What with all the fuss that has been made about Napster recently, it is interesting to find an artist that not only embraces MP3 technology, but in fact gives music away totally free. Stillife;gaijin have done just that. This EP is an "online-only" release that you can obtain at:
You can own this EP at the cost of a few minutes worth of time! Pretty cool, eh? Well, something for free might not be a good thing. Heck, who are these people? Some nobodies giving it away for free because no label will touch them?
Actually, stillife;gaijin is Jeremy Wilkins and Alec Irvin, both formerly of the Atlanta-based electronic band Underwater. Apparently in their new project the two of them are scultping melancholy sounds out of computer gear. It works more often than not. I think that there is real potential here.
Let me examine each of the songs in turn.
The first track is A Nice Life (anicelife.mp3). There are organ drones, hesitant beats, and powerful vocals provided by "Richard". I don't know who this person is, but his singing style reminds me a lot of The Blue Nile. His voice is very rich and the notes are often drawn out. It's a good effect, especially when combined with the mellow electronica of Irvin and Wilkins.
Second is the strangely titled A+B/X=Suicide (a+b-x=suicide.mp3).
Little keyboard riffs combine with funky beats and a male voice
distorted like a robot. All together it creates a happy, meandering
tune. The bridge on this one is quite nice -- organic drumming
comes in (Alec Irvin was the drummer in Underwater after all)
and the keyboard kicks out some loud organ drones. Eventually
this slows back down to become a great instumental combining
the little keyboard riffs and funky beats. I like this song
a good bit.
Track three is The Echo In The Hall (theechointhehall.mp3).
If you check the CD sleeve they have thoughtfully created for
you, the back (niceback.pdf) says that the vocals on this track
are by Emily and Sarah. Both of them are on loan from Tourmalin,
another Atlanta act. Emily's surprisingly deep voice really
stands out and makes this song work, especially after Irvin
and Wilkins have combined it with a keyboard drone and some
glitchy beats. It's a really lovely little song.
The EP ends with a Larvae (Underwater collaborator Matthew
Jeanes) remix of A Nice Life (anicelife-larvaemix-.mp3).
This mix is more frantic and paranoid than the original. Jeanes
cranks up the beats and distorts Richard's voice. It's a good
mix, but i don't think that it is as powerful as the original.
On the whole i say that this is a good release. At times, the production seems a little sketchy, as if the band was not 100 % sure of what was going on. This is most noticeable when the real drums show up on A+B/X=Suicide. At first, the drums hesitate, as if they are unsure of their place in the mostly electronic world of stillife;gaijin. Eventually they find their footing. A similar effect is noticeable with the voice on A Nice Life. Again, there is the moment of hesitation before the confidence.
I think that this is because they are a really young band. Oh sure, the members are long-term music veterans, but this is their new band. Considering that Underwater have just broken up, it makes sense that Irvin and Wilkins are a little unsure of the direction they should take now.
Well i say: so far so good!