SubtractiveLAD, Plastik Joy and Last Days reviews (n5MD)

(July 2009) This latest crop of releases from n5md puts them near the top of my favorite indie labels. With a strong catalog featuring Lights Out Asia, Proem and Another Electronic Musician, they’ve been on their game since they started. But the label is really coming into its own now.

1840 image 1 SubtraciveLAD’s Where the Land Meets the Sky is an excellent nu-gaze record; a double-disc set of warm, fuzzy laptop melodies that bear the hallmarks of classic shoegaze (particularly Slowdive) but with better production than the average distorto-laptop musician (not naming names here). The record smoothly transitions from pastoral, late-period Flying Saucer Attack-style haze (“Away From Brightness”) to blissed-out ambient pop (“The Slender Stem”) that evokes Mark Van Hoen’s solo work, all the while maintaining a warm, enveloping sound. Disc two of the set is given over to two long-form tracks, each over 20 minutes, that explore a rich seam of ambient not unlike Stars of the Lid – drumless soundscapes that evolve slowly and compellingly, with a forward motion revealed through intense, rewarding listening. Overall, its an embarrassment of riches, a fully-loaded album of excellence. More please. [Listen / Purchase]

1840 image 2 Plastik Joy travels in the same direction as SubtractiveLAD, but pulls back on the fuzzy nu-gaze for a more minimalistic effect. Slipping an acoustic guitar into the mix is a nice touch, avoiding the folk-y tendencies of other artists who try the same. They’re not afraid to mix the acoustic sounds with some glitch textures, and in “Hands,” they find a nice combination of the two, a rare success to my ears. I thought for years that glitch was dead, but on this track Plastik Joy create a hybrid between .snd and Cranes, something that I’ve never heard before. Plastik Joy also have a keen ear for collaborators, using Sara K. Hellstrom and S. Kawasaki as expressive vocalists, their young-girl style adding another layer of nostalgia and warmth to the music. The other thing to mention about 3:03 is its playfulness. While their illbient-folk is as serious as can be in concept, it is readily apparent that the Icelandic/Italian duo don’t take themselves too seriously. To wit, they have a song called “True Norwegian Black Metal” which is of course nothing like that, but makes for a chuckle or two. Much like SubtractiveLAD, more from Plastik Joy is most welcome. [Listen / Purchase]

1840 image 3 Last Days’ The Safety of the North is much more meditative than the other two in this batch, wearing their Godspeed You Black Emperor and Twine influences of their sleeves. Also evoking early Piano Magic, The Safety of the North sounds glacial and majestic, each track drowning in duende. Perfect for late night come-downs from evenings full of emotional turmoil. It sounds like a soundtrack to the months after your most devastating breakup, where time moves slow and little around you moves. That’s a recommendation – this is music for when you need music the most – as something to mirror an emotional state, allowing you to recognize yourself in it. And that’s rare, which makes a project like Last Days all the more valuable now. [Listen / Purchase]

All releases are out now on n5MD.

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  • SubtractiveLAD / Plastik Joy / Last Days

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