Lee

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Lee, well, technically “lee (asano+ryuhei)”, is Japanese electronic and visual artist Ryuhei Asano, originally from Fukuoka and now based out of Bangkok. He’s total Kyushu danji – a Japanese phrase describing and celebrating the unique style of those from Kyushu, the Southern island of Japan and home to some of the most culturally unique aspects that incredible nation has to offer. Lee is a tough act to describe, but one thing is for sure: he’s nutso.

In a phrase, Asano is an eclectic barrage of sounds – a flash-storm collage of old classic-style vocals, drunken string and piano ensembles, sideways drum beats, Japanese infomercials, and field samples of cultural events and strange characters surely known solely to Lee alone. He’s the sound of someone coursing rapidly between tv channels, while another retunes their transistor radio, while their infant child bonks and bangs onto an array of percussion instruments. But somehow the resultant sonic array is a blissed-out, controlled chaos that I find myself drawn to over and over again. It’s pleasant lounging music that can just as easily sustain full attention, where I sing along right up until the realization that I can neither speak Japanese nor hold a note.

Since around 2012, Lee has been releasing a steady stream of music and equally-bizarre album cover art, much of it available for free on his Bandcamp (http://leeeeee.bandcamp.com/) & Soundcloud (https://soundcloud.com/leeeeeeee). Pictured above are my 2 favourites of his 4 LPs so far this year (!), “TANH” (with frequent collaborator and like-minded space kidet Arμ-2 – http://aru-2.bandcamp.com/) and the brand-new “( u _ u )” (try “ryotaro”: ). Featuring song titles such as “三”, “⌘v” and “●●●●-“, you know you’re in for a fresh experience. And with a unique visual accompaniment for every single song, he’s the devil in the details. Update: just in case 4 releases in one year wasn’t enough, Lee’s gone ahead and dropped a name-your-price hip hop-featuring EP, aptly entitled “55555” (find it at http://leeeeee.bandcamp.com/album/55555; “05. 50g” is a standout). Update II: Leeeeee’s at it again with new EP “めもの” – don’t know what that means, don’t care, too busy listening to it to find out (listen/buy for cheap at https://leeeeee.bandcamp.com/album/–2; try track 8 “わい “).

Favourite track: dukkha (http://leeeeee.bandcamp.com/track/dukkha-2)… Like I said, Kyushu danji.

Patrick Watson

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Patrick Watson is a Montreal-based 4-piece band fronted by the singer/pianist of the same name. He insists they are a “band” and not a solo artist + backing accompaniment, which would I guess be called Patrick and the Watson’s or something. Regardless, these guys are a shining beacon of artistic excellence in the Canadian indie scene – an archetype of when raw talent, ingenuity, and dedicated practice collide. With instrumentation collages not unlike that of Beirut, Andrew Bird and Owen Pallett, Patrick Watson are masters of both composition and execution. Featuring refreshing piano and string/wind arrangement intricacies,  unconventional song structures, striking melodies and pop hooks, steadfast guitar/bass/drum foundations, and Watson’s immediately-recognizable, silky-smooth falsetto voice, I’d be hard pressed to find many rivals. Not that music necessarily needs to be a popularity contest.

Over the last decade, Patrick Watson have kept a steady pace at 1 album per 3 years. All their releases are delicious, but my two favourites are the 2007 Polaris Music Prize winning “Closer to Paradise” and this year’s “Adventures in Your Own Backyard”. Watson (the individual) was also co-wrote a number of stand outs from The Cinematic Orchestra’s “Ma Fleur” album, as well as provided an excellent remake of Champion’s “Guy Doune” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3wxP-Fmlfg).  If you get the opportunity, I highly recommend seeing them live – they really are a sight to behold… especially Watson, who is eccentric, sporadic, and altogether fascinating to watch. Update: Watson took on past-collaborator Joe Grass as full-time guitarist and delivered another gorgeous, 50-minute journey through his haunted funhouse of a mind (try title track opener “Love Songs for Robots“).

Favourite track: Slip Into Your Skin (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8sI8l8qWiEk)… I feel it too.