My Little Ghost
Melodic electronica is alive and well, insofar as recent releases by Xumla and Kidkanevil might be seen as reliable indicators.
Aside from the fact that it's a computer-based production, Xumla's Statix represents a bit of a departure for the British label Audiobulb, which is more prone to releasing experimental electro-acoustic material as opposed to playful song-styled electronica of the kind Xumla specializes in. The debut album by Russian producer Ilya Goryachev under the Xumla name, the twelve-track Statix is a concise affair at thirty-six minutes, though not unappealingly so—brevity in this case a complement to the innocent and child-like character of the material.
Tracks such as the bright opener “Morni” and “Neverphone” possess a clicks'n'cuts quality that's not far removed from early Oval, the key difference being Goryachev's emphasis on succinct song structures. Stated otherwise, Statix's tracks are like melodic pop tunes dressed in ornate Oval-esque garb—not a bad proposition overall. Given such a description, one might expect to be met with digitally generated textures, fractured beat patterns, and synth-based melodies, and said expectations would prove to be well-founded.Goryachev takes a few left turns along the way, and consequently the album offers a generous amount of variety. The title track, for example, presents a Spectrum Spools-styled drone exploration—in a miniature form, of course—that's predictably heavy on trippy synth elements, while “Roof Talks” exploits treated electric guitar as a sound-generating device rather than synthesizers. Contrasts are plentiful, with Statix alternating between a buoyant piece like “Chinese Toy,” the broken beat exercise “Zima,” and a comparatively more ponderous meditation such as “Sol Y De Gran Altura.” The album's peak moment arguably arrives in the penultimate position in the form of “One-Eyed Girl,” a production whose scope seems positively panoramic when heard alongside the album's other more modestly conceived tracks. It's in this swirl of broken beats and electronic textures that all of Goryachev's strengths as a creator and producer come into fullest focus.
Like Statix, Gerard Roberts' Kidkanevil set My Little Ghost (issued on CD by flau and in digital and vinyl formats by Project Mooncircle) is playful in spirit yet serious about its playfulness. The forty-seven, fourteen-track (one, “Tales of Moonlight and Rain,” a CD bonus) collection is Roberts' Kidkanevil follow-up to Kidsuke, his 2013 release with Japanese producer Daisuke Tanabe, and was inspired by a summer the Red Bull Music Academy alumnus spent in Tokyo collaborating and exploring. It's a true flau release in one very clear sense in that it includes contributions from a host of flau-associated individuals, Cuushe and Cokiyu among them.
Like the release itself, Kidkanevil's sound is very much a combination of flau and Project Mooncircle, the former for its concentration on electro-acoustic scene-painting and the latter for its focus on crisp beats. The balance sometimes tips in the direction of one label over the other, with the head-nodding groove in “Butterfly/Satellite,” for example, nodding more in the direction of Project Mooncircle, something attributable presumably to the contributions of beatmaker Submerse to the song (even if the vocal presence of Cuushe nudges it back towards flau). The beatless vignette “Ohayo,” on the other hand, is pure flau.
Kidkanevil's playful side surfaces radiantly in “Earth to G San” (featuring Tetsuya Hikita) when glittering keyboard melodies and alien noises sparkle alongside a skeletal funk beat. With Phasma in tow, “Inakunaru” likewise seduces the listener with toy-like melodies, gleeful vocal flourishes, and buoyantly swinging beats in an organ-laced song that one could mistake for Lullatone if one didn't know better.
In Roberts' densely layered productions, synthesizer melodies glisten and sparkle, digital noises burble and stutter, delicate voices coo and hum, and programmed beats click and snap in the best electronica tradition. An acoustic piano occasionally rears its analog head—within the stately “Shunkanido,” for instance—to draw a connecting line to a more traditional musical form (even if the sound is embedded within a thoroughly electronic context). A narrative of some kind appears to be in place, one that sees the story move from despair (“All is Lost”) to hope (“All is Not Lost”), but of course the album, largely instrumental in makeup, can be enjoyed on purely sonic terms without the listener getting worked up over textual content.