Creating music meant to purposely evoke the past can be tricky. Recreate the sounds of a specific decade too closely and the music becomes too nostalgic, pining for a time the artist never even knew existed. On the other hand, approach bygone times too cynically — as the Internet-born microgenre “vaporwave” does by perverting old commercials and corporate sounds — and it starts to sound like a joke. Tokyo’s Shortcake Collage Tape, the solo project of Azusa Suga (who also fronts indie-pop trio For Tracy Hyde,) takes an alternate route on the new album “Spirited Summer.” Suga splices samples from various time periods to create original songs that radiate warmth and good times but also conceal a melancholy for lost moments.
Suga’s approach to “Spirited Summer” sounds divisive on paper — this is sample-powered music made on a modern computer but filtered to sound like it was recorded on analog tape. It’s far from authentic, but the faded approach works wonders here. The woozy electronics and bell chimes of “Summer School” become blurrier and better, while Suga’s two seaside-themed songs (“Empire Beach” and “Painted Ocean”) gain additional feeling from the aged-cassette vibe.
The fading effect also equalizes the samples present on “Spirited Summer.” First track “Good Mourning” builds itself around the opening notes to French composer Erik Satie’s 1888 “Gymnopedies No. 1,” yet the analog sound insures it sounds the same as the various snippets of dialogue lifted from ’90s anime dotting the rest of the album. Or, on album highlight “Waiting in the Afterlife,” how Suga lifts the vocals from Yanagi Nagi’s 2012 single “Vidro Moyou” and transforms them into an angelic choir. It’s an album about the past, but not a specific decade. Rather, it sounds more personal: Suga taking sounds important to him and creating his own art from them. “Ideal for midsummer chillouts,” Suga writes on the album’s Bandcamp page, but really it’s the perfect album for feeling wistful about the past during a heatwave.
Get “Spirited Summer” at shortcakecollagetape.bandcamp.com/album/spirited-summer.