In the past few years, the Milwaukee-based electronic
artist Casino vs. Japan has become one of my favorite electronic
acts. (I still don't get the name, but whatever.) This is his
latest release, a split EP with the act Freescha. In a fit of
weirdness, i can find no direct information on Freescha on the
web. Very strange for an electronic act. I was not too familiar
with Freescha going into this, but the presence of four new
Casino vs. Japan tracks was enough to urge me to check it out.
And, although this isn't my favorite CvJ release, it is not
without its moments.
The two artists featured here work well together. Both create warm electronica
through keyboard sounds and sampled/sequenced beats. The main
difference, as far as i can tell, is that Casino vs. Japan does
more with bass, while several of the Freescha tunes involve
some sort of vocal sample, which is often computer manipulated
and buried in the mix. Otherwise, both artists are from the
Boards of Canada school of electronica,
making keyboard heavy music that is mid-tempoed and pleasant
to listen to, but not really danceable.
Casino vs. Japan starts things off with the ambient tune Come Along, Do. This song consists of a subtle drone, a layer of deep bass, and a really good beat that is slightly staticy and heavy on the high-hat. It's a simple loop, really, but it sounds good when combined with the drone and the bass line. This is an auspicious start to the EP and it really gets the head bopping.
The next track is Sheena by Freescha, and it is actually two distinct pieces of music fused into one. The first half is an electroclash tune. There is a thumping beat and some fuzzy distorted keyboards. Occasionally, as the song cycles along, software will consume the beat, which disintegrates into a haze of noise. This part of the track is interesting, but oddly disconcerting. Then part two comes along, and Sheena becomes a weird IDM/hip-hop fusion tune. This half of the track is dominated by heavily computer-mangled vocal pieces and a beat that is more loping than thudding. This part of the song is less weird and more annoying. I actually skip to the next track when this part begins.
When i skip, i land on the Casino vs. Japan track Coromiak, which is a generic CvJ song. It has crunchy beats and a wavering ambient drone. Not bad, but not his best work either.
Freescha are back on the following track, Dental Fur. This song consists of a wandering, fuzzy drone over a ticking rhythm track. This actually sounds a lot like Casino vs. Japan, and, in that sense, it is pretty cool. On the whole though, this is pretty generic music for this type of electronica.
Blinking is the next Casino vs. Japan track. This has a nice stuttering
beat, a groovey bass riff, and a fuzzy guitar loop overtop.
The song is kind of Autechre-y,
and yet it still has melody! Very nice.
Freescha then come back with another Casino vs. Japan sound-alike tune, Pony Blow. The rhythm sounds like a recording of a group marching at a happy pace, like a marching band having fun marching, or maybe a marching band skipping along. At any rate, it propels the song along rather nicely, and in general this is a pleasant song.
Finally, Casino vs. Japan wrap the EP up with Durusey. This song has some amazingly nice bass riffage that is supple, warm, and soft. The keyboard drone and subtle drumbeat that dance around this bass riff are nice too. Then, towards the middle, when things are going along nicely, CvJ comes in with a little keyboard trill that sounds almost like a horn hit, but it's obviously some cheap keyboard patch. It sounds ... amazing, really. This is a damned fine tune. One of Casino vs. Japan's finest actually, and by far the standout track on this EP.
Overall, this EP is okay. There are a few weak spots (the second
half of the second track in particular), and many of the songs
are typical for the genre. Then again, the EP does begin and
end with pretty strong tracks. If you are a Casino vs. Japan
fan, then you should probably check this out. If you are new
to this artist, then i would recommend the
Hitori + Kaiso compilation as a better entry
point. As to Freescha, well, the jury is still out on this artist.
I need to hear more before i can really judge them/him/it. However,
based on this EP, i am curious to hear more, so i guess that
is a good recommendation after all.