Lil Music Reviews: ALMA, Balloons, & Aseul
Alma, an artist I have just discovered and know nothing about, put out a release on Pink Queendom, a seemingly new label that appeared on Bandcamp and Facebook not long ago. It seems to be run by Lillium Redwine (Lily~) and her friend Al Ma. I stumbled across this 5 song album after listening to Lily’s new “Burning In the Grave” EP. I was very impressed and pleased with the entirety of both.
The first song on “Peach” is called “Alone Together”. It’s like the opening of Wizard of Oz, James and the Giant Peach and Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie all at once. The following track, “08” has some coldwave synths, sharp claps, and a loose kick drum that will be heard on the tracks that follow it. “Honey” has a JU4N-like choir synth strapped to the loose drum and an elevating chord that resembles that sound of leveling up. “HOLY WAR” is a short loop of two hi-hat taps and a droning bell with a low hum holding down the bass.
Alma sings in English though I cannot make out the words she is saying due to the fx. A distant horn plays in the background in a evocative way before the song fades out altogether. “I’m a lonely housewife” has beautiful guitar arpeggio and hushed scratchy vocals that contain the song title in the lyrics. Another guitar of equal clarity layers on and meshes in a cloud of reverb for a sentimental effect.
Balloons – Nice But Not Needed
Another band I recommend you check out if you’re in Fairbanks and into going to shows. Balloons, based out of Anchorage, is a trio that has been making quite some buzz since the release of their “Lost in White & Found in Black” EPs. They have a new three song EP that came out last month, but I will be reviewing “Nice But Not Needed”, an eight song album from 2 months ago.
“Nice But Not Needed” opens with a track titled “Monster”, which also is the same title of R.E.M.’s ‘94 album and makes me wonder if Colin Haughey meant that as a nod to the group. That might seem like a grand assumption, if Colin’s singing voice did not sound so similar to Michael Stipe’s with a touch of Dean Wareham. The song has hard 90s growl, like Balloons could have been one of the Generation X bands had they been playing together in the 90s. The chorus starts off with a vocal change-up and doubled drum roll, but only picks up just enough to separate itself from the verse.
“A Little Prayer” has an alternate strumming pattern that aids against monotony. “Schizophrenic Lone Wolf” switches between a shouted vocal and a groaned Morrissey low voice. “Delirium” is where the vocals really begin to sound unhinged. It sounds like Haughey’s voice is wanting to reach higher but running into a invisible barrier, the guitar part is very swift with its tremolo fuzz, like a knife through a pillow, or My Bloody Valentine. “Hope Floats” is fun, it geeks me out. “Never Bad” is a nice break from the haze with some cool tom rolls before the song picks up. “Stay Out of My Dreams” is a good idea that gets ended abruptly. The Beatwave sounding drums makes me recall Hungry Clocks.
My favorite song on the album was “Two Bells” for its late-night leaned head against window, eyes half open, flashing city lights sound. The verse is really awesome on its own, and so it the chorus that sounds very much like a distinct separation that bridges well from verse to chorus and vice versa.
Genre: Noise Pop
Aseul – New Pop
This artist I discovered on a Bandcamp spotlight that popped up on my news feed alongside Neon Bunny, Oh Jee Hung, Flash Flood Darlings and other Korean artists I’ve stumbled across in the last year. I’ve been on a Abra kick and discovered Aseul at just the right time to help me pass the time before Abra’s next full length one.
10 seconds into the featured track, “Gong” I knew I was not going to be disappointed (I’ll tell you why soon…). So I went to the intro track titled “Intro” and prepared to listen intently (while multitasking other work as well of course). “Intro” reminded me of a menu from a game I played on Steam in 2013 called “Anodyne” mixed with another game I played on Steam over the summer called “To the Moon” (both are great including the soundtracks, though I never finished Anodyne).
“Gong” is a nostalgia trigger for anyone who grew up on “Hybrid Theory”. Can I just say that that album is what “Siamese Dream” was for the people that weren’t fresh out the womb in 1993. Anyway, the song doesn’t have a drop like “Pushing Me Away” does, but I’m happy about it, because it means we’re not still living in the year 2000 musically. Instead, it builds slowly on the liquid piano droplets with serene and somber words.
“Dazed” begins right where “Gong” left off, with flashing chorus, Night Sins-like guitar tone, with 808s pounding from below. The song flushes itself in a wash of flange and indistinguishable vocals that are being squished and panned from side to side, before returning to the English refrain. “Nothings” reminds me a bit of LLLL’s “Paradice” album from the one and only Zoom Lens Label, because of the crisp chops and dreamy vocals.
“Give Me Five” is more cheery and walk through the neighborhood sounding. That is, if your ideal neighborhood that you visualize while imaging the world of the music you’re listening to is peaceful and electronic, something like Onett or Vermillion City. “Weird World” is a painting of a dystopian future with a hopefully optimistic outlook.
“Blind Waltz” is an elegant piano composition. A good time to acknowledge that Aseul wrote, performed, recorded, and engineered every track on this album. “Elephants Mobile” is about not seeing what is right in front of you (hence the elephant in the title), but how over time, if you continue to ignore the elephant/problem, there becomes more of them.
The lyrics say “세 마리 코끼리” meaning three elephants, but by the second verse there is a fourth elephant (“…네 모습이”). Fisher is a uniquely excellent track with a willfully forgetful message. The music skips along making it a song you will want to revisit. “Loveless” is a fun track that doesn’t sound like a MBV ripoff. The music video for this song features Aseul walking around in Korea, playing shows, and trying out equipment at a music store. There is a sense of longing that can be felt despite the language barrier.
“The Bedroom Demos” might be my favorite track on the album because it stays interesting for a full 10 minutes which is an impressive feat in this ADD/internet/consumer-driven/whatever you want to call it generation. The bassline is kind of like something you might hear on “In Rainbows”, but there are these cool sparkly Electroplankton sounds that do all sorts of neat swells and dials that induce euphoria in our nucleus accumbens. It evolves like a well-done DJ mix, except for all of this was actually created by one person.
Genre: Korean Electronica