2018-02-13

Yet More Reviewing Oh God // NewEraDreaming - 都市景観


NewEraDreaming, the young leader of the multinational record label Flamingo Vapor, is one of my fellow ambient artists who choose to label their work as 'vaporwave'. I've worked closely with him in the past (he did choose to release Yukagir, for some reason), and so when I saw a semi-new album of his up on the Internet, I had pretty much no choice but to review it. (and also he may have asked me to do that).

The release is titled 都市景観, or, in English, skyline or urban landscape. Well, that tells you a lot right from the outset. It is a dreampunk album, as evidenced by its liberal use of night cityscapes and VHS scanlines, and also by the running times of the tracks.Whereas releases outside of the greatest subgenre of ambient music might choose to release in uneven, short-scale song lengths, NewEraDreaming chooses to release exactly one hour of music, right down to the second. But this somehow does not discredit the work. As we will see, it's quite nice for certain applications. It was originally released some time last year, if I recall, but was privated by NED due to outside considerations.

The first track, 発見され (discovered), is what appears to be a heavily manipulated sample of bells ringing, stretched out (I suspect using the Paulstretch feature of Audacity) over a timespan of 30 minutes. That said, there is little substance lost in this song. A chord progression still exists - whether or not it is an original composition, I do not know - and an atmosphere is effectively created, even with this simple process of manipulation. Bass resonations echo throughout the song, rumbling like a radio transmission from a different planet (seriously, look that up). It reminds me of a far longer and more melodic version of the song 'Intro' from Agætis Byrjun by Sigur Ros. At times it reminds me of a Paulstretched Brian Eno song. It's a calming, mildly apocalyptic track. It is recommended for all of you fellow emo transgirls.

The second track follows much the same formula. An atmospheric synthesiser track created through audio manipulation of samples, it also is a calming, warm ambient track that fully fits the moniker of dreampunk. It has a slow start and a long-winded demise: I actually had to check my phone to see if it was still playing the song at points. In this way it resembles more lowercase music and other experimental genres within the left-field umbrella. At exactly fifteen minutes long, this track (aptly named endless) is another soft ambient track, probably useful for essayists in terms of concentration while writing.

The third track is far darker, at times reminding me of an early HKE track. It captures the ambiance of the city far more than the other two tracks, resembling the first track from the telepath/HKE split (sort of, but a lot more murky). There is heavy bass without beats, and everything seems either to be covered with chorus or to be obscured within the noise of the song itself. I'm... actually struggling for things to say about it. It's definitely a good song, but there is very little to report on. It's a column of air expelled from a chimney. It's a sunset over skyscrapers, viewed from an apartment rooftop in Seattle. It's 90s grunge mixed with 10s nihilism.

Overall: a decent album. While it's far from NED's best work, it is also far from his worst, as in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. It is recommended for writing, as it is minimal and has a good effect on productivity. It leaves little room for distractions. I can see this sort of thing taking off.

You can listen to the album here.

2018-02-10

Enterprise of the Indies

Throughout the 1480s and early 1490s, the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus sought sponsorship for a proposed 'Enterprise of the Indies,' an attempt to find a westerly route to East Asia over the Atlantic Ocean. After unsuccessful efforts to gain the favour of the Portuguese monarchy in sponsoring the endeavour, Columbus eventually found support from the Spanish monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand in continuing with the Enterprise. Among many reasons for Spain's support, the single most significant was that the Enterprise's success would bring financial and political prestige to the Spanish crown. Columbus’s planning contributed nothing to Spanish sponsorship goals. The desire for credible defence following the war in Grenada aided in persuading the Spanish monarchs, but subordinated to the pursuit of prestige.
Christopher Columbus's 'Enterprise of the Indies' provided Ferdinand and Isabella significant potential financial gain, especially given the relatively small required investment. After Columbus initially postponed his journey, Luis de Santangel, a high-ranking treasurer in the Spanish court, noted to Queen Isabella that negligible economic risk existed from the Enterprise. Though Santangel ostensibly promoted the Enterprise from an ideological standpoint, the possibility of a high financial gain could not be downplayed. He argued that the mission would be “so small a risk for so large a possibility of […] glory and aggrandisement to [Isabella's] kingdoms and estates.” It is likely that the monarchs of Spain were more drawn to these economic considerations than to religious or nationalistic ones, especially after Columbus portrayed Cathayan decadence. Though Isabella favoured the spread of Christianity, she understood that a Spanish-controlled westerly passage to Asia would bring economic dominance to Spain. Asia, perceived as an economic powerhouse due to the writings of Marco Polo, presented an easy solution to Portuguese dominance in Africa, legitimising Ferdinand's economic motivations for finding a westerly passage.
The ideas of religious and national aggrandisement were prevalent in the Spanish decision to sponsor Columbus. Santangel used the argument of a limited loss to convince the Spanish monarchs to support Columbus's venture, ensuring that experts denouncing the voyage could be ignored. The expedition to the West would cost less than a visit to Spain by a foreign official. Even so, Santangel offered to pay off any expenses. The treasurer also assured the monarchs that insurance excesses would be low.
The Enterprise of the Indies proposal, in conjunction with producing financial capital for Spain, created potential for a considerable amount of religious and cultural prestige. Beyond the economic affairs of Spain, Columbus's plan contributed to the prevailing Spanish ideologies of the Reconquest of Grenada and religious unity. The idea of reaching Asia by the Western Ocean attracted the monarchs, given the prospect of religious unification and spread. The Spanish monarchy pursued the expulsion of the influences of Islam and Judaism, and Columbus's proposal linked exploration to anti-Islamic grand strategy. The prospect of religious and cultural prestige also attracted Spain, given the magnitude of Ottoman naval dominance that was beginning to overtake the Mediterranean theatre. The possibility that Columbus could contribute to the spread of both the Spanish military and Christianity itself was not insignificant. The importance of Christian supremacy continued as a dominant ideology into the early 16th century, resulting in the capture of a number of locations along the North African Coast, showing that ideological factors highly motivated foreign policy considerations in Spain. The same factors that resulted in the Reconquest persisted in a desire for overseas expansion, and Columbus's venture represented, to Ferdinand and Isabella, a welcome opportunity to triumph over Spain's Islamic neighbours.
The ideas of religious and national prestige prevailed in the Spanish decision. Santangel asserted that Spain would bring glory upon itself by sponsoring Columbus, regardless of success, and avoid missing an opportunity that another state could easily seize upon. Santangel advised that the event of losing Columbus would be a “great injury to [Isabella's] estate and a cause of great reproach,” and that, even if Columbus were to fail, the Monarchy would still be held in high regard for their attempt; the effects on prestige would be positive, either way.  While Santangel’s argument hastened proceedings, Ferdinand’s input had already partially convinced Isabella; the two men were closely connected. Prestige gain constituted a compelling argument for the Enterprise. The implications of the proposal in terms of prestigious dominion over other kingdoms were clearly enough to convince the court. Spain’s overall potential gains from the Enterprise were a major reason for the decision to sponsor Columbus.
Columbus's meticulous planning of the Enterprise did not persuade the Spanish court. In fact, it is more likely that his plans polarised Ferdinand and Isabella rather than promoting the Enterprise in a meaningful way. Columbus's plans were based on erroneous calculations of both the size of Earth and the width of Asia, which Iberian court geographers knew. The early bases of Columbus's venture were possibly even less reliable, especially to the royal courtiers of Portugal, Castile, and Aragon: rumours of artefacts of Asian origins appearing on the shores of the Azores and the Canaries were the main basis of his argument that lands existed close-by to the West. Columbus based many of his geographical theories on Toscanelli’s works, controversial among both contemporary and historical cartographers. His efforts to gather further secondary evidence in support of Toscanelli were dedicated, but the results tenuous. The extent of these technical errors was a major factor in the Portuguese decision to reject the proposal, showing that they were not necessarily a positive factor in Columbus's pursuit of sponsorship. The Spanish monarchs had a similarly negative reaction to the incorrect estimations of distance. Based on contemporaneous knowledge and the opinions of experts, the court concluded that a westward journey was impossible. However, the prospect of an increase in prestige and economic viability negated such a reaction. It is clear that Columbus's planning contributed neutrally to the Spanish decision.
Though not the most significant, a major reason for the Spanish sponsorship of Columbus’ Enterprise was the intent of national self-preservation. The Reconquest of Granada by Spain occupied the 1480s in military terms. The Spanish state’s stability necessitated that local nobles and warlords pursue a common goal; until 1492, such an idea manifested through the Reconquest. The end of the war in Granada did not, however, end the fear of the African and Near Eastern Muslim empires; by the time Columbus had proposed his Enterprise, Spanish foreign policy had quickly shifted to a state of preservation against the Islamic states. Columbus’s proposed voyages to Asia would theoretically provide the Spanish crown with the resources needed to penetrate North Africa more effectively, linking neatly with the new foreign policy. However, the desire for a continued defence against African sultanates was not the most significant reason. Policies of war continuation had reduced notably in priority by the end of 1492, with war reparations already being paid by the Moors after 1487. It is unlikely that Columbus’s journey would be approved solely on military interests; expansion into Asia would take a considerable initial investment of resources that could be better used in North Africa, regardless of the future profit from trade. Certainly, overseas exploration of a similar manner had conferred a great deal of expense on Portugal, who had recently turned Columbus down.  The Spanish crown considered Columbus’s request with respect to foreign policy, without prioritising such considerations; the Enterprise was more effectively decided by the pursuit of a higher level of economic and cultural prestige.
The most major reason, then, for the Spanish sponsorship of the ‘Enterprise of the Indies,’ was that the costs were sufficiently low and the economic and prestige gains were sufficiently high. Religious, financial, and cultural aggrandisement as Columbus pioneered a journey to Asia were lofty enough potential benefits given the relative insignificance of the costs involved. Minor factors such as the planning of Columbus’s journey were not effective in securing a deal. While the desire for the national military interests of Spain was certainly present in the monarchs’ decision, it did not have as large an impact and likely did not influence Ferdinand and Isabella’s final judgement.

Bibliography
Fernandez-Armesto, Felipe. Columbus and the Conquest of the Impossible. New York: Saturday Review Press, 1974.
Flint, Valerie I. J. The Imaginative Landscape of Christopher Columbus. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992.
Innes, Hammond. The Conquistadors. New York: Knopf, 1969.
Irving, Washington. A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus, 2 vols. London: John Murray, 1828.
Kamen, Henry. The Spanish Inquisition: An Historical Revision. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1997.
Koning, Hans. Columbus: His Enterprise. Exploding the Myth. New York: Monthly Review, Press, 1991.
Lewis, Archibald R. Nomads and Crusaders, A.D. 1000–1368. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991.
Lewis, Bernard. The Muslim Discovery of Europe. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1982.
Liss, Peggy K. Isabel the Queen: Life and Times. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.
Morison, Samuel Eliot. Admiral of the Ocean Sea. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1942.
Morison, Samuel Eliot. Christopher Columbus, Mariner. London: Faber and Faber, 1956.
Parry, J. H. The Spanish Seaborne Empire. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.
Phillips, William D. Jr. and Carla Rahn Phillips. The Worlds of Christopher Columbus. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.
Phillips, William D. Jr. ‘Columbus and European Views of the World’. American Neptune, vol. 53, no. 4 (Fall 1993) pp. 260–67.
Rubin, Nancy. Isabella of Castille: The First Renaissance Queen. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991.
Seed, Patricia. Ceremonies of Possession in Europe’s Conquest of the New World, 1492–1640. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.
Taviani, Paolo Emilio. Christopher Columbus: The Grand Design. London: Orbis, 1985.

Thacher, John Boyd. Christopher Columbus: His Life, His Work, His Remains: as Revealed by Original Printed and Manuscript Records, 3 vols. New York: AMS Press, 1967, published first in 1903.

2018-02-03

Yet Another Album Review: Hyper // Vinyl Dial


Vinyl Dial is a British producer of "progwave", which is an amazing fusion of genres that I didn't even think was possible. His music often skirts the boundaries between 80s hard rock, synth-wave, and hypnagogic pop a la 100% Electronica, which (incidentally) are my favourite melodic genres. Also known for his dulcet voice and great music reviews, Vinyl Dial hits hard with his spiritual pseudo-Ptolemaic imagery that hearkens back to new-age producers of old.

This album was a pleasant surprise for me. Not having listened to much pop-vaporwave-rock-prog fusion material before, I had no idea what to expect. A combination of all of those good things could either be really good or really bad, like orange and chocolate or chocolate and orange juice. As well as this, the album is partially made up of Hyperbattle submissions, which can often be hit-and-miss. So, with my expectations neutered, I opened up the album and listened to it while I wrote. And immediately I lost my ability to write in the smooth rhythms and snazzy jams of Hyper.

The first track opens with a deceptively ambient slow synth lick. Almost instantly, the song transforms itself from a typical dreamy synth track into one of the coolest things I've ever heard from a vaporwave song. Spastic tom-toms fly in all directions at you. A synthesised slap-bass performs kancho on you and runs away giggling throughout the entire song. Some analogue synths discuss politics in the foreground. And Jeyv-ynkev sits, stunned, watching all of this. A great introduction passes.

The next track, Double Sixes, is a smooth future-funk jam with typical EDM stylings. It's definitely fun to listen to, though it is possibly the least self-distinguished track on the album. This is the song that would be played over the radio if Vinyl Dial made it to the top of the charts. A heavy-hitting pop banger, I can definitely imagine people dancing to this in the middle of a packed club, with some surprisingly attractive Central European people sitting in the corner frowning as they down their Guinnesses. I assume this song was constructed especially for the fans of early Esprit and current Moe Shop.

Azure Springs swings the mood in another direction. This track is slow but still preserves the upbeat atmosphere of the rest of the album. There isn't an ounce of sarcasm in the composition of this song; one gets the sense that the entire thing was made for the sole purpose of making people relaxed. This song assumes the same role as many of Disasteradio's songs do: giving the listener a cool, retro-styled experience similar to a comfortable armchair and a pint of kvas. It sounds like a PS1 game's in-menu soundtrack, or perhaps the bit where the main character has to complete a puzzle.

外苑前駅, the next track, is a similarly-themed song, but I would consider it to be the best on the album. The production value is completely insane for a project of this size: this song would not sound out of place on a really weird Earth, Wind, and Fire instrumental album, or perhaps a modern R&B off-vocal. The prominent drums, their authenticity, and the slick bass guitar all contribute to the atmosphere of early-2000s acid jazz, combined with modern lo-fi hip hop and cafe music. I would play this 24/7 if I owned a 24-hour diner. Though that would be bourgeois and probably would only serve entire bottles of red wine, borshch, and 2-litre bottles of Guinness. It's a modern, hip, and smooth piece of music.

Tracks 5 and 6 are dominated by the happy nature of the entire album, despite the dystopianism of Let's Go To The Colonies!. Again, there's not much to say for these two. They seamlessly blend electronica and rock to the point that the genre lines are blurred. Even so, I can't help to add a couple of comparisons: firstly, to Public Service Broadcasting and Nmesh for their use of samples in a melody. I also appreciate the Blade Runner reference.

The remainder of the album follows these examples, mending and melding samples, drums, guitar, and synthesiser into a slick beat that flows into itself from song to song. References to Dragon Ball, to mallsoft, and to modern consumerist culture jump out and are swiftly put away by a fake-embarrassed Englishman, who blushes and smiles as they are put back in their drawers. And there's a particularly nice guitar solo on one of the songs, the name of which escapes me. All in all, the songs smash against each other until they are recognisable only as Vinyl Dial: The Best Album. My only criticism is that the album seems to come to an abrupt halt as the final track fades into oblivion. The remixes somewhat salvage this situation, though.

In the end, it's a smashing job that Vinyl Dial has done on this release. It's by far his greatest work, even if it is mainly his spare recordings from Hyperbattle. I have no doubt that you would do well to listen to this at a job at an empty cafe in a forgotten art gallery/theatre combo while you while away your hours. It would work well for ambient music, for entertaining guests with your cassette player, and for pretty much any application that involves the words "put it in me, daddy." I joke about that, it's actually not really conducive to love-making due to its distractingly good instrumentation. Go listen to this, it's good.

You can listen to Hyper here.

2018-01-08

Album Review: The Night Citizen // Eccodroid


Eccodroid is an Argentinian producer of something quite indescribable. In a good way. Over the past year, he has released a few short pieces under the Eccodroid name, and his unique style has come through in the best of ways. Perhaps best known for his Japanese-themed extravaganza Holy Ghost Father, his musical style is half-way between Esprit and Telepath - hypnagogic pop music with a production from the past. The Night Citizen is an EP of sorts, released both by the artist and the Australian label Sunset Grid, that showcases his explosive and vibrant style.

The EP opens with Eccodroid's flagship single The Uncola. A short introduction, sampling an American 7-Up advertisement, sets a clear vaporwave tone for the entire record, adding a layer of sarcasm to the ostensibly pro-consumerist lyrics of the song. Enough literature-class bullshit: The Uncola amounts to what is a catchy and somewhat inflammable opener. Reverbed and pitch-shifted synth stabs pepper a snare and bass drumline that calls back to classic vaporwave, without overtly ripping anything off. A slap bass places itself firmly inside the listener's eardrum, throwing you all the way back to West Germany, 1988, where David Hasselhoff's opening band treats you to a smashing showdown next to the Wall. Echoed breaths turn the song from a political statement into a sexy political statement. He wants to drink that cola with you. And do many other things.

Though the song is pretty repetitive, it never strains the eardrums or bores you. Following a traditional 80s pop formula, the song continues with a peppy refrain involving cheap cola for most of its duration. What really cements this song in the hall of kitsch normally reserved for George Clanton and Mitch Murder is the addition of a sweet electric guitar riff toward the end of the song. I'm not sure if the hot licks are sampled or not - which is also a good thing - but it really adds something that turns the song from normal to legendary. If I could, I'd drink The Uncola all the time.

The next song, Just Lovers, takes a slightly different approach to the retro-futuristic beats of The Uncola. Walking steadily backwards into the late 1970s, the song opens with a string melody similar to - I hate to say it - the Are You Being Served? theme song. I'm a massive fan of the 1970s aesthetic, so this isn't too bad going for me. It may, however, trigger a kitsch overload in everyone else. And this is deliberate; it's an EP full of retro love songs, baby-makers for a new generation. As the vocals kick in, signaled by a massive snare with a metric fuckton of gated reverb, we're once again treated to the tape-distorted vocals of Eccodroid himself: this time, he's singing a Japan-themed ode to an enthusiastic belle, supported by the perhaps-sampled voices of anonymous backup singers.

The chorus is relatively uneventful (I actually think the verse is far more catchy). The next verse throws a whole load of anime references at the listener, which I am not qualified to talk about. My waifu is too shit to appear on this track, apparently, though Eccodroid has some idea of who these people are. After this, the formula engages once again, and a veritably pornographic piano-and-wah-guitar solo kamikazes its way through your headphones. At the end of the song, a drumbeat fades out, returning us to the hyper-capitalist void of the vaporwave future. Actually, it's probably more simple; it's a better ending than a repeat-and-fade.

The next song, Milady (ugh), begins with a torrent of dynamic analogue synth chords - think the start of Warmspot by George Clanton, or whatever derivation of it he's made today - that aren't quite as soft as the previous tracks' careful placement of bells and strings. It soon becomes clear what Eccodroid is going for here. The track is a song for your parents to have slow-danced to on their wedding day, for Bryan Adams to have belted out during a depressed time of his life. It's a royal-themed song that retains the slap bass and gated reverb of other songs, only this time overlaid with a host of synth pads that almost calm you... but they betray themselves as something a little more sinister, much like the undertones of the whole EP (in fact, of most of Eccodroid). I won't write any more about Milady other than there's no guitar solo and the title is horrible. I'm getting flashbacks to the time I revealed my gender to /r/jontron. Ugh.

The EP closes with a tribute to a simpler style of music. It's as if Eccodroid teamed up with Clairo to make a sweet closer for the whole family, if the family solely consisted of girls aged 12-19. I think it actually follows the same chord progression as certain George Michael songs, which is interesting to note but kind of irrelevant. It takes away the critical undertone of The Uncola and Milady and replaces it with something warm, almost like you're lying on a sand dune somewhere. Incidentally, that's what the lyrics are about - generally, it paints a beautiful and nostalgic picture of spending time with your lover. It has a sad undertone, but overall how cool the entire beat and song are offset this. If you're going on holiday this summer, to somewhere secluded, warm, and full of waves, play this song on repeat. It incorporates chilled electric piano chords, muted guitar, surf slide, and smooth bass into a beautiful mix that can't be missed by any sane person. This song is my 10/10 off this EP.

My overall verdict? If you want a nice little pop EP from an alternate timeline to accompany you on your romantic forays, download this immediately. If you want a Euro-styled romp through obscure pop and funk from the 1970s and 1980s, you couldn't do much better than this. If you want to be transported to Eccodroid's funky Patagonian tiki room, filled with bottles of 7-Up and framed pictures of Marvin Gaye, then my recommendation is that you give this EP a listen as soon as you can.

You can check out the album here.

2017-12-29

HH7 Analysis

The Seventh Homeric Hymn describes an encounter between Dionysos and a crew of pirates. The plot involves Dionysos performing various supernatural feats to frighten the pirates, punishing those deemed ‘evil’, but sparing a reluctant helmsman. Compared to other Homeric hymns, the work is relatively brief at only 59 lines. A strong contrast to other works in the same collection, the Seventh Homeric Hymn occupies the niche of narrative worship; instead of providing a description of the deity, it re-tells a myth. Some structural elements resemble other Homeric Hymns to Dionysos, implying that it was stylistically defined by its historical period. Each hymn to Dionysos begins with him choosing not to use his power. By the end of each hymn, including the Seventh, a role-reversal occurs with Dionysos’ epiphany (HH 7 44-57).

The story itself is a typical Dionysian myth; the hymn’s themes are the destruction of Dionysos’ enemies through insanity (HH 7 44-53), for example. A repeated use of the word ἐφαίνετο (‘appear’) reinforces the epiphanic nature of Dionysos, a theme repeated in Bacchae and in the Fragmentary Hymn. Entrenching Dionysos' status as a god of epiphany are the miracles that he performs. Though he is firmly established as a joy-bringer (HH 7 58-59), it is clear that he brings both happiness and destruction – the appearance of fragrant wine around the ship strikes fear in the pirates (HH 7 35-37). This volatile nature pervades other Dionysian myths as much as the Homeric Hymns; Hesiod, for example, describes how Dionysos' grapes can bring both joy and sorrow (Hes. Sh. 398-400). Dionysos' mercuriality is significant. He occupies a liminal niche, displayed fully within the Seventh Homeric Hymn. The epiphany in the hymn represents contemporary expectations of Dionysos; a Classical audience would have easily recognised such a depiction. Other works such as Bacchae share themes of Dionysos’ epiphanies.

The hymn shares symbols with other Dionysian myths of the same period. Contemporaneously in Dionysos’ characterisation, his establishment as a god of insanity, wine, justice, and boundaries was already fully developed. Oenological imagery pervades the text, and Dionysos explicitly conjures grapes to further reinforce his perception as a god of wine and frenzy (HH 7 32-41). That the wine creates chaos among the pirates only augments this status. The sea is also an important symbol for understanding ancient attitudes towards Dionysos. The story is mainly set on headlands and ships (HH 7 3, 10), linking character and setting.  Ancient travellers’ use of the sea for both psychological and physical transport reflects the blurred boundaries of mortality that Dionysos’ birth-myth represents; the symbolism of the sea reinforces the perception of Dionysos as an interlocutor between gods and men. It also represents Dionysos’ occupation of intermediary space.

The hymn’s use of language indicates worshippers’ perceptions, and differentiates it from other Dionysian works. Dionysos is described as “a young man in the first prime of manhood,” an illustration which distinguishes the myth: in other works, such as Bacchae, Dionysos displays quasi-androgynous qualities, but in this hymn there are very limited references to femininity. The hymn represents a period in which Dionysos was perceived as an athletic, masculine figure; Dionysos has explicitly “broad shoulders,” and is easily mistaken for the mighty deities Apollo, Poseidon, and Zeus (HH 7 5, 19-20). There is no doubt that Dionysos is a masculine god in this representation.

Other descriptions of Dionysos within the passage match later illustrations of the god. The best example of this is the description of his clothing: Dionysos wears a “cloak of purple,” (HH 7 5), implying extremely high rank. In the Byzantine work Dionysiaca, Dionysos wears purple garments (Nonnus, Dion. 11.232-240), symbolising rank and nobility in mythological literature. Additionally the hymn displays prototypical elements of the quintessential Ephebic youth, including “dark and glossy” hair (HH 7 5). These elements are displayed in Nonnus (Dion. 11.16) and in Euripides (Eur. Ba. 235-240) inferring that Dionysos was already perceived as a major Olympian god, though his later feminine aspects had not yet emerged.

The Seventh Homeric Hymn to Dionysos reveals many aspects of Bacchanal worship in the Classical era. The narrative structure, the form of the piece, its content, and its use of symbolism and hymnic imagery all contribute to a wider understanding of ancient perceptions of Dionysos. Some imagery establishes common perceptions of a powerful Dionysos, while his feminine aspects were yet to be fully developed. As well as this, its relationship to other works reveals the temporal spread of these perceptions.
Bibliography
Allen, T. W. and Sikes, E. E. (1904) The Homeric Hymns (London: Macmillan).
Beaulieu, M. (2016) The Sea in the Greek Imagination (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press).
Henrichs, A. “Loss of Self, Suffering, Violence: The Modern View of Dionysus from Nietzsche to Girard,” Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 88, no. 1 (1984): 205-240.
Heydemann, H. (1885) Dionysos' Geburt und Kindheit (Tuebingen: Niemeyer).
Jaillard, D. (2011) The Seventh Homeric Hymn to Dionysus in Faulkner, A. (ed.), The Homeric Hymns: Interpretative Essays (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Kim, E. “Dionysus as Metaphor: Defining the Dionysus of the Homeric Hymns,” Persephone 2, no. 1 (2017): 29-44.
Prauscello, L. “‘Dionysiac’ Ambiguity: HomHymn 7.27: ὄδε δ' αὖτ' ἄνδρεσσι μελήσει,” Materiali e discussioni per l'analisi dei testi classici 58, no. 1 (2007): 209-216.
Richards, R. A. and Damen, M. L. “Sing the Dionysus: Euripides’ Bacchae as Dramatic Hymn,” American Journal of Philology 133, no. 3 (2012): 343-369.

2017-11-13

Album Release: 尤卡吉尔奇点 Yukagir

In collaboration with Flamingo Vapor, I am releasing the musical album 尤卡吉尔奇点Yukagir. The name itself means "Yukagir Singularity," a reference to the short story that it's based on and around, among other things. It's another entry into my Lovecraftian corpus of work. It's not traditional, structured music with a defined beginning and end; it's simply tableaux, a scene from a certain place at a certain time. I was really inspired by telepath and HKE, but I also took inspiration from the music of Noryokun and of Ugasanie. Let me explain the individual parts of the album to you.

The first song on the album is, if all has gone according to plan with the release, 对手 ПЛЕНИТЕЛЬНЫЙ - in English, Captivating Adversary (the original title of the song). If you've read my short story Yukagir Singularity, the concept of a largely apathetic elder god that both destroys and captivates will not be alien to you. The story of this song is that the protagonist of the album, perhaps a tribesman or a farmer from near Yukagir, catches sight of a terrible being arising from the pockmarked tundra. Oozing pus and bile, causing it to rain vomit, this creature is unmarred by the passing of time, and is simply apathetic regarding humanity. But the protagonist is not scared of it - in fact, they are captivated, falling in love with this unimaginable horror.

The song samples three works. The first one that you'll hear is Rafstraumur by Sigur Ros, a song about love in spite of violence (perhaps a bad message, but that's irrelevant). The first verse repeats and repeats, fading in and out over the course of the song. If you speak Icelandic, which I certainly don't, you may or may not understand the lyrics. Listen to the heart beat, from inside the ribcage, inside and outside. I'll let you understand the symbolism. The second song that is sampled is much similar. It was suggested to me that I use it by an Australian friend of mine, who had recently re-discovered it after a long period of depression: Lie In The Arms by Stereo Bus, though it's so reverbed and stretched that you probably can't tell what it is anymore. Luckily for me while I was making this album, Rafstraumur and Lie In The Arms are actually in the same key and share many of the same chords in their progressions. It's almost as if they were meant to be together from the beginning. I did change the key signature just to add a sense of unease. While the songs are both in E major, this track is in C.

The second song on the album is  You/Vy - in English, Dream about You. I really tried to evoke the atmosphere of an actual dream here, and I think I achieved it (at least for me, I can't tell what your subjective experience is). It's about the protagonist, either before or after encountering the Adversary, having a dream about their lover, or an object of their affection. It samples Japanese elevator music, which is phased and reverbed to hell and back, and a stretched loop of ocean waves and binaural beats. There isn't actually a lot of symbolism in this track, I just think it sounds good. White noise doesn't have key signatures to match up, fortunately, so there's no additional value in that.

The third song on the album is 红茶 и 扶手椅共产主义 - in English, Earl Grey Tea and Armchair Communism. You might be thinking to yourself, 'what a strange title! Surely Jeyv-ynkev has lost their mind!' And you'd be right. But I actually have a symbolic basis for this title. Earl Grey is one of my favourite types of tea, and I am a left-communist myself. These two things make me feel exceptionally comfortable, and at the end of a long work day there is nothing better than sitting down on an armchair, holding a cup of tea and a Bordiga dissertation. The protagonist has become sedentary. Away from the action, they are sitting in their marble palace in their murex-stained armchair, preaching but not practicing. And this brings me on to why this piece is not comforting.

The songs I sampled on this track were intended to reflect the fact that the protagonist is sedentary and useless. They are Bourgeois by Kommunizm Brigade and FML by Kanye West. Both songs describe a life tainted by riches, a hypocritical and damned existence perpetuated by the elite. The piece aims to reflect this. The main character is an adventurer, yet they do not make any advance toward adventure. And this makes them, and the rest of the world, exceedingly uncomfortable. The tea gives them heartburn. The Marx gives them headaches. Even their armchair is starting to chafe their buttocks. So this track is not comforting. It's restless. Of course, you're free to add your own analysis.

The final song on the album is 我们的时间 Below - in English, Below Our Time. It's a departure from the rest of the album in that it does not directly continue the same narrative thread with the same characters. In fact, it is intended as a continuation of the narrative thread established in the second album by Spook the Horses, called Rainmaker. That album is a Western-themed romp through a doomed desert, a stark contrast to the cyberpunk romp through a doomed tundra that this album presents. Anyway, the story ends here. Below the ice, something has woken up. I don't think anything can stop it, not in our time. It's a tableau. It illustrates a single point in time.

I hope you enjoy the album.


2017-11-06

Album review: X // アースELIXIR


アースELIXIR is one of the most stereotypical vaporwave names you could give a project, but there's definitely an artistic point to all this. This isn't displayed to any less of an extent on the latest entry into the catalogue, a nice post-/classic vaporwave album with the simple title of X. In contrast to the recent trend of introspective, unironic vapour hits (of which I am guilty of creating, in part), X is a welcome break.

Admittedly, I had no real idea what post-vaporwave was before I firstly heard this album and wrote a review on it. I think that everyone has seen the /mu/ subgenre categorisation chart somewhere on the internet, and my mind immediately leapt to the dreaded 'vapormeme' subcategory when I first heard the term. With bated breath, I listened to the album all the way through and was pleasantly surprised. While the album does lamp-shade the tropes and conventions of vaporwave (and especially contemporary eccojams and late-night lo-fi), it does so in an affectionate and relaxing way, much like you would relax with an amicably-separated ex. Needless to say, this was a good thing.

The opening track shows this from beginning to end. The track is introduced by an eerie drone, and then robotic voices follow it through to its completion, a reference to earlier post-vaporwave and plunderphonic artists as well as synthwave (Com Truise, anyone?). This sets the tone for a very well-defined vaporwave album that both critiques the genre itself and the concepts that have continued to be critiqued by other artists. A cyber-punk dystopian theme is established right from the get-go.

The second track caused waves of nostalgia to flow through my body. A looped saxophone riff, much like the owner of my favourite Mongolian restaurant used to play, echoes through the headphones for around 8 minutes. It's a good start. While this might get a bit tedious with extended listening, the loop is generally enjoyable, and the almost-undetectable reverb adds a subtle isolated touch to the track. It's almost as if you're taking a train home.

The third track continues this theme. A faster-paced song, coming in at just over five minutes in length, the song introduces a light piano-saxophone duet into the mix. アースELIXIR uses a fast phaser to indicate that, much as the first track likes to remind us, not all is right in the universe of X. The effect? The song is turned from what was originally intended as a 'Mongolian-restaurant' tune into a calming but vaguely disturbing litany. Heavy drum hits inadvertently add to this atmosphere. Clearly, this album wants to relax you. It also wants to awaken something else, hiding deep inside you. Okay, I'll stop with the Lovecraftian imagery.

The fourth track is cyber-punk comme Shadowrun. It's a very short track, but aims to capture the feeling of sitting in an office waiting room, perhaps for an interview. The title (JAL企業サイト) indicates that the listener is now on an irreversible flight-path towards the corporate establishment. Or maybe a more likely analysis, knowing the genre and aims of X, is that it is a complete take-off of classic vaporwave, looped and reverbed to all hell. Nevertheless, it's a very nice song to listen to on its own. It is calming, as intended. Though it is short, I'd consider it a transition piece between the third and fifth tracks.

The fifth track calls back to the second and third tracks, and introduces a new concept: the identity of the listener (reinforced in the title: i). It runs at nine minutes, the length adding to the tense feeling (along with the indomitable phaser). Not much analysis is available beyond what I've already said about the other tracks, though it does serve to reinforce the themes of the earlier tracks. I also appreciate the Golden Living Room-styled pitch wobbling.

Nothingness, the sixth track, is another transition between i and Regional Conditions. It takes a much darker turn than the other tracks, giving you a genuine feeling of nothingness and emptiness as the notes roll by. It reminded me of waiting in an airport gate lounge for a near-empty flight, perhaps to Magadan or Egvekinot or, in the universe of this album, probably to Tokyo or Osaka.

Regional Conditions is really a fun track, despite the connotations of post-vaporwave ideology. It takes what is probably a weather channel track (a concept also played with by Virtual Polygon and, to a lesser extent, Thor Kissing) and adds a distorted voice-over. The track is also slowed down considerably, and looped over the course of around 13 minutes. Now this is a track length I can get behind. It really sets the tone that X is going for, and continues to drill in the themes and critiques that were present in all other tracks. You're still relaxing with your ex, but he's texting his new girlfriend while you watch the weather channel - he's there, but not available, like one bar of wi-fi. And it continues being drilled into you. (I'll stop projecting.)

The final track takes a far different turn. The title roughly translates to Client Service (though I'm translating across not one but two languages here, so give me some slack), and it further reinforces the main themes in a different form. Now, the song is midi-like, late-1990s vapours exuding from it, and looped over and over in a similar fashion. While it's an unexpected conclusion, I'd say it's moderately satisfying. At just over four minutes, it occupies a happy medium between transition and full song.

X overall is a solid entry into the ever-growing vaporwave corpus. Subverting and running with tropes and conventions familiar to the seasoned listener, it calms and disturbs at the same time. アースELIXIR has undoubtedly done a pretty good job on this one. While it's not the usual death-drone-dark-self-harm-dreampunk stuff I normally listen to, I was very pleasantly surprised with my introduction to post-vaporwave.

You can check out the album here.