Crate-Digging Quick Takes: Pepepiano – Babes EP

I have a completely-filled 120 GB iPod classic, the record crate of the digital age, containing my entire music library. I’m listening to each release in alphabetical order by record title – kind of a virtual archaeological dig. These are my findings.

(self-released, 2010)

I can’t help but think of a stuttering little cartoon mouse when I run the name “Pepepiano” across my tongue, its huge, glassy eyes staring pitifully upward in the hope of procuring some oversized brick of pocked cheese. Well, shucks, little fella, I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news for you – I’m fresh out. Unless we can all agree that the moon is made of cheese or something – in which case let’s just suit you up and we can fire you off into space in the shimmery space-pop rocket called Babes, and you can go to town on that sucker for as long as you please.

Terrible segue aside, and despite my imaginings, Pepepiano is actually David Bird, a human being, from Laguna Beach, California. He dabbles in electro-acoustic space pop and comes out decidedly in the glo-fi/chillwave idiom underground fetishists deem so intriguing. (And although I wouldn’t equate myself in quite such a way, I’ve been utterly intrigued by the movement.) The title track is the perfect tune to lead off any chillwave mixtape, as glittering keyboard and synthesizer runs playfully interact with each other, at first against spoken voice samples before shooting into the stratosphere against a mid-tempo drum machine pattern. It’s spacey, dude, easy ear candy for headphoning. Or stargazing.

“NO WAY” signals real pop aspirations for Bird, as disparate pieces come together to form a synth-beeping extravaganza that should (but probably won’t due to its relative obscurity) make many a year-end top 100 song list. Here we get our first taste of Bird’s vocal skills, and it’s hard not to pick out the R&B influences. Don’t be frightened though – I often hear “R&B” and immediately want nothing to do with it, but here the vocals are cloaked in effects and wrapped in a song that sounds nothing like D’Angelo or R. Kelly. (Thank goodness – and apologies to readers who dig that stuff; I just can’t swing it.) It’s ripe for a dance-club remix too – ready to be a banger in the hands of the right producer.

“Gym-Mystique” and “Like Rocks” finish off the EP, and both stick to the blueprint of layering gorgeous glowing keyboard swirls on top of one another. In particular, I feel like I can fall in love to “Like Rocks,” such are its soaring emotional heights. Maybe you can too. You know, you should probably try it, and find out for yourself. Fortunately, Pepepiano’s got a bandcamp page where you can download this and a couple other things. Get movin’.

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