Tag Archives: electronic music

GEMS Embrace the Mystical With Their Full Moon Singles Series

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Photos by Edric Chen

Every 28.5 days there’s a new full moon. That’s a fact that Cliff Usher and Lindsay Pitts of GEMS can offer up without consulting Google, having committed to releasing a new single with each lunar event. That tight production and release schedule has provided some unique challenges for the duo. (Usher cringes as he recalls mixing recent offering “Blow Out the Light” while lying sick on the floor thanks to a dodgy Korean sandwich.) But thematically, it was a perfect fit: their twilight pop is an appropriate soundtrack for moon’s waning and waxing. But perhaps even more importantly, the experiment satisfied the musicians on a very practical level.

“The project will probably come together as a collection of songs in some way,” Pitts says, seated at an outdoor café in downtown Los Angeles. “But for now we wanted to get back to the flow and momentum of putting a song out, interacting with people, and then putting another song out.”

But even with their eyes pointed toward the heavens, music has helped both Usher and Pitts overcome some very earthly concerns. As both explain, music has been one of the only things to provide a sense of stability while navigating both romantic snarls and defining their sense of belonging in an unstable world.

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The Dreamy Synth Pop of Puerto Rico’s Los Wálters is Rooted in Themes of Distance and Escape

Los Wálters

Towards the end of Isla Disco, the third full-length album from the Puerto Rican synth pop duo Los Wálters, is the following line, heard in the characteristically harmonious vocals of the band’s members, Luis López and Ángel Emanuel Figueroa, and buried underneath seemingly unending layers of bass and synths: “No hay nada violento en escapar.” There is nothing violent in escaping.

This theme, the need for a mental (if not always physical) respite from reality, is one that has appeared throughout the duo’s discography since they burst onto the Puerto Rican music scene in 2011—whether it be in their relentless layering of harmonies, their dizzying array of synth lines, the understated references to tropicalia, the dreamy quality of their lyrics or the visual dreamscape they create in their videos. It has defined their approach to music and the world that surrounds them while thrusting them into a category of their own in the island’s scene, farther away from the smaller venues, closer to larger stages and dominating festival line-ups in the Caribbean and in Miami. In a scene dominated by punk, hardcore and rock acts, Los Wálters have formed a uniquely tropical brand of synth pop, influenced by everything from Italo-disco to ‘80s pop and new wave to the oft-cited movida madrileña, that aims to provide a different soundtrack to the lives and experiences of Puerto Rican youth today.   

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Solidwave: The Top Physical Vaporwave Releases

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Vaporwave famously takes its name from ‘vaporware’—the name for products in the tech sector that, despite being officially announced for imminent release, never actually see the light of day. Given this inspiration, listeners would be forgiven for assuming that the genre’s ‘LPs’ and ‘singles’ were always meant to be listened to as mp3s, where they’d be eternally confined to a kind of digital half-life almost as ghostly as the Infinium Phantom. However, even though vaporwave certainly enjoys flirting with notions of unreality and illusion, the genre does, in fact, have a longstanding relationship with more tangible musical formats. That relationship mostly involves the humble cassette tape and the similarly humble VHS, two formats which, rather than situating vaporwave firmly within the present era, serve to reinforce the sense that many of its albums are long-lost relics from a dimly-remembered past.

And yet, even though though the genre’s physical-release focus does remain mostly on cassette, it’s becoming increasingly common to find new and canonical records, from older classics such as Vaperror’s Mana Pool to newer entries like R23x’s VELTHL, being issued on vinyl and CD. If nothing else, this development is significant because it challenges the sense that vaporwave is simply about nostalgia and internet culture, confirming it as a genre worthy of being appreciated purely on its musical merits, like any other. Labels seeking to take vaporwave out of the Internet forums, perhaps, wish to make it appear more “legitimate” before a wider audience. Here’s a rundown of 10 of the best recent vaporwave releases on these two formats.

HKE – HK

Originally released in January 2015, HKE’s neo-psychedelic HK was reissued on beautiful 175g blue vinyl in December 2016. Musically reminiscent of the London-based producer’s seminal work as 2814 with t e l e p a t h, the album is nonetheless even more abstract, otherworldly and mind-bending than all three of 2814’s previous outings. These floating soundscapes create a powerful sense of being lost in a dystopian megalopolis-in-the-sky, and the heavyweight 12″ gives us something to hold onto as we drift in space.

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Album of the Day: Fla.mingo, “Fantasy”

Because it so often bases itself on sampling and plunderphonics, the boundaries between vaporwave and other genres are regularly blurry. Fla.mingo’s debut album, Fantasy, is the rare example of a record where the line between vaporwave and another genre—in this case, synth pop—is almost completely annihilated. The New York-based producer seamlessly melds the two to create a powerful ode to lost innocence, youth, and love.

It all starts sweetly, with openers “Fantasy” and “Everything Felt So Right” recalling the sugary bubble-gum optimism of Fla.mingo’s August EP U Melt Me. But the album quickly pivots to wistfulness and stays there, using brooding synths and distant vocal samples on  tracks like “浮く” and “Heartache2” to evoke a wounded, broken romanticism.

The keening, high-pitched electronics that end “Die”—as well as the echoing, spaced-out textures of “Depression Dive”—perfectly illustrate this emotion,  the far-off vocals pining after some departed love. And while later cuts like the techno-influenced “Aliens” show hope creeping back into the mix, the album’s melancholy depths are finally confirmed when closer “Fantasy II” rolls around, and all that’s left of the Fantasy are ghostly trails of reverb.

Simon Chandler 

Today, Stand with Bandcamp in Support of Immigrants/Basic Human Values

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Like 98% of U.S. citizens (including the President), I am the descendant of immigrants—my great-grandparents came to America from Russia and Lithuania as teenagers and worked in sweatshops until they were able to afford to bring the rest of their families over. Most everyone you speak to in this country has a similar story to tell, because we are, in fact, a nation of immigrants, bound together by a shared belief in justice, equality, and the freedom to pursue a better life. In this context, last week’s Executive Order barring immigrants and refugees from seven Middle Eastern countries from entering the United States is not simply immoral, it violates the very spirit and foundation of America.

Contrary to the assertions of the current administration, the order will not make us safer (an opinion shared by the State Department and many members of Congress including prominent Republicans). Christian religious leaders have denounced both the ban, as well as the exception prioritizing Christian immigrants, as inhumane. It is an unequivocal moral wrong, a cynical attempt to sow division among the American people, and is in direct opposition to the principles of a country where the tenet of religious freedom is written directly into the Constitution. This is not who we are, and it is not what we believe in. We at Bandcamp oppose the ban wholeheartedly, and extend our support to those whose lives have been upended.

And so all day today (starting at 12:01am Pacific Time), for any purchase you make on Bandcamp, we will be donating 100% of our share of the proceeds to the American Civil Liberties Union, who are working tirelessly to combat these discriminatory and unconstitutional actions.

As another way of showing solidarity with the immigrants and refugees from the seven banned countries—as well as those impacted by the construction of the Mexican border wall—we’ve compiled a list of albums made by artists from the affected countries (Bandcamp may be incorporated in the United States, but we host artists from every corner of the world). We believe that knowledge and empathy are crucial weapons against fear and intolerance. We hope that, as you listen to these albums, you’ll not only discover some great new artists, but will also gain a further appreciation and understanding for the way music transcends all borders, and remember that, even in the darkest of times, there is more that unites us than divides us.

— Ethan Diamond, Bandcamp Founder & CEO

(Updated Feb. 2: Since our announcement, over 150 bands and labels have volunteered to donate their proceeds to the ACLU and other organizations as well. You can see that list here.)

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