The first song I ever made — and I’m willing to wager many who graduated high school in the mid 2000s share this experience — was using Apple’s GarageBand, a software application that lets people make music on their computers. “I made a killer techno track last night, dude,” I overheard one classmate say, so off I went to the school’s computer lab to fiddle around with the program. I created one “song” that was pathetic, and surrendered my dream of being the next Daft Punk.
Tokyo Bedroom-producer i-fls, though, relies on GarageBand to capture times gone by. He’s created a handful of albums and EPs using only that program. More impressively, his songs ache with a beauty that you don’t necessarily expect would come from a Mac. They are simple melodies rarely lasting longer than two minutes. Yet i-fls packs a lost of wistfulness into those brief spaces. His latest, “Diary of Spectre,” is his best yet, a collection of minimalist songs touching on the bliss and pain of certain memories.
The song titles to i-fls’ music read like snapshots of suburban life — here you can find “Poolside,” “Her Singing” and “Maki’s Podcast” among others, though the most telling is “Residential Town Loneliness.” The album is a collection of small-town reminiscences running from the mundane — the video-game-bleeps on “Abegawa,” the lazy drift of “Poolside” — to the romantic. “Tamaki” jogs over chirpy synths, while “Love Seats” lets the electronics swirl a bit more. The peppy “Citrus Decay” even ends with what sounds like a voice mail, a concrete recollection.
Yet these visions are fleeting, all of them passing by as quick as they arrived. Others, still, are damaged — opener “Pen Name” ripples like it could collapse at any second, and “Proxy” dusts a guitar sound in reverb that makes it sound like it’s fading. The artist i-fls most resembles is fellow Japanese act Lullatone, a Nagoya duo making similarly brief numbers focusing on childhood nostalgia. However, i-fls captures memories of adolescent melancholy without ever having to utter a word. Solely using GarageBand might sound strange, but it is perfect for the teenage memories he snapshots.
“Diary of Spectre” by i-fls is available via the artist’s Bandcamp website: ifls.bandcamp.com/album/diary-of-spectre.