovative.
His approach is not something that easily be pinned down, and there are multiple examples of this.  Perhaps the most telling part of this story is that this is a man that created his own computer program with which to filter and modify the music that he plays.
His creation of his musical program the Arge├»phontes Lyre, was the beginning to his 7 releases, which span everything from field recording to glitch noise.  His approach is normally one of producing the sounds and then running them through his program which alters it via filtering, re-combinations, and morphologies.  It's a high tech way of adding a computer touch to everything, as usually the program will decide on its own what to do to the sound he made.
He tends to take an ambient, quiet approach as seen in much of his music.  Being a musician in almost the classical sense, he composes for piano and guitar, as well as cultivating ideas in the IDM/electronic genre.

 His first release, "Elongated Pentagonal Pyramid", was very much an electronic and abrasive approach, with a few slower and calming tracks to the release.  It was released by himself at first before picking up attention and being re-released.  "Eisoptrophobia" and "...Benediction, Draw" followed, being piano and guitar based albums, respectively.
"Spellewauerynsherde" was the first time it was truly clear exactly what his program was capable of.  Rabelais took Icelandic choir songs that he found, reworked them, and filtered them through his program.  What came out is a mutant, unexpected, and slightly haunted sounding release full of bizarre voices echoing and floating around, and soothing drones of voice tonality.
To compare it to anything else, one would have to draw a comparison to something that had been damaged, like the works of William Basinski, which were constantly in a state of flux despite being at its core, repetitive.
Rabelais took a foray into field recording with "AM Station" and "Hollywood", which I must admit I didn't enjoy, as I don't really listen to field recordings.  So, next!

"Caduceus" came in 2010 - and this is where shit got serious.  Immediately it hits that this is not the slower, ambient, and field recordings that had preceded it.  This took a turn back towards his first release, "Elongated", except that the noises in this were not computer produced, but guitar produced.  He played stuff on a guitar, filtered it through his many programs filters, and emerged out an loud and disturbing piece of music.  It is groundbreaking to say the least.

He has since vanished from the music scene, I cannot find any information about him since then, so I don't know if we can anticipate another release or not.  His website is another separate enigma, which you can find a lot of information on, if you're willing to dig through its many, many pages.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Yellow Magic Orchestra

Next time I'll do a post on something American.  Guaranteed.
Until then, let's return to one of my favorite places fro fun music: Japan!

Ah, the 80's.  The 80's and late 70's were a very interesting part in musical history, as synths and pop music began exploding and people began to like music that was heavily inorganic.  Of course, there was Moog's and synthesizers before then (but not long before...) but this was when they really hit the mainstream.
There was also a bit of the remnants of disco left which gave some early 80's pop a very dancy, almost techno-ish vibe to it.

From Germany, the band Kraftwerk made it doing simplistic repetitive technology-related tracks.  What I'd describe as the Japanese equivalent to Kraftwerk was Yellow Magic Orchestra.  Musical magnate Haruomi Hosono had been well known in Japan since the early 70's for his funky, jazz influenced releases - and he teamed up with two mostly-unknowns, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Yukihiro Takahashi.  Their first release, 1978's self titled release, exploded.

This was an odd blend of actual video game soundtracks and Japanese synth pop, which at first was overall similar to Kraftwerk in the minimal, computer and synthesizer sounds.  Only 2 of the 10 songs had lyrics, then being slowly drawled and more of a second thought behind the obvious focus:  computer sounds.  It was all together a faster paced type of electronic dance music, being much more pop-oriented, which is why I believe it was in the end a more successful venture.

The hit single "Tong Poo" brought the release to many other ears and to many other countries, and soon enough their second single was being released.  The wonderful thing about YMO was that as they grew in popularity, their releases kept coming both as a band and as individuals.  Sakamoto, Hosono and Takahashi would  continue to work on their own solo work as well as being in the band, never de-prioritizing either.

2 big releases in 1980 and 2 more in 1981 proved that they were a very prolific band, in addition to those Takahashi and Sakamoto both had big solo releases during those years.  They were a force to be reckoned with.  They dominated the early 80's in Japan.  Their venture proved not to be too long lived, however.  Come 1984 they released only one, remix CD.  That would prove to be their last release for almost 10 years, only returning in 1993 and 10 years later in 2003.

They went their separate ways, Sakamoto becoming the breakout artist when he went on to win an Oscar for his soundtrack to The Last Emperor.

They were truly a fun, unique band.  My favorite of their releases, BGM, is truly a classic of 80's pop. As they forayed more into pop, they began to sing more, and worked with Japan-based British singer/songwriter Chris Mosdell to write English songs, and these to me and just priceless. I don't know the process of how these songs got written, who truly deserves credit for the lyrics, but they're just all in all great songs.

The best thing about 80's music was that it didn't have to make sense, be ABOUT anything.  It was fine to sing a wreckless jargon and base it to bizarre zany rhythms and that was fine, people ate it up.  With thought, I present YMO's Cue: