Dear Japan – ‘Kushiro’

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Dear Japan is an intercontinental collaboration spearheaded by two, so far unnamed pairing from Hamburg and California.

The secretive duo do not offer much in the way of background info, preferring to make it all about the music, namely new single; ‘Kushiro’. Whilst ‘Kushiro’ is the duo’s maiden release, it’s not the work of novices. It is a minimalist slow-burner that channels haunting, dramatic and evocative atmospheric sounds tempered by soft yet unsettling percussion, and rich, smoky vocals that evokes a sense of weary detachment. It is mournful and emotive, with a dream inducing, sweeping, cinematic quality. A majestic, captivating introduction, no question.

Listen to ‘Kushiro’ below.

BarryGruff’s Albums of the Year 2017

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Yes, it’s that time of year again, lists, lists and well, more lists – and from every angle possible. That said, compiling an annual list of my favourite records from throughout the year is one of the most enjoyable aspects to the blog.

There was lots of great music in 2017 (as with every year) but here are my 20 favourite records from the year. Also, I’m hoping the festive period will provide time to catch up on some records I’ve missed throughout the year, so feel free to recommend some listening material.

Without further ado, here are my favourite records from 2017:

20. Czarface – ‘First Weapon Drawn’

For album number four, Czarface (Esoteric, Inspectah Deck and 7L) teamed up with Marvel Comics to create a soundtrack to an actual hardcopy comic of the same name. The previous installments have featured rapping from Esoteric, Inspectah Deck and other guests, however, on this occasion it’s just the superbly evocative instrumentation, with narration tacked on throughout. In fact, 7L’s production is some of strongest found throughout all the releases. Not quite at the level of albums 1 – 3, it provides an excellent little stop gap while we await a new album proper.

[Stream on Spotify]

19. Nouveaunoise – ‘Nouveaunoise’

Galway duo Nouveaunoise – Conor Gaffney & Niall Conway – had earned themselves a rep for finely crafted electronic productions, intricately weaving crackling samples, jazz-sampling percussion and warm melodies and crisp beats a la Four Tet or Boards of Canada. The pair released their debut back in 2010 and their self-titled follow-up sees them continue to shine when it comes to elegant, lush and intricately produced pristine electronica. Eight years is a long time but it was worth the wait!

[Stream on Spotify]

18. The Courtneys – ‘The Courtneys II’

With their 2013 debut, The Courtneys peddled lo-fi fuzzy slacker garage-pop with the ’90s casting a pretty long shadow and for the follow-up, the Vancouver trio have repeated the trick. Endearingly ramshackle, the dreamy vocals and laid-back sunkissed vibes are pumped with fuzzed-up distorted guitars, sweet licks and heavy, driving bass lines. Rarely has ramshackle indie been so appealing and so pretty damn irresistible. This is the sound of long, hot summers.

[Stream on Spotify]

17. Girlpool – ‘Powerplant’

Girlpool’s sound gets bigger on their second LP, beefed up with addition of a drummer crafting that classic alt-rock loud-quiet-loudness throughout but Girlpool know where their true power lies: Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad’s voices still sit front and centre. The unsettling magic that exists between makes them Girlpool distinct, lending their patented fragility and vulnerability. Powerplant is sparse and explores the energy and shape of contrariety and emptiness.

[Stream on Spotify]

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Alan Maguire – ‘Time is Tension’

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‘Time is Tension’ is the latest single from Dublin producer/musician Alan Maguire.

There is a touch of the epic, dramatic even, as ‘Time is Tension’ simultaneously exudes an aura of ethereal wonderment and suspense building tension. A beautifully crafted exploration, it endeavors to enthrall and captivate, winging your thoughts a million miles away from the dullness of daily drabness. Crisp neon beats, phasing guitars and synths, and deep groove are expertly employed by Maguire to bring about an atmospheric, spacey-disco adventure. Delivered with a deft touch, pin point accuracy and flair for the atmospheric; this is a broody, thought-and-emotion evoking and immersive listening experience. In short; ‘Time is Tension’ will dramatically improve your day, no doubt about it.

Listen to ‘Time is Tension’ below and if that is to your liking, there’s plenty more where that came from, over here.

HART – ‘Mantra’

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HART is a UK-based producer shrouded in mystery and mystique.

Described as an eclectic musical oddball, a dream cloud sweeper, anime come real life and galaxy music decoder from the futures past… little else in the way of information is forthcoming.

What’s lacking in background information is more than made up for by the sheer spectacular brilliance of new single, ‘Mantra’. ‘Mantra’ is a dreamy, cosmic concoction that flutters gracefully in an elegant space between subtly euphoric and vaguely ambient. Fusing euphoric and electronic progression of melodies with nostalgic samples, we are utterly captivated through repeated propulsive beats and swirls, sustained rhythm and tender-hook promise of a euphoric climax – and protracted moments of twinkling crystalline grandeur. ‘Mantra’ is magnificent and transfixing with its crisp frosty elegance that takes you through time and space with an ease and breeze. A hypnotic and chilled sound collage.

You can enjoy ‘Mantra’ below (and enjoy it you will). The Reflective EP is out now, tune in here.

Kan Wakan – ‘Tuesday’

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Over the past few months Los Angeles-based artist Kan Wakan has been slowly revealing pieces of his forthcoming triple LP, Phantasmagoria; outstanding tracks like ‘Still Feather’, ‘I Had To Laugh’ and ‘I Would’ to name but a few,

With each new layer revealed, comes more intrigue and curiousness, especially given the depth of the project seems to never end – and the same can said for the superbly soothing latest single ‘Tuesday’. Featuring Rachel Fannan and Avi Buffalo, it is gorgeous, with gentle orchestration joining delicate guitar as Fannan’s voice hovers and twirls, and finds root in your soul amid the fresh, autumnal meditative vibe. Absolutely gorgeous!

The only downside to be found is that we are still none the wiser to when the forthcoming triple LP, Phantasmagoria will see the light of day, but so long as it does finally arrive, we’ll be fine.

Listen to ‘Tuesday’ below – and while your at it – Kan Wakan’s can be easily found on all the usual streaming services.