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Doug Paisley - Starter Home Music Album Review

Gracefully navigating the intersection of folk-rock and country, the gentle-voiced songwriter turns detailed images of domestic tranquility and promise into reflections on disappointment.
For a decade, Canadian singer/songwriter Doug Paisley has turned quiet, specific moments into inquiries on life’s larger struggles. On his 2010 breakthrough, Constant Companion, Paisley used the inevitability of endings to explore understanding oneself, the only possible “constant companion.” For 2014’s Strong Feelings, he mulled death and its uneasy relationship with life, or how their juxtaposition ripples into every wave of existence. And now, on his fourth album, Starter Home, Paisley details the chasm that separates what poet Seamus Heaney described as “getting started” and “getting started again.” These songs examine how the person you are never truly aligns with the person you want to be, especially when you stumble upon a sticking point that’s hard to move past.

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Foodman - Aru Otoko No Densetsu Music Album Reviews

Moving away from footwork conventions and playing with a wider range of tempos, the Yokohama producer focuses his attention on a scintillating of tiny, tactile, and childlike sounds.

When the Yokohama producer Takahide Higuchi, aka Foodman, first began reaching Western listeners, it was thanks to his 2016 release Ez Minzoku and his peculiar mutation of footwork. “I get the same sort of sensation from footwork as I do from dub or punk,” he told one interviewer. “It’s about an expression, a way of approaching sound that transcends multiple genres.” Across an array of cassettes and SoundCloud uploads since then, Foodman has pushed at the constraints of the form, with glints of house, dub techno, pop ambient, and even Christmas music all getting minced in his 160-BPM mix.

After a string of tracks cropping up on Diplo’s Mad Decent, it may seem odd that Foodman now blips on Sun Araw’s Sun Ark label. But his restless, exploratory spirit jibes well with Sun Araw’s, and Aru Otoko No Densetsu finds Higuchi adrift in strange new sonic spaces. A steady hullabaloo of sound remains intact, but for the most part, the relentless speed of his previous work has been jettisoned. As the sputtering dub effects in the negative space of “Kakon” make clear, there’s an audible sense of patience here. Even as the track’s tocking starts to speed up midway through, it seems less suited for dancefloors than contemplation.

Toying with empty space, reveling in toy-like sounds, and inverting electronic music’s tropes remain some of Foodman’s deftest tricks, and Aru Otoko No Densetsu is his deepest exploration of the minutiae of such twinkling sounds, creating weird wiggling miniatures that defy expectations. In “Body,” a wailing diva shouting “Everybody” gets paired with furious bass for an instant, but its DJ-friendly qualities are undercut by anxious woodwinds and a chopped-up choir that turn it topsy-turvy. Same goes for the almost anthemic piano stabs of “Sauna,” which are continually sideswiped by woodblocks and gentle synths.

“Percussion” features handclaps and pinging drums along with its chimes, but rather than coalesce into a surefooted beat, it instead slides away. Its most telling sound is that of a cold, frosty one being poured, all foamy head and bubbling effervescence. “Clock” could have all the makings of a simmering Sade ballad, albeit one featuring Mario and Luigi. Foodman revels in such tiny, tactile sounds, and the effect is not unlike experiencing Charles LeDray’s small sculptures. Sounds blip up with all the connective tissue left out, so that descending keyboard jags, bass throbs, spiraling xylophones, and drum hits seem wholly disconnected—and discombobulating. Foodman’s approach now is as much about quickly wiping away sounds as fast as he can trigger them, as if he was making a soundtrack for a video-game version of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Along with the children’s toys, wind-up monkeys, miniature xylophones, and video-game effects, the album’s artwork and attendant booklet of drawings and doodles underscore the kinship that Foodman shares with fellow countryman EYE, of the Boredoms: Both musicians’ work is largely about reconnecting with childlike wonder. Disjointed, spare, and nonsensical as Aru Otoko No Densetsu can be, it bears a thrilling sense of play.


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