Indie Music, Japanese, Reviews

Electro-Nostalgic: baiyon’s “Like a School on Lunch Time” (Review)

August 21, 2012 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook Electro-Nostalgic: baiyon’s “Like a School on Lunch Time” (Review)on Twitter

I remember when one of my best friends introduced me to “noise” as a genre. He started me off with Hanatarash(i), a 1980s group featuring this dude who went by the name “Eye.” This was some pretty hardcore stuff. All noise samples, no tonality whatsoever.

Since then, I’ve heard “noise” albums with different layers or levels of tonality mixed with the non-musical sounds. Many of them come from electronic artists. I was a big fan, for example, of Michael Bross’ “Subway Meditations” — nothing but hand-picked samples mixed in different ways.

After the jump, we’ll take a look at one of baiyon’s contributions to the genre with his 2006 album “Like a School on Lunch Time.”

For this album, baiyon explores the border between tonal and atonal soundscapes, hopping from one side to the other, sometimes straddling the fence or walking along it like a tightrope. Admittedly, because of the kind of person I am, I generally enjoy when he’s allowing some musical tones to come through. But there’s a very special exploration of both sides of the fence on this album.

The opening track, “Under the Bridge,” mixes sounds of children at school (running, yelling, singing) with the distant sounds of passing motorists and, after about a minute, a pulsating synth that hops around bass and treble, occasionally playing both on that sweet 16th-note driving rhythm. This “beat” (no actual percussion, just the tones) adds a darkness, a sense of gravitas, to the otherwise innocent and memorable sounds of bygone days. Eventually the music wins out over the children, and we move ot the next track, “Playground at Dusk.”

This second track features … wind. Okay, that might not sound like the most exciting thing in the world. But it’s wind mixed with MOOG synths. I actually dig it. But like most of the tracks on this album, it is short, and the experience is fleeting.

The next two tracks are some of my favorite on the whole album. “Atin” has this great crunchy distortion riding perpetually atop a fun, happy little melody. Then “Leave at the Bottom” starts with some chipper melodic tones, but eventually sinks into this dark, deep distortion, like drowning at the bottom of a well.

These tonal tracks continue in a variety of ways before baiyon finally throws out all the tone-producing stuff at track 10, “Had a New Friend.” It’s like you can hear his little battery-powered keyboard slowly dying, slowly fading away. And once that’s over, we’re finally left with “noise.” Okay, just a tiny bit of tone-producing “music,” but mostly “noise.” This happens on track 11, the longest track on the album, “The Day Before In a Sleeper” (7:27). This singular longform track in a sea of otherwise shorter pieces leaves a stark impression on the listener. Then, of all the tracks on the album, the one that I could best imagine seeing reworked into a song for a game, “Multistory Parking” has a strong melodic line to make up for the noise of the prior track.

The three final tracks on the album are short, and somewhat forgettable, though their titles are easy to remember (the 50 second track “Play Marriage” brings back way too many playground memories … the girls always broke my nerdy little heart!). The final track, “Return (There Was a Daily Life)” brings some resolution to this collection of music and sound. A playful melody against scratchy percussion, eventually trailing off into nothing — it cleanses the palette for either another listen or a much-needed period of silence.

If you want to pick up this album, I recommend you get a digital-only version. They’re pretty easy to find (almost all of baiyon’s work is on iTunes). Check back tomorrow for more baiyon!

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