That Andy Guy – Oh No, Not That Andy Guy (2016)

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I first heard That Andy Guy on “A Leisurely Stroll,” the opening track to last year’s DESKTAPE and have been excitedly waiting for more material ever since. That track now finds itself neatly woven into his latest project, Oh No, Not That Andy Guy.

Oh No comes from DESKPOP, a distinctly unique label that focuses on experimental electronic music. DESKPOP consistently releases music that brings something new, and Andy’s latest album fits right in. It’s lighthearted, poppy, and lined with subtle details.

The album is self-described as “post-chiptune,” joining elements from early video game music with more contemporary electronic music. While most of the album branches out from traditional chiptune, some of Andy’s best writing is on “HappiNES,” a song that stays true to its roots. As the name implies, “HappiNES” recalls the era of 8-bit video game soundtracks, using chip-based synths and pixelated arpeggios to remind listeners of a bygone age.

Almost every song on the album sounds fitting and helps the album’s flow except for one. The only track that feels wildly out of place is “F%$# You, Then.” After almost half an album’s worth of dancy electronic music, it’s jarring to hear a trap song that’s so abrasively dark and unfitting.

Hey, Look Over There” is the peak of the album and exemplifies some of the best material from That Andy Guy to date. The timbre and syncopation of the piano chords immediately recall sounds from early house and drum ’n’ bass. At this point, music from that era straddles the line between being dated and being nostalgic. Because Andy uses compositional styles from that era and makes them his own, the music works charmingly in his favor.

Oh No, Not That Andy Guy sounds refreshingly new. Part of what makes the music so accessible and enjoyable is its fusion of new music with sounds from the past. Though the album’s flow isn’t perfect, this project shows a lot of promise for Andy. His music has taken a huge leap forward, and I hope to see it continue moving in the right direction.

Favorite Track: “Hey, Look Over There”

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Costanza – Costanza (2016), The Jerk Store (2016)

“But I’m disturbed! I’m depressed! I’m inadequate! I’ve got it all!”

George Costanza, Seinfeld

Costanza and The Jerk Store are the first two installments in Costanza’s discography and are among the first releases to come out of the Chicago-based Bandcamp label Apartment 5A, aptly named after Jerry Seinfeld’s place of residence on Seinfeld.

Costanza’s The Jerk Store nests itself at the apex of several cultural crossroads. The artist is named after Seinfeld’s George Costanza, the album’s art and name are nod to both a famous Costanza line and Death Grips’s The Money Store, and the music itself is dubbed Seinwave as a hybrid of Seinfeld and vaporwave.

The music’s connection to the TV show isn’t always obvious. The most blatant link between the two is heard in dialogue samples in “Costanza” and “Done.” More subtly, “Violet” and “Rad” sample the funky popping sound heard in Seinfeld’s main theme. Aside from the musical aspects, the EPs share some titular elements with Seinfeld as well. For example, “Puffy Shirt” and “Junior Mint” are both names of episodes.

Costanza’s Costanza opens with “Costanza” (Whew!), a distressed narrative of George’s state of being backed by a contrastingly mellow, jazzy progression. “Far Out” is another highlight, a simple groovy loop periodically interrupted by static, as if someone is fiddling with the channels on the TV.

The Jerk Store is much livelier in comparison. Like Costanza, this EP pairs well with Seinfeld. It’s grand, lively, yet charmingly mundane. The brevity of the songs makes them seem like TV bumps or credits sequences. The music reflects this as well. The compositions on The Jerk Store emulate the music used in Seinfeld, especially from earlier seasons.

It isn’t necessary to watch the show to enjoy the music, but the two do compliment each other remarkably well. Seinfeld aside, Costanza and The Jerk Store are two of my favorite EPs of 2016. I’m greatly looking forward to future Costanza projects as well as what Apartment 5A has in store next.

Favorite Tracks: “Costanza” (Costanza)

“Violet” (The Jerk Store)

+you / xccg – buranko (2016)

+you : xccg - buranko

Albums shared by multiple artists face challenges unique to the format of their work. The artists are often expected to have distinct compositional styles while also sharing enough common ground to justify the two being together. buranko dodges the aforementioned obstacles with ease.

The first chunk of the album consists of +you’s material, music that’s grounded in mixing contrasting textural noises. The first track, “coimbra he no tegami,” establishes a set of three spacial dimensions: the distant and reverberant sound of a singing man in a cathedral, the murmuring of nearby wind chimes, and the extremely close hurried scrawls of pen on paper. Another +you track, “sad,” is comparatively vacant. The recurring synth line is muffled, paired only with the ebb and flow of white noise breathing patterns. The repetition and unresolved nature of the synth motif is effective in sustaining a melancholy atmosphere for the duration of the song.

+you’s compositions are fascinating in that they combine radically different sound motifs of varying timbre and complexity. The individuality of the motifs themselves — writing scratches and clicking pens, diving and resurfacing in a pool of sparkling water, a piano in the room next door —  allow the listener to observe them in isolation. Their juxtaposition, however, forces one to observe the interactions between one another.

xccg’s contributions conclude the album perfectly. After establishing a shift in compositional style, xccg draws buranko to a close with “leva,” bookending the album with ambient compositions that incorporate distant male vocals as their focus.

This split tape by +you and xccg is meditative, introspective, and stands among my favorite albums of 2016.

Favorite Tracks:

“sad” by +you

“toma” by xccg