Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Seven Days of J-POP - Part III : Ram Rider

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Xanadu 2007 is here. Ram Rider wants you to know.

Having just started 2-3 years ago, RAM RIDER aka, ur, Ram Rider (as in Random Access Memory Rider, not Rider Of An Uncastrated Male Instance Of A Member Of The Ovis Aries Species) has done a lot with one composite flavor of music, that being Daft Punk / U.S.E. / Y.M.O. / E.L.O. inspired rainbow-colored wall-of-sound Prada-bag filter-orgy pop-house music. As far as taste/food analogies and 4/4 dance music goes, Ram Rider is frosted frosting garnished with a Cadbury Creme Egg. Dance music doesn't get any dense and sweeter than this.

Ram Rider's vocals are not only reminiscent of early 90s UK shoegaze pop. He sings this way through heavy Auto-Tune as well. Ram Rider and Jeff Lynne are on par with never wanting to leave any space in their music ever.

Congrats! If you've read this far without feeling ill, you're going to really enjoy the following. I know I do!

Portable Disco - (2006)

If the above descriptions whet your appetite, you should not be without this album. This debut full-length feels much like a mix CD of a year and half's worth of singles padded by new tracks exclusive to it. Granted, you're not going to get a lot of variety here, although there are exceptions.
  • Ram Rider - "Hello" [4:10 / mp3 / 192kbps]

    This track is Ram Rider's mission statement, literally and musically. "Welcome To The New World." Like I said. Xanadu 2007, baby. This is the anthemic capsule of the four corners of 4/4 described above.

    [Ram Rider's "Hello" video]

    It's difficult to describe the world Ram Rider depicts in this video. It's not utopian, because that would imply that actual problems could arise -- which would be handled in the best way, of course. However, there really aren't any problems in this world. In fact, things just blossom everywhere -- and that's about it. They may minimize, maximize, scroll by, rise, descend, or just want a hug after it all. But nothing wilts or dies in this video world. Who's going to clean up this mess eventually? Don't forget your rainbows and headphones after you lock the door!

    Seriously. Limahl now seems like Lemmy.

    Is it also fair to mention that the squares of happiness in the "Hello" video make the intro sequence of The Brady Bunch look like The Decline Of Western Civilization in comparison?

  • Ram Rider - "Sweet Dance" [5:01 / mp3 / 192kbps]

    "Hello" rings in The New World. However "Sweet Dance" is your First Crush after moving to your New World. Is it possible to have a piano progression in a dance track as catchy and heart-tugging as this? I've listened to this song way too many times, and I've just begun. I'll forgive the cliché filter games and the predictable percussive build ups -- hell, even the auto-tuned shoegaze timbre of Ram Rider's lyrics. I'll even forgive the following video to this song!

    [Ram Rider's "Sweet Dance" video]

    By the way, when I'm commuting home from work and I'm walking to catch my connecting bus in downtown back home? I'm exactly like either of the two people in this video. I just pretend all the homeless people are cecropia moths and angelfish.

    So, fine. Ram Rider has this fetish with rainbows and headphones. My only real complaint about the video is that it doesn't convey how supremely awesome the melodies in this song are! Not even close. Also, Ram Rider doesn't just butt in and throw confetti into the song a la Rip Taylor. He invents his own chemical element, Glittertonium. The song is pure Glittertonium concentrate. The only way to visually justify this song is to overlay and multiply the respective ending scenes of each of the trifecta of 1980 musical Book Of Revelations cinema -- Xanadu, The Apple, and Can't Stop The Music -- into one giant loop and let the song and video last forever.

    But I'm happy with this five minute version. It's cool.

  • Ram Rider - "Door (Ram Rider x Akira Ishihara)" [5:00 / mp3 / 192kbps]

    "Technologic" was the first thing that came to mind when I heard the intro to this tune as well. Basement Jaxx also crossed my mind when the song's fuse blew up. Tracks like this save Portable Disco from sounding "samey", however. This track, I assume, is a collaborative effort with fellow techno-maker Akira Ishihara. "Door" is a great, temporary escape from the melodic fudge.

  • Ram Rider - "Space Walk (Ram Rider x shoes)" [4:14 / mp3 / 192kbps]

    Nu-Nu Shooz anybody? Is that whom "shoes" in the parenthetical refer to? "Space Walk" is another song that's a great escape from the Portable Disco pattern, but this time in tempo. There's a lot of work done to simulate those 1985/1986 manually modulated synth wheels prevalant in techno pop then. The only thing that makes this song sound modern is, ironically, the early 80s video game noises.


Portable Disco - 8Bit Edition - (2006)

I guess I spoke too soon when I mentioned "video games." Portable Disco was not enough, so Ram Rider released a bonus remix album where his friends got together to reinterpret his album, but happily restricted to 8-bit emulators. Hence 8Bit Edition. As gimmicky as this release is, I'm tempted to say I enjoy this more than the source album -- not because Portable Disco is a substandard record, but the 8-bit gimmick leaves more room and space for interpretation here than the fill-your-earholes-with-sugar strategy that the original uses. Also, the album art is sooo much better. I'll never get tired of the hand waving DJ on top of the plastic hamburger bun.

  • Ram Rider - "Hello [8Bit]" [4:24 / mp3 / 192kbps] - remixed by YMCK

    YMCK are the three-piece responsible for this excellent remix of "Hello". They do an excellent job putting themselves in the shoes of the original Famicom/Nintendo music engineers, making music that sounds exactly like it came from that first-generation game system.

    "Hello [8Bit]" is busy sounding, but the orchestration is really impressive. Only if there was a Nintendo game in 1985 that had used a theme song imitating "The Perfect Kiss" by New Order.

  • Ram Rider - "Sweet Dance [8Bit]" [4:50 / mp3 / 192kbps] - remixed by YMCK

    Another YMCK interpretation via ye emulator. I think the trio thought "Sweet Dance" was a bit too formidable, so they radically changed the backing track to a supper club jazz shuffle. This is a great idea for 90 seconds, but the near five minutes of this is too much, no matter how impressive that one, ur, MIDI improv/solo is on top.

  • Ram Rider - "Door [8Bit]" [4:36 / mp3 / 192kbps] - remixed by Covox

    Stockholm's Covox takes over the helm for the 8-bit remix of "Door". For those of you who missed the cream of the Nu Breaks/Rephlex crop in the late 90s, here's your chance to share memories of those trebley, crunchy breakbeat days. The Pac*Man ambience in the background fading in and out combined with the Arthur Baker "Breakers Revenge"-esque bass line works really well.

  • Ram Rider - "Space Walk [8Bit]" [3:46 / mp3 / 192kbps] - remixed by TANIKUGU

    Another of the 8-bit mafia, Tanikugu takes on "Space Walk." The approach here is more spacey and dreamy than the previous interpretations.


Kimi Ga Suki & Remix Tunes - (2007)

On the slight chance that the album title is a reference to the Matthew Sweet album of the same name, feel free to call me on it. But I'm guessing it's not.

Kimi Ga Suki & Remix Tunes, having just been released probably seconds ago, is a new single followed by remixes of previous Ram Rider songs. Yup. Another remix album. The single itself is excellent! Unsurprisingly, it breaks no new ground whatsoever. And just when you thought you saw the most ridiculous Ram Rider video ever, along comes the... well, you know.

[Ram Rider's "Kimi Ga Suki" video]

Headphones? Check. Rainbows? Check. Steve Jobs stroking service? A+. Why not just wire him the cash to get your song on the next iPod nano commercial? Sheesh. Although, here are a couple of tips. The near make-out with the polar bear? A bit odd. Rethink that. But -- RAMsy, buddy! -- you have to alter the SUPER CREEPY ENDING of this video. DO NOT WANT!

It's anyone's guess whether Ram Rider is going to stick with this flavor for years to come, or if he's going to completely reinvent himself one day. I can't imagine the chance of a happy medium occurring -- at least on his own terms. Bless him for it, but his world is certainly a happy, touched one. All inspirations aside, obvious or not, I never thought music could be this rich in sugar. If anyone tells you they've listened to the sweetest music ever, now you know how to pwn them back.

Rainbows & Headphones forevah.

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Blogger MJ said...

Interesting! (And shiny!) Remixing things in 8-bit is so retro-cute.

I'm definitely checking out the rest of your "Seven Days of J-POP" series.

2:35 PM  
Blogger Ned said...

The new cults start here!

9:43 AM  

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