Painted Girl - Familiar Trees of the North West
Familiar Trees of the North West
May 22, 2022
Gradually a world of holographic shadows and voices fills the mix as Kagami Smile welcomes us to Dream Residue. The first track of which, Discarded Movement moves euphorically as a ghostly pad drives the melodic elements of the track. The timekeeping click slowly fades into the background as a shroud of dark sound works its way to the forefront of the mix. The feeling is not one of overwhelming darkness. It feels as though its our first time entering some sort of mega-city. We look up, our vision blurred by rain, at huge swaying towers of innumerable lights. The beat of the song pumping shadowy figures through the streets and the arterial veins of the underground network. Voices continue to float around our head, glitchy and high pitched, like neon adverts luring eyes in with repetitive animated movement. The gaping enormity of the landscape opens up as Kagami Smile brings in more and more echoed sound. The huge gaps of empty sky guided by the path of the buildings. The music conveys incredible images from the very start, this is owed to an evident nod toward a cyberpunk aesthetic. But Kagami Smile’s EP breaches a mere look or style, the sound created a harsh and intricately made journey.
Digital Embrace begins with cold artificial sound, much like the title would suggest. Low glassy pads ease their way into view. The tune is one of melancholic solitude, echoing out to an empty stereo field. So much of ambient music that tries to bring a more structured experience falls foul of letting tones and frequencies run wild, but as lower bass sounds begin to guide the song, we understand that Kagami Smile has set up clear boundaries, sequences and rules. In control of everything you hear at any given time, we are walked down a dark and unmoving street. Whispers of voices appear like discarded paper billowing across the road. Never once hearing the sounds of the cityscape around us, its as if we listen solely to the internal monologue of our soul. The humming pad repeating the same heartbreaking lament, the echoing unending and unreal. A timid drumbeat comprised of a bass drum and a clap begins to appear, like tiny sea animals clinging to the back of the gargantuan sweeps of reverberating sound. The two percussive parts slowly disintegrate, allowing the pads and melody to come safely to a close, fading out just before the conclusion.
Love Echo brings an abrupt heavenly chorus of strings and voice at the very start. The properties of which charge upwards towards a gap in the overhanging cloud above us, until the gap shuts and we are left with the dark city once again. Lines of light beam across the cold buildings, revealing more detailed parts of the landscape as it unfurls in reaction to the light. The roads and buildings creak and moan as a whispering wind blows a constant gale through the towers. Great beams of golden sun break through in the form of descending notes of some sort of artificial spring. There is no doubt that Kagami Smile is changing the nature of the landscape before us, utilising brighter and more apparent sound that slowly whips up the wall of noise into a frenzy. A heavy-set bass drum begins to push, as the vista before us hums into life once again. Cymbals ripple across the mix, picking up dust and rubble as they go. The percussive elements that the artist uses are never overbearing, nor do they ever seek to hijack the activity. They simply slip in insurgently underneath the ambient noise. Love Echo ends with sudden echoed sample, as if the lights of the city beamed for an instant and were then shut off.
Your Tears in the Rain features the artist Sangam, and wastes no time in bringing a fully-formed wall of sound toward the listener. A heartbreaking melody plays behind lashing rain and mist. A feeling of claustrophobia sets in. The noise of the rain and the aching moans of the buildings nearby seem all too close for us to get a glimpse of where we’ve been taken. The mix rumbles violently, as if we are hearing enormous trains passing overhead. The melody and the incidental sound seem to battle for supremacy, mixing with each other in an unnatural manner. The rain increases, the anonymous figures around us push past as we are helplessly adrift in an ocean of moving darkness, pushed from one side to the other. A noise, harsher than any before, breaks up the melody with a huge mechanical screaming. As if some enormous machine has passed by us as we sit in the footwells of a disused building.
Memory Dump begins unassumingly. The simple sound of the air around us gives way to a growing note. It stands steadfast in the mix, yet unfranked by euphoria or other sound. But slowly we hear an atmosphere around build and come to life. The power of the beaming note picking up other sounds as it plays. Light appears for the second time in the EP, this ghostly revolving sound is picked up and light is shed across its surface. A beautiful amorphous being rises from underneath the ambient sound. Its body constantly moving and shifting shape. Kagami Smile keeps it simple on this track, echoed voices can be heard on the periphery, but the synergy we experience between the original note and the euphoric noise that it unearthed is very much the main event. They fade out before the song closes, turning off down a pathway we can no longer see.
Static Dream provides the final song from our experience in Kagami Smile’s created world. A voice calls out from a tremendous distance away, as a muffled pad winds its way into the centre of the mix. The sound revolves, stopping every so often as it begins its journey once again across the path of the listener. The light trickle of rain begins to reveal itself underneath everything. The grey sun slowly rising on the streets before us. The echoes of a ghostly presence continue to bandy from one side to the other, the residue of a once busy and bustling civilisation. A beat works its way in, a flaccid bass drum echoes out into the landscape. Followed after a while by a clattering hi hat and snare combination, the first instance of which we’ve heard. The two struggle to find each other between the undulations of reverberating sound, but slowly the they become more dominant in the mix. The higher frequency loops rocketing up in volume at once point. The track becomes a percussive experience unlike any we’ve heard so far. The voice calls out wildly behind the noise, cymbals and claps push past where we stand, like lightning striking atop the tallest tower we can see over and over again, sending a surge of energy through the lights and crystalline windows near us. The percussion fades out abruptly, as the sounds of the city centre around this alien voice. As Static Dream fades and our journey comes to an end, the unmistakable sound of a piano plays a beautiful descending scale before diving into nothingness.
Kagami Smile presents us with a journey so real and effective that its hard to open one’s eyes while listening. The constant feeling of sublime and darkened energy does not give way throughout the approximately 40-minute runtime. The artist is able to weave concept and execution perfectly, as the listener is treated to an incredible journey through the soul of a cold and unforgiving city.
Listen/purchase on Vinyl, Cassette or VHS here: https://vill4in.bandcamp.com/album/dream-residue