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Mija's Unexpected Ambience and 11 Other Albums for Heavy Rotation

This week's essential listening includes playful raps, optimistic jazz-fusion, spa ambience, and totally crushing noise. Something for everyone.

by Noisey Staff
19 February 2019, 9:54am

Mija photo by Ryan Farber / Powder photo by Yamila De Pico

Every week, the Noisey staff puts together a list of the best and most important albums, mixtapes, and EPs from the past seven days. Sometimes it includes projects we’ve written about on the site already; sometimes it's just made up of great records that we want everyone to hear, but never got the chance to write about. The result is neither comprehensive nor fair. We hope it helps.

Mija: The Space Between Pt. 1

Given that her whole thing is never doing the same thing, it’s some ways its inevitable that Mija would eventually add longform drone pieces to her repertoire. Still though, it’s always a fun trip to hear her offer her textured, emotive approach to new forms. Here, she stretches and twists the file for her 2018 single “Notice Me”—originally a skittering piano ballad—into a 24-minute wash of artifacted ambience. It’s kinda like when someone stretched out a Justin Bieber song and turned it into a Sigur Ros composition—except that The Space Between feels a little more like one of Harold Budd’s heavenly compositions or one of Bill Nelson’s Chance Encounters in the Garden of Lights. It’s pure golden-hour bliss. Unexpected, but brilliant.— Colin Joyce

Various Artists: Powder in Space

One of the longest nights I had last year was watching an all-night set from Powder at a club within walking distance of my apartment. I didn’t plan it that way. Homebody that I’ve become, I’m often kinda keen on checking out an hour or two of a club night before returning back to my PS4, but Powder wouldn’t let me. Everytime I’d feel a lull in my energy and set my sights on the door, she’d reach deep in her crates for another playful, ecstatic cut that’d keep me grinning and glued to the dancefloor. She just has that way of knowing what you need before you do.

That ability is on full display on this new CD mix for the New York label Beats in Space. She pulls from across the house and techno spectrum, but she emphasizes tracks with unexpected pops of color sprinkled throughout. The true standout moments, perhaps expectedly, come in the form of two new original tracks “New Tribe” and “The Gift” each of which illustrate her kaleidoscopic approach to melody and rope-skipping rhythmic sense in all its vibrancy. It’s joyful stuff, which I know you need. I certainly do.— Colin Joyce

Homeshake: Helium

Montreal’s Peter Sagar has maintained a pretty consistent vibe with his solo effort Homeshake. The former Mac Demarco guitarist’s songs are relaxed, boasting off-kilter synths that feel like boogie 45s played at 33 ⅓. It’s a winning combination for setting a groove, like he did on the gauzy 2017 LP Fresh Air but his latest Helium, places extra emphasis on atmosphere and songcraft. In interviews, Sagar’s a self-professed homebody and that isolation comes through on “Anything At All” with, “Everyone I know / Lives in my cellphone / No matter where I go / Moving a lost soul.” The songs are all uniformly woozy with many opening up with subtle sonic flourishes that sound like a serene shoreline. The saccharine gauze of single “Like Mariah” features a impeccably funky bass line while the twinkling electronics of “Another Thing” feel like it’s in the running for chillest dance song ever.— Josh Terry

9T Antiope: Nocebo

Nocebo is the second part of a trilogy of records that began with 2017’s Isthmus, each of which, they say, explore the idea of “location.” Isthmus was an exercise in worldbuilding, concerning itself with the imagined collision between the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies, and the way that the hybridization of the two could create something distinct from the sum of its parts. Nocebo is something of an inverse to this idea, instead of a creation of a space, it fixates on the absence. They refer to it as an exploration of “non-location,” and it’s a music of isolation, and disjunct. “It’s like an implosion,” they write. “That moment when everything slows down before a blast maybe, that pulsating state where you go back and forth between a nightmare and a sweet second before waking up.”— Colin Joyce, 9T Antiope's Brutal New Album Sees the World as It Is

Various Artists: Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990

While more North American listeners than ever are discovering 20th-century Japanese music thanks to the resurgence of City Pop and generations of new acts inspired by Yellow Magic Orchestra, leading the revival is Light In The Attic. With its Japan Archival Series, the Seattle-based reissue label has recently re-released some of YMO cofounder Haruomi Hosono's best solo albums on vinyl and compiled the country's underappreciated 60s and 70s folk-rock scene. Now, with Kankyō Ongaku, which translates to “environmental music,” is an exhaustive collection of 25 sublime and eclectic ambient tracks. The aforementioned YMO and Hosono appear with the cinematic "Loom" and the stunning near 16-minute "Original BGM," respectively, but the compilation really shines with its less easily recognizable artists. Satoshi Ashikawa opens the collection with the plaintive and gorgeous “Still Space” while pieces like the too-brief “Seiko 3” by composer Yasuaki Shimizu burst with vitality.— Josh Terry

Bjarki: Happy Earthday

Down with straight-faced techno dudes. Prankster-maximalist Bjarki is back with a new set of tracks seemingly composed for fart machine and joy buzzer. Squirmy melodies, unexpected twists, and ASCII eyeballs abound on Happy Earthday, which is apparently influenced by his home country of Iceland and “environmental issues.” This being a set of techno tracks, it’s hard to read any specific message into this, but if you want to take his at his word, the vibrancy of the natural world is a potent metaphor for what’s going on here. There’s biodiversity, immaculately designed systems all working together in this beautiful and hilarious way. You know how Planet Earth can sometimes be really funny? Maybe that’s what’s happening in the margins of “Cereal Rudestorm”—over the nautical electro-meanderings there’s all these pops, clicks and squirts that sound like something out of a Looney Tune. It’s electronic music as slapstick.— Colin Joyce

Anemone: Beat My Distance

Last spring, Montreal’s Anemone released the undeniably infectious debut single “Bout De Toi,” a song that felt equally indebted to ‘60s French yé-yé pop as much as floor-filling dance music with its driving bass line and delectable hooks. While the Chloé Soldevila fronted band explored those groovy inclinations on the sleeper 2018 highlight EP Baby Only You & I, their first full-length Beat My Distance finds the group streamlining their sound into a more psychedelic synth-pop comfort zone. Where the best early Anemone songs were sung entirely in French, English is the dominating force on the LP. Breezy singles like “Daffodils” and “Memory Lane” hit with overwhelming amounts of wistful pop. While their earliest offerings suggested Anemone is best experienced while dancing, this album proves their pop instincts (“Sunshine (Back To The Start),” “She’s The One”) are still more than intact.— Josh Terry

Jonny Nash: Make a Wilderness

This one came out last month out there in the meatspace, but finally crawled to Bandcamp this week, which makes a certain amount of sense. This is patient music, slowly unfurling in this beautifully phototropic way, bending and oozing toward light and heat. Drawing on the imaginary landscapes of that composers like Hiroshi Yoshimura drew up in the 80s, the Bandcamp notes suggest Nash sets about recreating the experience of environments in Endo, Ballard, and McCarthy novels. Those can be barren places, but this music is peaceful by and large. Worth zoning out to, and worth the wait.— Colin Joyce

Nozomu Matsumoto: Photocentrism

I’ve written before about the joys of Longform Editions, a vast and continually expanding archive of expansive experimental pieces explicitly designed to exist outside the playlistification of contemporary music listening. Largely, that’s been in the form of ambient and drone pieces—both beautiful and broken—but there’s a cool curio in their just-released batch. Nozomu Matsumoto’s Photocentrism is a truly baffling plunderphonics piece that pulls together all this baffling music—party rap, trance synths, blissful new age, screamo, and shreddy Satriani-esque guitar work—into an opaque collage that’s hard to grasp all at once. I was pretty sure when I hit play for the first time that I had multiple tabs playing music, but no, Matsumoto’s just a freak.— Colin Joyce

Euglossine: Coriolis

Over the past few years, the prolific Florida-based musician and visual artist Tristan Whitehill has had his eyes on the sky. The music that he makes as Euglossine—which has popped up on tastemaking experimental imprints like Orange Milk, Phinery Tapes, and Beer on the Rug—is weightless and uplifting, billowing upwards on the backs of glittery guitar lines and satiny synth sequences. Each lithe melody is like a hit of fuel in a hot air balloon, pushing his pieces further into the low-oxygen zones in between crust and space.

Coriolis, his new album due out on Hausu Mountain on February 15, explores some similarly gravity-defying spaces. Throughout the record’s 10 tracks, Whitehill more or less floats, tracing loopy melodies like lysergic contrails across a sky of swooning synthesizers. Some of the packaging around the sounds makes this metaphor explicit. The cover features abstract cumulus shapes bleeding across an impossibly blue background; there is a song called, simply, “Cloud Bop.”— Colin Joyce, “Euglossine's Optimistic Electronics Are Like a Dream”

Cherushii & Maria Minerva: Cherushii & Maria Minerva

The Ghost Ship fire in December 2016 took the lives of a number of beautiful spirits and talented artists from DIY communities around the country. Part of the hurt of the tragedy, as the artist Maria Minerva wrote in an incredibly moving eulogy for her friend Chelsea Faith (a.k.a. Cherushii), was knowing that the people who passed still had so much more to give. “Chelsea understood that dance music was on the rise (again) in America and instead of being bitter, she was hopeful that this would also mean more listeners for her,” Minerva wrote. “Chelsea said yes to everything, and she was playing bigger and better shows and never stopped producing.”

This week, thanks to Minerva, there’s a rare chance to hear more from Cherushii. The pair had a long and fruitful creative relationship, that began in 2013 when the pair bonded on a long, meandering tour across the U.S. They realized they had a lot in common as people and as dancefloor dreamers, and over the years worked on music together off and on. When Cherushii passed, she left behind a small handful of tracks that the pair had nearly finished together. With the help of some friends, Minerva was able to polish them over the last couple of years into these, glimmering, mystical, and beautiful dance-pop tracks. It’s so full of life hard to listen to and harder to imagine a better tribute to a lost friend.— Colin Joyce

Qari: Operation Hennessy

While the national spotlight has been placed on Chicago’s hip-hop community for the better part of a decade, rapper Qari has thrived on its fringes. Though he achieved cult-like local success as one-third of the short-lived hip-hop group Hurt Everybody, his best work has been his solo material since then. Following excellent collaborative EPs with Sen Morimoto and his Hurt Everybody compatriot Mulatto Beats, Qari returns with Operation Hennessy. Its seven tracks slap harder than anything referencing Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic should. Produced entirely by GreenSLLIME, the Chicago MC practically floats over his cloudy, forward-thinking beats. On the Mick Jenkins’ assisted “Pony,” Qari pokes fun at the suburbs with "My bitch look foreign, she from Kankakee though" whereas on the mixtape highlight “Billy Blanks” he turns to film jokes, “I left you at the foster home then I departed like DiCaprio.”— Josh Terry