REVIEW: Tom Monoto’s “What Next”/”Spacetoy” (EP’s)

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Tom Monoto has released not one, but two EP’s within a close proximity, meaning double the music for his fans. What Next seems to have a split personality of sorts. While still having a retro sound with a bit of that 8-bit/video game sensibility, there’s a bit more happening in tracks like the melodramatic “Naked Truth” and “Out Of Sight”. “Naked Truth” reminds me of watching adult movies on Cinemax After Hours, while “Out Of Sight” could have easily been the end of the NES game Goonies II where memories of me saving the mermaid made me almost tear up at a young age, but we don’t want to get into that right now. What I like about “Out Of Sight” is that it sounds like there’s a bit of tape hiss going on, but am not sure if that’s just white noise (or something similar). I also like how some of the keyboards pan from left to right and back again continuously, makes it a bit psychedelic without sounding as if it came from 1967.

Spacetoy leans more on the Kraftwerk side of Monoto’s craft, where every sound has a meaning, and every meaning may have another meeting. That’s not to say What Next or his other works lack meaning, but it just sounds distinctively different, at least to my ears. It’s less video game-y and more comprehensive, a slight shift in depth and how things are put together. “Atomic Disco” and “Suborbital” may sound more like tributes to the Kraftwerk kling klang than anything, and when the EP closes with “Bon Voyage”, it’s done in a way as if to say “thank you for listening, I am off to a new land to explore more music, please meet me there.”

The sounds on both EP’s are cool, calm, and collected, it’s just the right serving size that will keep listeners fed until the next round/sound.

REVIEW: Tom Monoto’s “No Way Out” (EP)

 photo TomMonotoNWO_cover_zps13aca443.jpg The 8-bit electronic sounds of Tom Monoto has returned with his new 4-song EP, No Way Out. Hearing songs like this goes back to those days when part of the appeal of popping in a Nintendo NES game was hearing the music, walking into the kitchen and making a quesadilla in the microwave. While you’re waiting for the cheese the melt, you’re dancing in place to the music, knowing it’ll last about four or five minutes a pop. That’s what Monoto does here, and while it may not sound like a lot is going on, try doing this yourself. “Sofa Surfer” could be the soundtrack for any deep gamer, while “Obstacles” sounds like the level/pattern that makes you think for techniques and strategies, going at a slightly frantic pace when you know it’s the keyboards driving you to move madly. “Lost Way Home” find you going through a secret door and finding a place you never expected to be, which makes you think “am I still playing a video game or is this the real world?” It may be childlike at first, these sounds bringing back memories of those classic games, but they’re done in a way that could easily fit with what we do today. One could listen to No Way Out as a way to temporarily get out of the cluster we live in, as a way to get back to the garden that once was so green and lush. Mini electronic orchestras continue to be part of the playground of Monoto, looking forward to finding out what happens on the other side of the door ahead.

REVIEW: Tom Monoto’s “Wallflower” (EP)

 photo TomMonotoW_cover_zps0fc39170.jpg What Tom Monoto has under his sleeves… are his arms, but that’s neither here or there. What I meant to say was “what Tom Monoto has under his sleeves, no one knows but him” because it’s true. When one becomes a fan of an artist, you realize that you must expect the unexpected. There’s a sense of comfort in relying what that artist gives you, and you just take what comes. Wallflower is his latest 4-song EP, and the songs range from nice Giorgio Moroder-style dance numbers to track that have the German electronic influence. The German vibe can be heard in a track like “Asteroid”, but there is a sensitive, more mellow side of Monoto that is revealed in “Those Moments”, and I didn’t realize it was a slight hint of the song that closes the EP. “This Is Not The End” is one of the few Tom Monoto-related tracks that features a voice, in this case a synthesized voice that speaks about coming to an end, but how all endings are a pathway toward new beginnings. Within the chant of binary code is a voice (however synthesized) with a heart, which once again leads me out in the same way you were brought into this review: what Tom Monoto has under his sleeves, no one knows but him.

REVIEW: Tom Monoto’s “Nebula” (EP)

 photo TomMonotoN_cover_zpsd8284062.jpg Back again with a new EP is Tom Monoto, and unlike previous EP’s, Nebula is more exploratory in nature (or at least I’d like to think it is). Previous releases had him creating individual songs that were different from one another. What I say with this 4-song EP is a track divided into four parts. Are they meant to be heard as one song, or are merely four parts to a movement. I decided to listen to it in a few ways.

If I am to listen to it as a 4-part movement, “Nebula 1” and “Nebula 2” are songs that draw in the listener to what’s to come, consider it two different intros that fit together, back to back. “Nebula 3” has a nice, pulsating drumless rhythm that allows the listener to get loss in the synths being played, and perhaps being caught up in the timbre that is created. “Nebula 4” becomes the movement’s outro, the end of the thrill ride and perhaps a way to say “thank you for listening, please come again.”

Some of it sounds like early to mid-70’s German electronic music while other parts sounds like some of the more complex electronic sounds Disney would release for children’s read-along story books, or production house music that were done with the utmost expertise in setting a mood. While Nebula may fit a specific era of music for each listener, it’s actually open-ended so that it may be able to fit in anywhere. I like the way Tom Monoto has created this, a job well done.

REVIEW: Tom Monoto’s “NANO” (EP)

 photo TomMonotoN_cover_zps9e3f6516.jpg The latest project by the artist formerly known as hirosleep begins on a very festive and peppy note, as if it’s a bounce back to the 8-bit video game-style music that he does from time to time. By the time NANO reaches track #2, “World Beyond My Window”, his means of electronic exploration is different, sounding like some of the beginning steps of electronic music from the 1970’s or even early 1980’s, such as Michael McNabb.

“Shiny Thing” sounds like what a quality dance track would sound like if run through an NES, but then again, a lot of us probably did dance to NES soundtracks anyway. “Rain” ends the EP on a nice touch by blending the natural with the synthetic, and it would make a perfect ending for a song that was longer and perhaps more progressive. Maybe it would be perfect for a death scene in a major motion picture as well.

NANO continues traveling from place to place, but where will he be next? We’ll find out very soon, I am most certain.

REVIEW: Tom Monoto’s “Retro Toys” (EP)

 photo TomMonoto_cover_zps16ec0f08.jpg hirobleep has been releasing a number of EP’s in the last two years at a rapid pace, and now he wants to be able classify some styles of his works using different monikers. This EP was briefly made available as a hirobleep release, but now it has a new name tag. Welcome Tom Monoto.

This is how Monoto describes the work on Retro Toys:
These tracks were produced with some vintage cheese cake processors: Casio CZ-5000 Digital Synthesizer, Yamaha QY-20 Music Sequencer, Kawai K1m Digital Synthesizer Module and Quasimidi Technox 16-Part Multitimbral Synthesizer.

The songs on this album would have been perfect incidental music for a 1980’s soundtrack, specifically for a cop buddy film based in Beverly Hills or something. It has that kind of feel where you want the song to fit a scene or become part of the scenery, as a means to take you from here to there and back again. One might even find this type of material as an obscure B-side that was released as a promo for the Cat People soundtrack. Very nice work, and I look forward to what he will be offering ne… oh wait, he just released the Nano EP. I’ll be back with a review of that in a moment.

REVIEW: hirobleep’s “Do Not Disturb” (EP)

 photo HirobleepDND_cover_zps61bdaac8.jpg hirobleep has returned once again with a new EP full of great tracks, and this one is a winner. Each track on Do Not Disturb goes for a little over four minutes, each one being different from one another but somehow still having a sense of continuity. “Needles” sounds like a techno track that you may have had the pleasure of listening to in the early 90’s, while “Forbidden” could have easily been a Kraftwerk song from the late 70’s/early 80’s and taken into the 90’s or early 2000’s with additions of some nice low frequencies. “Aquarius” could be that track that would get underground dance clubs moving deeper to where each person inside would never know what time it was, as the funk being created would make time irrelevant. The EP closes with “DND”, where some of the breakdowns get lost in the digital reverb being created, all before the driving beat becomes an aide to bring you into its seductive lair. I would love for a track like “DND” to explore itself even further and perhaps be expanded for another 11 minutes, reaching depths that only The ORB have traveled to. hirobleep’s productions and sound sculptures are becoming more developed with each release, I’m not sure what he has planned next but I’ll be in line waiting to listen.

REVIEW: Hirobleep’s “XYZ”

Hirobleep photo hirobleepXYZ_cover_zps2d182483.jpg A new album has been released by Hirobleep, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he already has three more finished and another four on the way. This is good, because he makes some incredible music, as he continues to do on XYZ.

Just as his previous effort, See You On The Other Side, was a introduction of sorts to the next phase of his output, XYZ goes further and deeper into the sounds established there. The dance grooves are tight, and I also love the minimalist approach he embraces. If one gets caught in a synthesizer riff, they’ll find the chords and phrases unfolding into something new, yet still showing footprints from the path in which it came from. When Hirobleep gets into a bit of house and techno, you can truly feel the bass pumping through the speakers, I can only imagine what this would do to people in a club setting. The music here pumps from start to finish, and I definitely want this to continue.

REVIEW: Hirobleep’s “See You On The Other Side”

Hirobleep photo HiroSYOTOS_cover_zps73d71d36.jpg With a series of EP’s behind him, Hirobleep has let people know that he is a master and student of creating fantastic music of the chiptune/8-bit variety. While that could be considered minimalist from a different angle, his brand new album completely expands on what he created before, as he aims to show his diversity, and not as a mere 1-bit wonder.

See You On The Other Side has Hirobleep using a lot more keyboards and synths, and while there are still shades of the 8-bit style of production, it is being pushed into the background on this release. The majority of the eleven songs are “single length”, or maybe that shows that I still think in terms of “single” and “album”. What he does within the context of “single length track is to put in a bit of depth and warmth into his pieces, some of which border on minimalism. The repetition of certain chords and phrases are quite nice, as things may loop for about 8 or 16 bars and then things will bloom from that structure. It’s not just someone who is allowing his music to just loop over and over, but there’s math and structure involved, and I like that. Lazy man’s electronic music, this isn’t.

The album ends with the 9-minute “Interface”, where he’ll play with variations on a theme, and then variations on the variation, before it turns into a wonderful dancefloor masterpiece. In fact, all of these songs would do very well on the dancefloor, whether it’s embraced on their own or if they were backing tracks for today’s singers.

As I was listening to this, I also heard the possibility of these songs being revised in the form of remixes, edits, or newly modeled songs. I found myself editing these tracks in my head, as if I wanted to hear extended versions. If Hirosleep is telling us to see him elsewhere, are these songs “the other side”? Or is that side waiting to be revealed? While I welcomed his series of EP’s, I highly value a full length album from Hirosleep, and I hope he’ll continue on with new journeys very soon.