FIJI “Fave Hours (Ft. Hood Joplin)” + Manicure Records Feature (exclusive)

31 Oct 2014 — Andi Wilson

Today we speak to label boss Tom Mike (aka Ghibli) regarding the background, aesthetics, and future on one of the most forward-thinking & online-based pop labels we know, Manicure Records. Along with the interview, NFOP exclusively premieres a mega-catchy single by their newest signee FIJI, titled “Fave Hours (Ft. Hood Joplin)”.

Take us back to when Ghibli started (which was a pretty house-y project at that time). Did you ever expect it to somewhat grow into running your own label?

I started Ghibli around 2010 and was just figuring out how to use samples and trying to combine my love of beat music and choral compositions. I rediscovered my love of disco along the way and spent the next few years trying to figure out how to blend these disparate pools of influence into one big ocean. After eventually getting tired of sending out submissions to people and not getting any traction with other labels, I started my own little corner of the internet for me and my friends. I absolutely did not expect the amount of support and recognition that we’ve received in the past ten months.

The sounds of Manicure vary from electronic hyper-pop, trance, club, to most recently twisting heavily-commercial pop hits. For example reworking Ariana Grande's "One Last Time" and tagging tracks as '#manicured'. Not to mention creating your own blends of singles by producers that I only assume heavily influence Manicure, like Sophie's "Bipp". Now we're seeing very young, emerging producers come into the fold such as Guy Akimoto, lilangelboi, and ponibbi. Did most of the relationships that consist of Manicure's roster evolve from the web or is everyone from the same (somewhat underground) community in Edmonton, Canada? Who is currently involved?

Below is who’s currently involved based on chronologically going through the Manicure Souncloud:

Jasmine, who’s based in the UK, was someone that I had been emailing back and forth for a few years before Manicure became a vehicle for us/her. We bonded over Jam City mixes and she’s been really important in expanding the aesthetic of the label.

My good friend Kara sent over some lilangelboi tracks last summer and I became obsessed with nightcore. After starting Manicure we got him up to do shows in Edmonton (he was originally based in Calgary). Eventually he moved here where he’s been thriving since.

DJ Cashinout (formerly DJ Debussey Turnpike) is from the states and we linked up through submissions that he sent to me after I started the label. He is really young and has a lot of potential. I’m excited to see what he has in store.

ponibbi came up to me at a party last winter and stole a joint out of my hand while I was talking to someone else and walked away with it. We’ve been close friends ever since and he’s become an indispensable part and a rising star of the label.

I heard of KLSLWSK through Tielsie’s Soundcloud likes and became obsessed with his production style. We signed him just before the JACK댄스 world tour and he played his first live show at the Vancouver stop with us.

I met Guy Akimoto when Simon Whybray (founder of JACK) brought him on the Canadian edition of the JACK tour. He was both incredibly kind and talented, a really rare combination. We all became super down after seeing him live and we signed him a short while afterwards.

As for FIJI, Beaux Maris is the single strongest/smartest/nicest woman I know in the world, and Hood Joplin is the turn up queen and adds a lot of depth and character to the crew.
I’m incredibly lucky to know both of them.

Beaux/ponibbi/HJ are all from Edmonton. Every other relationship has been built online.

Read more →

Have these projects been producing under the same techniques for a while or did they start based on the label and what you want to provide for your listeners?

I think everyone was just doing a more general or broader approach in terms of their content creation and personal aesthetic before they joined us. Since signing, I’ve been trying to refine or double down on certain elements in order for the songs to be the very best that they can be. I don’t think we care about other listeners outside of our group at all. We make music for ourselves first, for our friends second, and for everyone else last.

You also previously mentioned to me how some of the releases and even artists are built completely around aesthetic, such as the project FIJI. Are these new releases technically side projects of everyone running Manicure to keep releases as cohesive as possible? Or is it more of an idea to challenge the typical structure of how most labels release music?

FIJI is like Halley’s Comet. Something that happens at a certain time and place and fades away afterwards, hopefully making an impact. A lot of producers from the label teaming up and providing an aesthetic that doesn’t have a lot of coverage right now. It will mark the debut of two new stars on the label, Beaux and HJ and would be unfair to call a side project. It’s more of a one-off intense focus thing than anything else. Single-collab tracks are just made for fun. Usually because one producer has something the other one could use, or one person hears something more and wants to capitalize on it.

When you first announced Manicure with a somewhat interactive site, it was the first time I had seen any of my internet peers break out and really start their own brand. What influenced your design and philosophies behind the label? Even down to the 'Turn up!' tags. Everything is so on point.

It would be a lie to say that PC Music wasn’t hugely influential on Manicure. After following A. G. Cook and the other releases from last summer onwards, I knew I wanted to do something similar. Where the majority of things on PC Music stem very much from pure original content from Cook or his collaborators, I’ve always found inspiration from outside sources and trying to mimic them in my own way (poorly). This results in bizarro versions of the original and I feel like we’ve been assembling a team of people who do very similar things with the culture surrounding them. Everyone on the label has very strongly established aesthetics already. Thankfully they all mesh pretty well with one another.

As for the vernacular, Beaux and I for a literal decade, now joined by our other friends, have always had our own specific euphemisms. We tend to go through phases of abusing one word in lots of different, usually unconventional situations (e.g. ‘sus’). I have problems dividing the line between URL and IRL anyway, so eventually these mannerisms begin to leak out and affect the label. People seem to be down however, so thats a plus.

Soundcloud & Twitter seem to be the main domains for Manicure at the moment, pushing your artists to reach new audiences with not only growing fan-bases but also collaborations between the producers themselves. As the internet changes and becomes more saturated every day, how does the label plan to adapt to new online platforms & experiences?

Things are under wraps right now but we're expanding on the universe with additional interactive visual platforms. These things are tricky and they have to be perfect for launch so that’s why I’m being extremely vague about it.

We also just started an Instagram where we can post pictures of our painted nails so that’s tite.

Some of your artists (including yourself) are beginning to surface from the PC-realm to IRL performances. I saw you recently collaborated with the JACK댄스 party for their worldwide tour and you are beginning to plan events of your own. How do these collaborations happen? It reads and seems to be working as a beautiful way to bring cyberspace to reality.

With JACK it was very much a situation where I kept thinking and talking about it and eventually against the odds the collaboration happened. People who are leaving the internet to come to the parties seem to be having a good time. The trouble is convincing people who are out already and aren’t aware of the aesthetic or trends on Soundcloud. The internet can easily trick us into thinking things have way more weight in the real world than they do online. It’s important to balance out these extreme online aesthetics with real world tangibility and cohesion.

What does Manicure Records 2015 have in store for us?

More songs / more performances / more artists / more turn ups!

Keep your eyes and ears peeled for the FIJI mixtape in early December. Check out some other highlight tracks from Manicure Records below.

Magic Fades “Eye 2 Eye” (exclusive)

31 Oct 2014 — Henning Lahmann

Last time we heard from Portland's Magic Fades was when the duo dropped their massive (and criminally overlooked) collaboration with fellow Oregonian post-internet hippie Soul Ipsum, Zirconia Reign, earlier this year. Only a few months later Mike Grabarek and Jeremy Scott return on their own again with follow-up full-length Push Thru, a release that's every bit as timely as Zirconia Reign. Relying on their signature tropes of glossy hyper-R'n'B, the music sometimes gets eerily close to what's actually hot on top-40 stations in the United States. The stellar "Eye 2 Eye" is a case in point: channelled through painfully crisp autotune, no one would probably notice if someone dropped this after any other generic pop tune. Which has to be intentional. Too sleek to be completely taken seriously yet too aware and crafty to be brushed aside, Magic Fades again fuck with our expectations regaring "underground" pop in the second decade of the 21st century: too post to analyse.

Push Thru is out November 25 via 1080p.

Read more →

Jire “SSTNSLNC” (exclusive)

30 Oct 2014 — Henning Lahmann

Again proving their immaculate knack for unearthing the finest talents of tomorrow's popular music canon, the folks over at No Pain In Pop present their latest gem Jire aka merely 18-year old London-based producer Nathan Geyer. More than just another gifted beatsmith, Geyer's upcoming four-track debut Kiowa Polytope is a supremely elaborate piece of music, built from intricate, deconstructed rhythm patterns, noise and found sounds, as well as interspersed tonal structures. Despite showing off a dizzying level of playful sophistication and hardly ever resorting to comforting payoffs, the tracks unfold an astonishing emotional warmth that fits right into NPIP's catalogue (think Ukkonen or Karen Gwyer, but above all Forest Swords). EP centrepiece "SSTNSLNC" revolves around a bunch of samples that Geyer recorded with an old dictaphone at the Sistine Chapel in Rome (hence the title: "Sistine Silence"), where the artist found himself alienated by "the noise and lack of general respect in the chapel" that had led to the loss of "any sense of spirituality or emotion" the chapel once might have had, having turned into a purely commercial commodity. Take a listen to the stunning piece below.

The Kiowa Polytope EP is out November 11. Order now over here.

Read more →

Stream: Lotic at Unsound (exclusive)

29 Oct 2014 — Henning Lahmann

Of the three different stages inside Krakow's decaying late-communist Hotel Forum – the venue where Unsound's main club nights are staged on the festival's closing weekend – Room 3 is probably the toughest to unleash a proper party in, at it's essentially a large bar by design, not exactly a dancefloor. Which is why, I'd argue, it takes some particularly talented or rather ruthless DJs to keep up the excitement for a whole night. Enter Berlin's Janus crew, who took over the room on Friday night, running on a bill programmed by Unsound together with CTM's Berlin Current project, as reported earlier. Unsound's Polish and international crowd didn't hesitate to buy into the vibe, providing a setting that in its best moments at least came very close to the most relentless nights at Janus' home base Chesters. As per usual, Lotic's hour was especially marked by a dazzling, unapologetic yet infectious eclecticism, and we're happy to exclusively present the live recording of his set below, which was kindly provided by London's NTS Radio.

Read more →

Review: Arca “Xen”

29 Oct 2014 — Henry Schiller

Xen is the debut album from London-based Venezuelan producer Arca (Alejandro Ghersi), a follow-up of sorts to last year’s self-released mixtape &&&&&. Just like &&&&&, Xen might be described as a rollercoaster ride. Xen is a twisting, sputtering loop-de-loop of an album, a structure you cannot appreciate until the harness comes down and the wheels start spinning, with jolts and jumps that cannot be anticipated until it's a moment too late. But Xen differs from &&&&& in a very significant way: Xen has a palpable element of relaxation.

Not to say that the music of Xen is itself particularly relaxing. If anything, Xen is more anxious and discomfiting than its more aggressive forebear. But Xen is an album produced by someone who is comfortable enough to step slightly away from the vicious – and brilliant – style of production that got him work on albums by heavy hitters like Kanye West and Bjørk. To bring yourself down from that takes a heaping of “Zen” most people do not have access to.

Xen is not, like the also excellent &&&&& was, a literal projection of tension and hunger. But it does meditate on these and similar topics. Xen is thoughtful and thought-out, at times even solemn (see “Failed” and “Wound”), coming closer to the work of Tim Hecker or Oneohtrix Point Never than the maddash hacking of Ghersi’s earlier work.

Read more →

Album highlight “Family Violence” is a soft calamity of synthesized strings, each distinct track of which slithers separately, unsure of which direction in which to pull another. “Family Violence” plays off of the quiet discomfort of its own title remarkably well. Though initially evocative of the kind of thing you might imagine takes place between belligerent spouses in the foyer of a stately home, circa 1915 (think Downton Abbey with more drinking problems), I could imagine the track being remarkably effective set to a particularly brutal scene in a British kitchen sink drama. Like the rest of Xen, “Family Violence” takes an uncomfortable topic and presents it in all the disturbing ease with which it invades our daily lives.

Tracks like “Wound” and “Held Apart” also play around with the unaltered use of synthesized classical instruments. Instead of warping these parts with massive amounts of distortion and technical trickery, Ghersi lets them slide off the rails on their own. On each track, as with “Family Violence”, the instrumentation is offset only slightly, but in a way that still manages to disturb its own civility enough to suggest a depravity lurking underneath the surface.

“Sisters”, another personal favorite, is more of an explosion. A grasping, lashing evocation of some Christmastime frenzy. A ducked head on the London underground, on its way home; dreading the cold, dreading, perhaps, getting home in time to find a scene of chaos. Xen speaks up for the soft insanity of the everyday, which cannot find its own voice. To the madness and rapturous chaos that lurks beneath relaxing, enjoyable things.

No track on Xen is over four minutes long, suggesting an air of creative agitation even in the midst of obvious and profound personal comfort. The contrast, which serves as a foundational basis for the album, is an important and brilliantly utilized one. The album seems to draw heavily from underscore music, television programs of the early to mid 1990s transferred onto VHS by hapless parents.

Arca’s debut full-length is an excellent display of versatility from the producer. From the hectic bombast of &&&&& comes a calculated, composed ode to what lurks under the skein of banality. Xen is an album built on polarities. It is complex and heady, but Xen is also an easy listen, and a very navigable album. If &&&&& is the striking of a match then Xen is the candle slowly burning. If &&&&& was the blister bursting, then Xen is the callous that slowly builds around the raw skin it left behind.

Xen is out November 3 on Mute.

M B Baker “Cairns”

29 Oct 2014 — Evelyn Malinowski

Canadian cooperative label Heretical Objects' latest release Cairns by M B Baker is a slow-burning acoustic guitar long night in the woods. Its dreamy aspects might arrive from cricket sounds, or likenesses to Animal Collective's Campfire Songs. Mostly, the ethereal vibe derives from patient chord progression which is at times beautiful and otherwise dissonant. "Two," the aptly titled second track on the album, bears this quality the most. "Six," another aptly titled track as it is the sixth track, is a raw, ambient scene, shimmering like a winter morning, complete with an effect which resembles snowdrift carried by bitter winds as heard from inside of a dwelling. It is indeed a beautiful track. "Sinister Purpose" is an experimental Cash-esque revenge track, and more straightforwardly structured than most of the other songs. The album as a whole is both vocal and instrumental, folky and psychedelic; I believe Baker's focus really is in delayed guitar cadence and the space between accentuations, the moments of silence between crackling wood. 

Cairns is out now and you can download or buy the limited edition cassette here.

Read more →

Review:  Kinlaw & Skyler

28 Oct 2014 — Richard Greenan

London's Joane Skyler and Bristol's Hamish Trevis, aka Kinlaw, join forces on another fine record from Reckno (and the UK label's first vinyl release). Skyler & Kinlaw finds the producers gleefully one-upping each other in a sort of affectionate sonic tussle. Skyler's fragmented rave sketches are present, as are Kinlaw's more murky, pummeling driftscapes. But the real magic of Skyler & Kinlaw emerges when we lose track of who's doing what. This happens during the majestic, sickly wooz of "くコ:彡", or the triumphant Bollywood daydream "RIPE". There's quite a lot of tape manipulation going on here, and maybe it's Skyler's hand on the speed dial that causes snares and breaks to ebb and flow like a spluttering two-stroke engine. And perhaps the fistfuls of trappy hi-hats, clustering weirdly over snippets of distorted conversation, are hallmarks of Kinlaw. But, as the project sets out, this is less a split, more a combining of powers. Droll as ever, Reckno kingpin Chris Catlin sums it up:

Apparently at one point during a difficult bit of drum programming Joane's skull turned to smoke, Kinlaw inhaled it and blew it back into the mixing desk then poured black syrup over the keyboards while Joane's hands hooked up the perpetual sunset plugin and turned the rainbow filter up to infinity. But I digress...

You can get hold of Skyler & Kinlaw digitally or in the form of a 12" vinyl LP via Reckno.

Read more →

Review: Panabrite “Pavilion”

28 Oct 2014 — Dave Power

A large amount of current ambient/electronic music consists of beautiful slow-moving chord progressions on processed strings like Stars of the Lid or more experimental/noise mediums like Tim Hecker. This is not the case for Panabrite’s newest album Pavillion as it is heavily made up of new age-style synth lines and, according to the man behind the Panabrite, particularly influenced by the minimalism and prog of 70s-era Italy. Panabrite is the solo project of Norm Chambers based out of Seattle. Similarly to M. Sage, Chambers melds together electronic soundscapes of synths and electric keyboards with organic instrumentation like acoustic guitar, xylophone, and bells. Panabrite’s main sound combines that late 70s synth sound with heavily tangible instruments to create a very ambient, new age landscape.

Pavilion blends electronic and living worlds. The opening track “Veil” begins with the sound of steady rain while sparkling synths gradually join the mix, echoing and bouncing off of each other in the background. A slowly moving line is added, reminiscent of Gregorian chants of 10th-century Europe, causing the album’s opening to convey a steadily sacred and solemn atmosphere. Another notable track is “Memory”, which starts with a continuous Rhodes piano line that gives way to vocoder-effected vocals that loop and pan into a tremendously ethereal synth drone.

The whole album invariably floats through space as a slow, methodic drone. At the end of “Balsam” we are momentarily dragged out of this extraterrestrial world and back to our own planet where a distantly running industrial fan is heard underneath echoing wind chime bells. Pavilion moves in waves, rising with the electronic architecture and falling back with earthly transitions. The closing track “Quartz,” ends with an incredibly emotional pad of synth strings, maintaining and solidifying Chambers’ love for new age ambient recordings. It’s a short track that ends in decaying, warbled synth whistles, abruptly ending the 44-minute journey through the cosmos, 1970s-era Italian minimalism, and synthetic new age soundscapes.

Step onto the Pavilion that Panabrite has meticulously constructed, out now on Immune Recordings.

Read more →