Blood Cultures
Happy Birthday


4.5
superb

Review

by Rudy K. STAFF
November 30th, 2017 | 136 replies


Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Feel it all around.

If what makes an album great is how many indelible memories it can conjure up, then Happy Birthday is the best album of the year. Lolling, warm waves of buzzing synths percolate through “Coastal,” a siren alarm peaking higher and higher as the track moves me 30,000 feet somewhere above Minnesota last summer. I’m sweaty and skittish on one too many tequila shots, that insidiously simple keyboard melody and roaring bass on “Phospholipid” soundtracking another night out at some shitty Koreatown bar. I’m playing the chopped ‘n screwed Beach Boys homage “Moon” over and over again, its bubbling, triumphant melody following me to work, to the gym, to sleep. Sputnik user Lucid described Happy Birthday as a collection of tracks that “communicate the simple joys of life”. There’s really no better way to describe an album that transforms poorly named clichés left in the blogosphere trash bin – chillwave, folktronica, the wide-eyed optimism that peaked with M83’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming and died on November 8, 2016 – into a beguiling patchwork of pop music with stunning emotional depth.

That it comes from an artist who is practically unknown, self-released on Bandcamp after occasional singles dropped like breadcrumbs over the past few years, is fitting for music in 2017, a diaspora where nothing seems to grab the attention of the mainstream for long. On tracks like the amorphous, hazy anthem “All These Days / Smoke Signals,” Blood Cultures’ singing is nearly unintelligible, shrouded behind the layers of production that mark most of the songs here. The relatively straightforward, ascending and descending motif on “Inside” is striking for how naked the vocals sound on repeated listens, after it becomes clear that Happy Birthday is the work of someone who prefers to operate behind a shroud (the fuzzy guitar solo that rears its fangs at the end of the track is almost as surprising). There’s little personal information about the producer/multi-instrumentalist who appears to handle everything on the record, except for the fact that he is based in New York City, began releasing tracks on SoundCloud in 2013, and may be into basketball, if his press photo is to be believed. His first song, “Indian Summer,” is the kind of track Washed Out would kill to be able to make again. Although a bit more derivative than what came after, “Indian Summer” is a convenient summary of Blood Cultures’ aesthetic: cloudy but groovy, cloaked under layers of intricate production and an appreciation of dynamics that is almost obsessive, and melodies that lodge in the brainstem.

Blood Cultures’ virtual anonymity only adds to Happy Birthday’s blank slate vibe, the feeling that this is music made for you, the dreamy vocals a stand-in for your own thoughts, the fragmented beats and frazzled synths the manifestation of your own hopes and anxieties. It’s the rare album that refuses to be reduced to its component parts, which is impressive when considering a track like “Moon,” which comes off as the most effortless electro pop masterpiece in quite some time. Happy Birthday instead prefers to coalesce into a seamless whole, interlocking parts unexpectedly metamorphosing into new songs and moods. Snippets of taped conversation and enigmatic samples flit in and out like ghosts, while bright, beaming keyboard notes unravel into distorted rhythms and grinding beats. The effect is an album that takes the long view, curating an emotional arc that starts with the luminous “Scenes From A Midnight Movie” and resolves with the nostalgic melancholy of the bare “Meavy Hetal.” Describing Happy Birthday in specifics is fruitless; it’s the sort of record that revels in pregnant metaphors and vivid adjectives, a canvas for the listener to scribble over. Most tellingly, Happy Birthday isn’t an album that gives itself over to easy summaries, because no one can tell you ahead of time what memory is going to stick with you, what will hurt the most or burn the brightest. You have to experience it yourself.




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user ratings (68)
Chart.
3.6
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
klap
Staff Reviewer
November 30th 2017


11919 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Bandcamp: https://bloodcultures.bandcamp.com/



probably my favorite record this year

Digging: Dean Forever - Dean Forever

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
November 30th 2017


17478 Comments


every body klap yr hands

Digging: Derek Bailey - Aida

Lucid
November 30th 2017


9785 Comments


Great review, especially like the closing sentences. This would be the breakthrough release of the year if anyone actually hears it.

Dewinged
November 30th 2017


10433 Comments


I dug the little I heard of this, let's see if the the whole thing holds up.

Plus he has a piece of cloth in his head.



Digging: Black Fast - Spectre of Ruin

Gyromania
November 30th 2017


25328 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Fantastic record. Moon is a soty

Atari
Staff Reviewer
November 30th 2017


23505 Comments


nice one klap

I'm stoked to hear this

Digging: Spanish Love Songs - Schmaltz

Xenophanes
Staff Reviewer
November 30th 2017


1210 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2 | Sound Off

May make this my AOTY because:

A. It’s one of a couple of records that I’ve genuinely connected with

B. It’s been a bland year for music and this stands out and

C. I would love to see this relatively high on the staff list because

a. It would make our list stand out and

b. It would give this guy some much needed exposure, if only a little bit

Lucid
November 30th 2017


9785 Comments


If that's a plan then someone get Sowing on this. He'll rate it 4+ for sure

Evok
November 30th 2017


7206 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Wow this album is astounding

Digging: Ritual Necromancy - Disinterred Horror

xfearbefore
November 30th 2017


1664 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Oh wow Moon is excellent, checking the rest out now.

Digging: John Denver - Poems, Prayers & Promises

henryChinaski
December 1st 2017


4047 Comments


Judging from the artwork this has to be awesome.

Digging: Night Verses - From the Gallery of Sleep

nickwardmusic
December 1st 2017


15 Comments


heard this guy on soundcloud three years ago. Had no idea he dropped an album, gotta check this out

TheSpirit
Contributing Reviewer
December 1st 2017


23759 Comments


great review

Digging: Burial Invocation - Abiogenesis

Taxt
December 1st 2017


1135 Comments


Will definitely check this out, nice review

Atari
Staff Reviewer
December 1st 2017


23505 Comments


Indian Summer is the standout for me so far

jusplathemus
December 3rd 2017


135 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Wow, this is really not my style, so I'm a bit baffled that I like it so much. Thanks for the review!

Evok
December 3rd 2017


7206 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Same here. This straddles the borders of everything I hate about pop music but it stays so wrapped up in a hazy aesthetic that the obfuscation renders it a dreamy pleasure.

henryChinaski
December 3rd 2017


4047 Comments


Opening track was my favorite, but Moon is so good...damn.

Atari
Staff Reviewer
December 3rd 2017


23505 Comments


Solid 3.5 for me, but feels like it could grow!

neekafat
December 3rd 2017


10806 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This was surprisingly great



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