Hard News by Russell Brown


Friday Music: Digging ASMR

A week ago today on Lorde Listening Day, the singer and producer Chelsea Jade (who has a good new tune out, see below) tweeted that she was "getting ASMR shivers cascading down my skull from ella's voice all through this record". Another follower responded "Hey! I have ASMR too, it's pretty amazing how she triggers it for me as well!"

Well, me too. Last night I was standing in the kitchen, listening to Melodrama ('The Louvre', I think it was, and then the transition to 'Loveless' from 'Hard Feelings') and feeling my scalp fizz all over. It was pleasurable and, it seems, repeatable.

At this point you may be wondering what I'm on about (or possibly, what I'm on). Well, Autonomous sensory meridian response is defined by Wikipedia as ...

... an experience characterised by a static-like or tingling sensation on the skin that typically begins on the scalp and moves down the back of the neck and upper spine. It has been compared with auditory-tactile synesthesia.[1][2] ASMR signifies the subjective experience of "low-grade euphoria" characterised by "a combination of positive feelings and a distinct static-like tingling sensation on the skin". It is most commonly triggered by specific acoustic, visual and digital media stimuli, and less commonly by intentional attentional control.[3][4]

It's not a new thing. Indeed, millions of YouTube views have been racked up by videos intended to trigger ASMR responses, many of them featuring women whispering slightly creepily. On the other hand, there's a 15-minute video of noodle packets being crumpled, which does it for me:

There's been discussion and at least one research paper as to the relationship between ASMR and music chills. For me, they're separate but related experiences, with a spine-tingling response to music more often likely to be related to something that's happening in a piece of music – typically a climax or melodic shift – and ASMR as likely to happen out of any musical context (there is not, after all, anything being communicated in the crackling of a noodle packet). In 'The Louvre', I guess both things are happening: a crackly, draw-you-in whisper and sweeping musical shifts. In the 'Loveless' intro, the sample of Paul Simon taking about his favourite tape certainly has some ASMR-like crackling.

Naturally, people have sought to retrofit it back into music too, notably in the deadmau5 strack which samples a well-known wake-up whisper.

I know not everyone experiences this pleasant synaesthetic response to sound, but I'm quite glad I do.


Amid all the noise around Melodrama (yes, not least here), it's as well to recall there is some other new music being made by New Zealanders. I sat in the lounge, by the fire, last night listening to Ladi6's new Royal Blue 3000 EP on headphones and it was a dreamy experience: most notably the title track, for which Parks and Brandon Haru have wound a sumptuous synth backing around Ladi's voice.

Plaudits include a Songs We Love on NPR, which suggests that Ladi is "building a reputation by taking everything that was (and remains) great about '90s soul music and updates it, sprinkling cosmic effects and big synths throughout."

You can grab the EP on your streaming service, or, if you want to own the high-quality files, buy it for only $7 on Bandcamp.


Beautiful music of a different stripe can be found on Blair Parkes' new album, saturations. I really like the wistful, wavy organ sounds on the first track, 'So Very Useful':

But there's also the garage pop (I have been in the actual garage where it's made) of 'Dont Worry Baby'.

And 'Run Electro', the kind of unabashed kraut-pop Blair hasn't made since the L.E.D.s albums.

I enjoy the way Blair plays with the tonal quality of his music, and what he crafts from such simple components. You can't (presently) hear this on Spotify, but you can buy the album for $10 on Bandcamp.


Also fresh: the video for 'My Smile Is Extinct', a pure slice of indie-pop from Kane Strang's album Two Hearts and No Brain, which is out next week.


And rounding up ...

WFMU's Brian Turner presented a three-hour Flying Nun special this week. It includes chats with Roger Shepherd, Hamish Kilgour and Francisca Griffin and some interesting live recordings you might not have heard.

Lewis Tennant's Verbal Highs podcast, a series of extended chats with persons of interest, alights on the marvellous Murray Cammick this week.

Dunedin noise outfit LSD Fundraiser made international headlines when their new cassette album was mistaken for a bomb and the NZDF's ordnance disposal unit was flown in by helicopter to destroy it. No, I am not making this up.

Spotify is bringing back payola – but if you're a premium user you'll be able to opt out.

At The Spinoff, Gareth Shute considers the history of songs for and about the All Blacks then present his own offering. It's quite silly.

If you're up for a late one in Auckland tonight, K Road is the place for you. At Whammy, Tom Scott has put together a lineup headlined by the excellent British-Ghanaian poet and musician Kojey Radical. And a few doors own at Neck of the Woods, The Boog is on again, with Frank Booker and others presenting a feast of funk, disco and vintage hip hop.

And finally: it's Glastonbury weekend! Fire up the VPN and watch the BBC coverage or keep an eye on YouTube.



Here's that new Chelsea Jade track. It's winning, head-nodding pop with a bassline.

I ran into P Money at a Base FM gathering a few weeks ago and he said he'd been paying the bills as a club DJ and spending his days working on some new music with Jess B. It sounds like this – "this" being some great old-school hip hop. I'm digging it a lot.

I also like this: Lego Edits tightens Fela's classic 'Sorrow, Tears and Blood' into a funky banger. Click through to buy it on Bandcamp or pre-order the 12".

An excerpt from a very fresh new Loop Recordings release, MACAM7800, which is described as "One continuous doof by Dynamo Dave, recorded on at Kog Studio on 21 June 2017," with Chris Chetland at the controls. Click through to buy the full three-hour jam.

And finally, because there is still not enough disco in this world, a Dimitri edit to freely download:

And a new edit of Barry White's timelessly sweaty 'It's Ecstasy When You Lie Down Next To Me'. Click the "Buy" button for a free download.


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