Joe Lapaglia: Days Behind

Frank Omura: Unshaven Face

Shigeto: New Crossings

Warez: Sound

Moodgadget spreads its stylistic wings further than ever before with these four latest EPs. The Ann Arbor-based label has always acted as a bit of a wonderful training ground for new and young talent, some of whom presented strong individualized identities from the get-go (e.g., Benoit Pioulard). Others are captured in the midst of development as they work towards finding their own voices and divesting themselves of other artists' influences.

The biggest surprise of the four has to be Joe Lapaglia's Day Behind: who'd thought Moodgadget would issue an EP of straight-up acoustic folk tunes? Lapaglia's material was discovered through his association with Reid Dunn (Wisp, Entsounds), his musical partner in Silver Morning. The EP's dominated by quiet murder ballads bolstered by Lapaglia's smoky quiver and his obvious melodic gifts. “Birds Flew By” pairs his effortlessly soaring voice with an aggressive mix of acoustic guitar and mandolin playing while the haunting waltz “Shaking Ghosts” couples his soft murmur with the distant cry of an electric guitar. Two pretty instrumental meditations, “Lights in the Road” and “Someplace Far,” offer peaceful diversions from the vocal tracks.

Shigeto (real name Zach Saginaw) serves up multi-layered electronic gleam on New Crossings with the material encompassing rhythmic workouts and ambient evocations. Arovane's an obvious though not inappropriate reference point for the atmospheric electronica of “May” and the hyperactive mix of entrancing synth melodies and rambunctious beats that enlivens “Helicopters in the Sky.” Coupling surging waves of static-encrusted flow with an insistently clicking 4/4 beat pattern, “Evergreen” opts for deeply textured ambient tech-house while the slightly more intense “Winter Thaw” spikes its multi-dimensional flow with an injection of rollicking funk. Saginaw saves the most dramatic and epic excursion for last (“New Crossings”) on this solid twenty-four-minute outing.

Strong too is Frank Omura's Unshaven Face, a pile-driving plunge into Audion-Kompakt-James T Cotton territory. All five of the EP's cuts storm in one way or another, from the thrust and throb of “The Juggernaut Addition” to the surging acid-schaffel of “Day Colliders.” The insane “I'll Have You” really tears up the pavement with rabid drum machine chatter and detonating acid roar while “Music To Make Robots To” opts to scatter Monolake-styled billiard balls over the tune's naturally more mechanical groove. That's only half the fun, however, as the track's second half grows progressively more deranged and out-of-control in its pursuit of Audion-inflected dynamism.

Brash and confident in its production design, Warez's Sound merges downtempo beat propulsion rooted in funk and hip-hop, dense synth-heavy melodic weaves, Daedelus-styled irreverence, and sliced'n'diced soul vocals into an eleven-track futurama. An uplifting vibe permeates the material with Warez diving into laid-back hip-hop crate-digging (“Sweeten My Dream: Midnight”) and lush electro-funk-hop (“Sanctuary”) at one moment and tight bass-heavy workouts (“Ascension”) and sweetly buoyant electro-funk (“I'll Take You There”) the next. While there's a hint of Burial in the chopped vocals that swim through a picturesque pool of slippery head-nod and electro-synth intertwine in “Soul Pop” and “My Stylish Black Friends,” Sound's fresh tracks offer no shortage of tasty material to sink one's teeth into.

October 2008