"...you will enjoy this album if you just flat out dig synths when they sound li
Andrew Mays' (recording as Eien, pronounced "A-N" and meaning "eternal" or "forever" in Japanese) first release is Partly Cloudy Skies, an enjoyable and intriguing variety of glitch/Aphex Twin SAW II-style ambient and retro electronic music (sounding like it's from the heyday of Bernie Krause and the later Paul Beaver or other pioneers of synthesizer music). The majority of the tracks here are in the latter style, so you'll be disappointed if you expect most of the songs to be current-day Aphex-type ambient music. With that in mind, I think this album's appeal rests more with its sense of humor and quirky playfulness as Mays paints an assortment of miniature (only a few tracks are over three minutes long and some are barely a minute) sketches using all manner of overtly electronic percussion and synth effects. I'll admit that I wish there was more glitch on the album, since Mays is adept at it, but even the retro tracks have plenty to offer.
Album highlights for me include: "Primer" (slow tempo beats and lovely echoed bells), "Microcassette" (a too-short joyous bell and synth number), "Calder Calling" (kinetic bouncy beats and a series of echoed bells that echo off each other in arrhythmic fashion), "Flutterbies" (darker echoed synths and assorted rhythms, including castanets, which compares favorably to Ben Swire's superb Equilibrium), "Muted" (arrhythmic skitch and bass beats played against a somewhat somber refrain), "Dozers" (cheery upper register echoed notes and percolating under-the-surface snare and bass beats), and the delightfully playful "Emoticon" (all manner of synthesizer bloops and bleeps set against an undercurrent of dark thumping notes). The only real complaint I have about Partly Cloudy Skies is the that some musical "themes" are not allowed to develop ("Microcassette" is the best example of this - it's only 50 second long and begs for a lot more time!). On the other hand, there is also something positive to be said about Mays' decision to keep it short and, instead, feature twenty-one (!) songs on the CD. The retro tracks play better as brief exercises in a pleasant and sometimes humorous musical vein. The harpsichord and snare drums/cymbals of "Rio Night," the march-like cadence to the snares of "Whispers of War" and the almost baroque stylings of the title track are best digested in small doses, lest the music become precious or kitschy.
Understand that I personally like this album a lot. However, in recommending it (and I do) I need to stress that you will not hear a lot of what passes for "melody," although it's a very accessible album just the same. While Mays certainly plays plenty of notes, this is not Synergy's sweeping dramatic neo-classicism or Tomita's orchestral bombast. These are short, punchy, overtly "synthy" tone poems - music that takes great joy in the how "computer gee-whizzy" (used in the best sense of the 1960s view of computers) the music contained herein is (with the exception of the more glitch-like songs I mentioned above). Some "real" musical content is there, undoubtedly, but it's not what I would call hummable, although plenty of times the music is catchy. I wish I could articulate what I mean by this, but it's not easy to describe the distinction. Despite my inability to paint a better picture of Partly Cloudy Skies, I do heartily recommend the recording. It's certainly not for dark ambient fans or Berlin school aficionados, but you will enjoy this album if you just flat out dig synths when they sound like they did in the long-ago days before the digital age and samplers. Lovers of glitch should are also strongly urged to check this out, because, while it is "lighter" in spots than other recordings in that genre, it shares much of that style's sensibilities just the same.