Very few artists I listen to have successfully broken the mold of categorization, and formed their own distinctive and genre-defying sound. Enter Tsuruda; an artist whose music I can only describe as an an ensemble of hermits with a god-given talent in using pots and pans to create a cacophony of beats and rhythms. It's eerie and dark; yet filled with soul and a deep understanding of how sounds work together. The album RIP lays out a solid foundation of what to expect from this LA-based musician. The album is made up of some of my favorite tracks of his, a few worth mentioning are "Suslakecity" and "Tomorrow". Through the entire album he shows off his variety, DAW chops, and some incredibly unorthodox percussion use. Although, RIP was a good project, when compared to his more recent work it gets blown out of the water. His sound has continuously evolved and exhibits some of the most impressively executed ideas I've heard in a while. Luckily for us, Courteous Family's staple has now returned a year later with a 14 track LP. This time he has landed a release on the legendary Noisia's record label, DIVISION recordings. The album is called MOVE, and is shaping up to be one of my favorite releases of the year.
Tsuruda starts off with Guns Blazing
We're thrown into the project with "Spaced", a progressively rolling atmosphere that shifts into a dreamy saxophone. The next few tracks continue to explore uncharted territories in electronic music, some of which contain the earlier described periods of instrumentation. It feels like Tsuruda includes breaks and styles that inspire him, while simultaneously carving his own wholesome and more definitive path. The track "Broken" is a barrage of hard-hitting sounds that are complimented by playful horns-- which I assume to be a sample. If I'm wrong about it being sampled, then more power to the guy. If you've been a fan of his music for a while, you'll also come across some rezognizable material. "Small Talk" is a track that I've been itching to hear a full-blown release of, since it was only featured in his Monday Sessions mix a year ago. "Slippin" is a more popular track off the album, and let me be the first to tell you, it slaps. I hate to compare artists, but I can't help but feel how EPROM inspired it sounds. The rumbling bass stops when you least expect it to, then picks right back up after exposing you to the song's percussive skeleton. It doesn't stop here though, because Tsuruda wastes no time shifting his energy into "Ghost"-- which is probably my favorite out of the more energetic songs on the record. Rubbery and bouncy are the first words that come to mind, keeping the listener bobbing throughout it's entire length. The track also shows me how ridiculous the album can be, with the vibe constantly changing. More specifically, an everlasting bump that abruptly ends with a dialogue that you'd expect off a really old and dusty jazz record. It was at this point that the album's title, MOVE, started to make sense to me.
If it weren't for the late Dr. Derg, I don't think I'd be familiar with Tsuruda's music. The iconic skeleton doctor lured me into a discography of lost beats and a vibe yet to be unearthed. He played a big role in expanding my taste in music, especially by turning me on to the rest of Courteous Family and Daruma. Many that were close to Derg tributed him through a creative outlet, and Tsuruda's track "For Matthew" touched me the most. Although this track bleeds the most meaning and depth, I would have never expected it to be released as part of an album. Seeing it on MOVE made me quick to purchase the record, however, I was skeptical. Having heard previews of "Camera" and "Peanut Butter", it made me feel like the addition of this slow-paced piece would make the album incoherent; an annoying fad that artists have used as an excuse for careless organization in the track listing. In the context of the album, it sticks out like a sore thumb, but in the best way imaginable. It was an unexpected but necessary break, revealing a new face of Tsuruda's beautiful musicianship. Hats off to you sir.
The Action Packed D-Side
The last side of the record is started off with a little bit of PAINT; the Tsuruda and Huxley Anne super duo. Their collaborative track "333" is sinister, luring you into a dystopia where you observe the world's most morbid supervillains. Coupled with a few shots of bass to the face, Tsuruda and Huxley warm us up for the end of the project. If you enjoy this one, I highly recommend checking out the new PAINT EP. My only gripe with the album lays in the next track, "Cutting Out The Demon". In my opinion it isn't the strongest point of the album, but it serves as a good transition into some of the more dynamic ideas Tsuruda wants to end with. "Camera" is by far the most well-known off the album, and reminds me a lot of something you would hear off his last album. The clicking and drowned out bass are almost claustrophobic in their sound, with a playful melody being slyly layered in. I was curious about the vocal sample and ended up googling it-- I wasn't quite sure what to make of this. We reach the end of the road with the self-titled track, which was also featured in the previously mentioned Monday Sessions mix. This track takes the aspects of Tsuruda's groove, hard-hitting drums, and experimentalism, and mixes them all up, serving some final food for thought. The last few seconds zoom you out of an audible microscope, leaving you to bask in silence as the platter comes to a stop.
Looking back at this review, I've realized how much I've gushed over the album. To be fair, other than Bonobo's Migration LP, this is the most connected I've felt to an album in a long time. Tsuruda has continued to impress me with his stylistic changes, side projects, and choices for visual art. Along with the entrancing music came two killer looking records. One of which is an ominous white color, while the other is a reflective jade. The cover of the record is gorgeous, with the word "MOVE" being surrounded by flocking cranes. This record has quickly gained a soft spot in my heart, and has yet to disappoint anyone who has listened through it with me. If you're interested in or enjoy experimental production, this album will treat you like a king-sized pack of ear candy. If you've read through this post and feel lost, I still encourage you to listen to it-- you could really end up expanding your taste in music. The album can be accessed via Spotify right here, and if you enjoy it enough, support the movement through buying it here.
To all the artists and engineers that worked on this record, kudos for bringing a spotlight towards a new and innovative form of music. I'm thrilled to see who gets a major release next, and much like Tsuruda, how they'll develop and shape their sound into a full-length LP.