Birthplace EP






Birthplace is a three-track EP loaded with synth-fueled movements of carefreeness, Vaporwave particles and electro-acoustic breezes, all of them supervised and arranged by Japanese artist Quoi. Stylized as Birthplace.ep, self-released in September and available to stream and download for free at Bandcamp, the artist does not deliver Ambient in the strict sense, but only takes the archetypically droning legato undulation as the starting point and moves ever-forward from this point onwards. While all of the three tracks are short and sweet, they are being allotted room aplenty for progression and diffusion; the second half of a track, while not completely different, sees additional flecks woven into its set of textures and moods. No big deal, right? In this case, it is, for these elements comprise of those wonderfully Japanese bleeps, bits and bolts that have unfortunately been lost during the millennium when the groundbreaking eclecticism of Electronica (yes, I hate that term) and IDM (ditto) slowly waned and made room for genre blueprints. The reviewer does not cry himself to sleep each night at these missed opportunities, but is glad that history repeats itself, even if it this impression is only caused by a smallish EP. I simply love the iridescent synth patterns, their greenish color range and Quoi’s infinitesimal nods towards the Jungle movement which reaches even farther back than the more melodious outlooks of Glitch. If the listener is partially interested in cyberspace, colorful architecture and a certain transcendental approach, Birthplace is a little dob which will suit the needs and deserves an in-depth review at AmbientExotica.


The eponymous opener is awash with light yet granular enough to sport a certain coarse-grained moiré that cautiously prunes the ecclesiastic luminescence. Fans of the Pop Ambient formula which is annually certified and altered by the Cologne-based Kompakt label will find solace in the streamlined, polished plateau of elysian elation. Texturally shuttling between Wolfgang Voigt’s Rückverzauberung #1 (2011) and the solely guitar-based elasticized euphony of Ben Barrett’s drone diorama A Onda (2013), Quoi offers a change of pace during the apex of Birthplace by admixing pointillistic polka dots which gyrate between sine tones and darker glockenspiel droplets. Mellowly veneered snare drum reverberations create the sense of a Waltz-like structure, all the while the echoey phantasmagoria of multiplexed mirages builds anew amid whitewashed frizzles of haze. With not a single cloud, not even a sunburst in sight, Birthplace is the unconditional declaration of love for eminent harmonies and superimposed overtones of bliss.


Newland is a completely different take altogether, a wondrously quirky-youthful ditty of insouciance. Even though the term ditty may seem like an excoriation, I do not mean to cause harm with this term, for the amalgamation of blurred radio frequencies, elevator music and Vaporwave contractions spawns a severely Japanized capsule of crystalline carefreeness. The interwoven breakbeat is delicately dizzy yet direct, but it is naturally the aeriform synth patterns that are the main attraction of this uplifting, comparably fast-paced piece, emanating pristine fairy tale shopping malls hued in technicolor, showcasing antediluvian Italo piano formations and intermixing bone-breaking low frequency bounces which augment the frilly frenzy. The beat changes its gestalt time and again, and while it does not completely transmute its principal physiognomy, the various states of filters, haze and short-lived proper 4/4 alterations make this a polyhedric gemstone which scintillates ad infinitum. Torn between an earthbound good mood and cosmic coruscation, Newland inherits the dreams of the 32-bit generation and moulds them into an enshrinement of solacing translucence.


The final piece of the triptych is called Daylily and seems to be the interstitial marker between the two preceding pieces. It is naturally a copycat of neither track, but Quoi is keen on transplanting the solemn gravitas of the opener with the eupeptic bubble-ism of the second installment. Daylily is not as pestered by fugacity as its floral real-world counterpart, and is hence allowed to leave a lasting impression, if only by the fact that it is the most progressive tune of the whole EP. Launching with a churchly alcove of warmth akin to the titular Birthplace, moving over to staggering bass-driven Hip Hop drum kit kaleidoscopes until a softly arpeggiated vitreous glissando rain pad is incisively towering above the cloudy amelioration, it is the second part of the song which severely boosts and interpolates the rapture. Otherworldly violin strings, equally galactic flute airflows as well as bolstered synth vortices form a unison of glee and powerfully beatific happiness. The endpoint to Daylily is almost cheeky in the given context, for once the beats are fading out rather abruptly, the flute-and-violin couple sounds baroque and moss-covered, whereas only seconds ago, it was coated in technocratic incandescence. 


Birthplace may be seen as a flimsy, small EP, for it is indeed exactly that, but the harmonies, surfaces and textures that grace its digital-only state of existence are enormously delightful and good-natured. The mood is usually always earthen, with each track’s rhizomes firmly attached to the rich alluvial soils of the Japanese artist, but once the synth spirals start to swirl and gyre, each respective track shifts into something magical. If the listener is – accidentally or not – fan of the 90’s Jungle or Drum ’n Bass movement, its powerful washes and mystic arcana, Quoi’s EP might suit these specific needs without the inclusion of a single Jungle pattern. The first track is the Ambient artifact of the EP, perhaps placed there in order to lure the bystander who is not sure what to think of this work as of yet. As soon as the softly bleeping blotches and dots are vesiculating through the ether, one begins to notice that this is no serious work, but a playful one without ever crossing the boundaries to comic relief or sample-infested cheekiness. Newland then is the slave to Vaporwave, but this is again not meant as an insult at all. Polished patterns, bucolic beat base frames and frequential micro shifts make this an audaciously hip move, with Daylily further revving up the speed and rhythms while at the same time hinting at retrogressive flute-oid helixes and versatile violin veils. The Birthplace.ep is completely coherent and short enough to feel like an invigorating pipe dream for the cyberspace generation. Wholeheartedly recommended, and completely free!


Further listening and reading: 

  • Birthplace is available to stream and download for free at Bandcamp
  • Quoi’s Twitter handle is @quoi_iouq.


Ambient Review 341: Quoi – Birthplace EP (2013). Originally published on May 14, 2014 at AmbientExotica.com.