Photo by JD Pictures
Same Name, Evolving Style
Samename has always been something of an outlier in the world of Pelican Fly, where his Eastern grime leanings stood out against the exaggerated rap beats and brass instrumentation most of the label’s roster is partial to. But that distinction fades with his new EP, Yume, as he sheds some of our expectations of him and as the label continues to deviate from its original sound. The record is harder to define wholly as grime influenced, with its varied beat patterns and new bass colors. And the label has moved beyond its early style - as dictated or inspired by its founder Richelle - with its new releases by Nadus and Sam Tiba, which bookend Yume.
In fact, the EP is more easily tied to the sound of Fade To Mind than any strain of Pelican Fly. Grime is a clearer strain of discussion for many of that label’s artists’ work. And their darker mood more closely resembles Same’s state of mind as well. He’s even gone as far as using a number of stylistic traits popularized by Fade artists such as swords clashing and chantlike synths.
The comparison becomes even more apt when bringing Fatima Al Quidari’s new album Asiatisch into the conversation. (Fatima is one of Fade’s earliest members, but the album was actually released on Hyperdub.) Asiatisch was another effort rooted in grime but channeled through mediated Eastern musical ideas. But Fatima’s album was minimal and sparse, and Same’s EP is packed so full it won’t close. Asiatisch also interprets Chinese ideas, whereas Samename looks to Japan. As Fatima is quick to point out, much of the West’s idea of what sounds Chinese is warped by how our media interprets it. And the same is true for Japanese sounds. But as a first world, technologically advanced nation, Japan has more of a say what the world see of their culture - not that the West doesn’t create its own Japanese stereotypes (see Avril).
Samename concedes influence to a wide array of Japanese culture, from anime and video games to traditional instruments and contemporary artists. While the British producer declined to name anyone specific, you can hear similarities to maximalist Kawaiians like Emufucka and Quarta 330. His tracks, like theirs, brim over with melodies and drum sections, featuring soaring ideas full of enthusiasm. They all burst with Wario 64 colors, bringing to mind a dance battle held at the arcade rather than the club. But Same inhabits more turbulent realms, choosing not to scale the full brightness of electronic pop that his Japanese counterparts often prefer. His is also a rounder, more natural sound, buffing out pixelated edges and relying on acoustic sampleage as much as digitized synths.
But one thing that Pelican Fly seems to push as part of its identity - other than music that is never easy to categorize - is quality, and this EP definitely furthers that tradition. The care put into it is hard to miss. There’s innumerable little effects and atmospheric samples, polyrhythms, dynamic drum kits, beat switch ups, harmonies and counter melodies, and instrumentation… The record is endlessly immersive. While it’s not dance music necessarily, it’s also far from subtle. The sounds are planet-sized and attention grabbing. And there’s something of a narrative to it all, where each element dictates the next step to be taken. A story looms behind it, and he paints clear pictures of that world. But rather than tell the story I hear, I’ll let you do so on your own. That’s half the fun, isn’t it?