Umin – Cool Air Purveyor (NJMP3-0322)

Who touched the thermostat? It was the artwork for Umin's Cool Air Purveyor. Because it was hot.

Artist: Umin
Title: Cool Air Purveyor
Label: Noise-Joy
Cat#: NJMP3-0322
Keywords: Acoustic, Minimal, Experimental
Reviewer: Alex Spalding

When I started really getting into music in my teenage years in the 90s, it seemed like most people I knew either listened to whatever was supposed to be popular and in the now during that time or listened to music from the 60s and 70s – what their parents listened to, basically. I was really into 80s music, but any time I’d talk to anyone else about my tastes they’d always respond that 80s music was “gay”. Probably because that decade was over and done, it was supposed to be time to move on which meant taking a radical position of hatred toward what had just come before. I was thinking the other day about what the analogue for that would be today. Someone like me who’d be getting into music now would be surrounded by people listening to whatever was supposed to be popular, radio shit, or just listening to the music their parents grew up with which would be like… music from the 80s and 90s. But they’d be listening to the music of the post-millennium and other people would be like… music from the 00s is “gay”. But the weird thing is, people in my generation who listened to 60s and 70s music that they thought was cool, like Pink Floyd’s The Wall or shit like The Bee Gees, were listening to the music of a generation that was really shaped in a more interesting way by things like this or this or even this later on, and had somehow turned all of that shit into something resembling this. And now I see it happening in a way today… the good shit gets swept under the rug mostly in lieu of something like Hall & Oates and interpreted generally as this. And I suppose it’s always like that… I mean, I can think of instances of people doing stuff in the 80s who were obviously working on a misinterpretation of the 50s and 60s, which came across as unique and new due to that fact. This comes to mind, for instance… and this, a little bit… this for sure. But the point is, there is really great music produced in every decade or stylistic era, and it’s best to look for that… anyway, where I’m going with this silly rant is that over the years I became obsessed with collecting the most obscure instances of the decade of my obsession, while branching necessarily out to other tracts of time and exploring all over, so someone like me today who loves the music of the decade previous to the one they are living in would probably find a lot to be fascinated by things like… late Warp Records’ output, probably… the works of artists like Legowelt… and they would also very likely enjoy this album, by Kentucky artist Umin, so I’m very happy to make it available again! It’s a unique work, to say the least, involving the use of ukelele and abstract electronic noises that sound as though they could originate from bizarre self-made analog synths and sound machines. This is one of the albums from my time running the label that I always make sure to share with others that I meet.

The first track is ‘Seabrain’ which begins with lofi recordings of uke, to which an electronic and glitchy sound is added. Clipped up percussion like spoons being tapped on a table surface come in only to break off into ambient textures for a moment. Everything begins to sound filtered, occasionally reverberating and glitching.

‘Bug Games’ is next, featuring a pretty melodic tone and then becoming very aharmonic with the addition of a distorted analog sound. Harp-like electronics and toy xylophone whirl around in chaos.

Next, and long my favourite track on the album, is ‘Eliza’… it’s a very somber, depressive sounding saw-wave bass synth and ukelele accompanying each other in their loneliness. The effects are interesting, things echoing occasionally. It could almost be a soundtrack piece. Eventually the saw drops, the uke goes solo, and possible organ gets added to the mix during the breakdown. Very nice, beautiful sound work, and highly introspective.

‘Datack’ gets more intense harmonically, sounding like something out of one of Raymond Scott’s nightmares. After the ukelele and buzzing synth play for awhile we are attacked by distorted synthesizers and then waspish, discordant tones! It glitches up toward the end, like the machine is blinking out.

‘Ttargus’ is another very beautiful piece. Percussive electronic detritus is circuitbent while the artist plays uke. Then it just zaps off!

Then it’s ‘Prevading Animal’, reverberating ukelele is soon joined by a chiptune like sound that his highly modulated. Harsh signal slides around, plonky steel percussion joins in. Shrill robots begin chirping. It ends with simple ukelele playing, very minimally.

Another pretty moment of ukelele on the titular ‘Cool Air Purveyor’, joined by static and sharp electronics. Then there’s a low buzzing analog synth sound, all of it very melodic.

‘Trotti’ begins more electronically than most of the other tracks. The uke is sparse, the electro sounds make up the brunt of the mix and seem to get more and more lofi and bitmunched in parts. Ghostly bits of dreamy synthtones float around. Very nice!

Last is ‘V1c’, which is very nice, meandering ukelele with distorted, droning electronics buzzing about. Melodically entrancing. I feel like I’m free-floating down a river only to discover that I’m actually being transmitted by wire and copied to somebody’s portable USB device.

I was never really a big fan of ukelele, until I heard this album. I’m still not a fan of ukelele generally, this album being a major exception. But yes, you should definitely hear it. I’ll give you a link, even:

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