Indie Scanner: The Second Wave

Animal Collective member Panda Bear's 2007 solo album Person Pitch provided a template for the next generation of music-makers. Warm, gauzy, and sample-heavy, the album radiated like sunshine, and demonstrated that one need not be beholden to playing guitars or synths in bands, nor stuck merely programming beats in their bedroom, to make transportive music. That middle ground became known as “chillwave,” and gave license to indie musicians to pull sounds from all over their iPod, weaving them into a new shape.

"Adventures In Green Foot Printing" James Ferraro

"Believer" John Maus

While drawing heavily from music of the past, it suffuses that sound with reverb and echo, giving it a sense of distance and a twinge of fading nostalgia. Or rather, it takes a snapshot of the present and filters it through a Hipstamatic prism. Chillwave would be just a micro-trend were it not for a few very talented producers expanding that sound with every release.

Toro y Moi
South Carolina native Chazwick Bundick’s debut, Causers of This, was released on Car Park, which is also home to Panda Bear. The album was awash in synth, expertly chopped beats and plenty of reverb, and Bundick expanded his sound palette with his quickly released second album, Underneath the Pine. The first thing one notices is the influx of live instrumentation. “Still Sound” keeps the ephemeral aspect of Toro y Moi’s music intact but adds more muscular instrumentation. Live bass and drums propel the track with a crackling bit of funk, while a keyboard line that might have been lifted from a late-period Herbie Hancock album chirps and fidgets alongside Bundick’s laid-back vocal.

James Ferraro
Originally a member of mid-aughts abrasive feedback duo The Skaters, James Ferraro’s solo career has focused on noise of a different sort. Across some 20+ releases on his New Age Tapes label and dozens of others (bearing bizarro titles like Night Dolls With Hairspray and Star Digital Theatre: Movies For P.T. Cruisers), Ferraro has trawled through the digital detritus that makes up our satellite TV-inundated lives and emphasized its nonstop clamor. But while those releases sound like they were dubbed onto VHS tapes, on his latest album, Far Side Virtual, he’s at least upgraded to laserdisc. With a glassy, bright sound, tracks such as “Adventures In Green Foot Printing” could be mistaken as the soundtrack for a Scientology recruitment video or for a multinational investment firm.

John Maus
John Maus’ music is a beguiling amalgam of intensity and pop frivolity. His deep baritone resounds like Ian Curtis, but it’s encased inside a synthesized backing that ditches the post-punk sound of Joy Division for the cheapest karaoke machine on the market. A one-time recording partner of chillwave grandfather Ariel Pink back when they were at CalArts, Maus struck out on his own with a slew of underground releases, all made while working towards his Ph.D. in political philosophy. This year’s breakout album We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves finds Maus taken with Depeche Mode synth tones and other nu-romantic ephemera of the ‘80s. “Believer” starts with a throbbing bass but soon Maus rides an ever-ascending synth line, one throwing off cascades of golden sparkles. It’ll make you a believer for sure. --Andy Beta

"Adventures In Green Foot Printing" James Ferraro

"Believer" John Maus


Brian said...

Sorry guys - just not feeling these today. They sound like something the character Ross would have cooked up in that coffee house on Friends. I'll keep them in my collection though; maybe they'll grow on me.

Nate said...

"Person Pitch" is still one of my favorite albums. Truly Brilliant.

Crater said...

ferraro isnt chillwave you putz

Surrealistwave said...

Chaz is a genius, smoove vocals and sexy beats, Causers of This is his best album to date, especially the bonus track "E.D.E.N."

aaron said...

Love the Ferraro. Check out his new mixtape as well:

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