Iowa City-based producer landethics’ release phantom tidepools appeared in the Reader’s pages back when it was released in May of 2020, and its lovely blend of post-video game OST melodicism and tonal choices, fused with a fine-tuned sense of beat programming, won my heart.
phantom tidepools ii, released at the beginning of March, builds on the sound that the producer explored on the previous iteration of the series, but pushes their ideas into new combinatory permutations. EP opener “enchanted_armor” dives back into video-game territory with its bright organ lines and wisps of synth texture, and the track dials up the Super Nintendo factor when it breaks into a middle eight dotted with little pan flute accents and more active melodic figures – including what sounds like a vocal sample buried somewhere in the mix. The drum programming here, however, trades in a measure of the more hip-hop-adjacent rhythms of some of the other landethics music I’ve heard for a more reverbed-out, syncopated beat pattern that seems to land closer to Japanese pop music from the '80s such as Yellow Magic Orchestra circa BGM or Miharu Koshi circa Parallelisme. The comparisons to the sphere surrounding YMO and related projects is amplified by the release's cover, which has the project name spelled out in Japanese katakana characters and features a utopian building suspended on a floating island. The throwback is complete with traces of visible ringwear on the album cover, as if you’re looking at a vinyl LP discovered in the bargain bin of your local record store.