Thursday, September 4, 2008

Casino Versus Japan MEGA POST

Casino Versus Japan is the moniker of one Eric Kowalski, who resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and has been very slowly churning out some of the most sublime electronic music of the last ten years, well, the first 5 years of the last ten, as CVJ has not released a drop since 2004. Although he has garnered praise in his short career, he's somehow slipped by the ear or has been written off by some of the most discerning electronic music nerds I know, and has all but been forgotten in the last few years. In all honesty, I'm not even sure how I came across this wunderkind. Probably got a recommendation from someone in the early days of Soulseekin', nonetheless, I managed to grab a solid copy of Go Hawaii sometime around 2000 and I haven't looked back since. (Still lookin' for the vinyl of this sucker. Let me know if you know anyone who knows anything.)

Most of the reviews I have come across over the years tend to make an easy comparison to Boards Of Canada, which is more than fair, but it's not the whole story. In fact, Casino Versus Japan released his debut EP the same year that Music Has The Right To Children came out, 1998. Apparently he has been making music since childhood, and it's quite apparent that his childhood, much like Boards Of Canada's, has seeped deep within the music. Samples of children's voices, sunshine tinted synth lines, and an overall feel of nostalgia permeate the music, much as it does with Boards Of Canada. But, for the most part, Casino Versus Japan stick to the sunny side of refracted nostalgia, while Boards can veer towards towards the dark end of that spectrum.

Self-titled (1998) Star Records
I have never actually owned, much less, seen a copy of this debut, and unless I'm willing to cough up $125 for it's rare appearance on ebay, I may never own it. This is a high quality rip that I soulseeked many years ago, while everything else here is ripped from my own collection. The debut is CVJ at his most primitive and ambient. Many of the tracks are slowly churning waves of bliss that take those early Gas records, submerge 'em a bit more and add a few hits of sunshine.


Go Hawaii (1999) Wobblyhead Records
Outside of the Boards reference, Casino is directly influenced by Brian Eno's ambient period, particularly Music For Films and Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks. To me, it actually sounds like a lot of the Go Hawaii album is based off of the space-aquarium track "Deep Blue Day" (most notably used in the underwater toilet scene in Trainspotting), which is the album highlight off of Apollo, not to mention, a highlight from Eno's storied career. Most of the tracks on Go Hawaii have a warped and drawn out synth and the occasional slide guitar that would have fit perfectly on Apollo, but is then teamed up with a warm, fuzzy beat. If yr only gonna check out one album, this should be it.


Whole Numbers Play The Basics (2002) Carpark
Whole Numbers Play The Basics was Casino Versus Japan exploring the realms of deep space, well, at least from the perspective of a young daydreamer imagining the kaleidoscope of color emanating from slow-motion super novas. The bass is a lot heavier this time around, almost hip-hop at times, but always incredibly deep and heady.


Hitori + Kaiso 1998-2001 (2004) Attack Nine
Hitori + Kaiso is a collection of unreleased material spun from his fertile period of 1998-2001. Collections like these tend to be only for die-hard fans of the artist but Hitori is much more than a gathering of scraps compiled for the benefit of few. Instead we have two amazing discs of dreamy melancholia that ooze from your headphones and burrow deep into the center of playful nostalgia that should affect the coldest of electronic music fans.



Split EP w/ Freescha (2004) Wobblyhead

Casino Versus Japan last release is also a split with the very like-minded Freescha, who comes from the same school of BoC warbled nostalgia. The two are working in such tandem that they are nearly indistinguishable from one another. Both have the same dreamy tones in the synth work but the beats have become a tad more abstract, taking on the cold stuttery clap of Chiastic Slide-era Autechre. A very effective combination and some of the best work by either artist.


Remix of Charles Atlas' "The Deadest Bar" (Right Click to download)

"Silver and Gold" 7" split with AM Boy (Right Click to download)

"Via Hotknives" 10" (Right Click to download)

It's now been 5 years since his last sizeable release and their has been quite a cult gathering around Eric Kowalski, as evidenced by inflated ebay prices and the amount of froth gathering at the mouths of the patient few waiting for a sign. Any sign! His webpage has been inactive for over a year (the last news update was May 2007) and there has been no new word from Carpark or Wobblyhead about an impending release. Though, if we are to believe his Wikipedia page, there will be a new release by the end of 2008 or early 2009. I wouldn't hold yr breath. Well, at least if you are unfamiliar with CVJ, you can check out his entire discography above, most of which is well out of print.


Matthew Irwin said...

I owe you my life, Go Hawaii has been really hard to find. I had given up until I did a random search and found your blog. Thanks!

Mark E. Rich said...

Glad I could help. Make sure you peep those other albums if you havent heard 'em yet.

Anonymous said...

man you rock!!! i have been looking for this stuff for ages. Hats off to you.

Anonymous said...

i have the 1st album, got it at show in 1999.

also noteworthy is the split 7" with jessica bailiff on star star stereo.

Erik said...

New album in late 2009 (being peeled from 60 demos) -- tons planned for 2010 and a subscription/based 3" CDEP *12 total / TBA mid summer... DREAM COLLABS W/ Bradford Cox/Atlas Sound/Deerhunter / LOVESLIESCRUSHING / BUILDING CASTLES W/ MATCHSTICKS and more... SPLIT/Collabs RELEASES W/ AUBURN LULL / FREESCHA (PART II) / ALIAS/ ULRICH SCHNAUSS...

Erik said...

Much to follow five year hiatus: New album late-2009 // subscription-based 12x3"CDEP collection TBA mid-summer 2009 // The 2010 DREAM ON: COLLABS: Bradford Cox / Atlas Sound / Deer Hunter / Freescha / Ulrich Schnauss / Alburn Lull / Building Castles Out Of Matchsticks) Lovesliescrushing...
ALSO TBC: 10 CD/DVD CvsJ boxset.
Love to all,

xs said...

WOW!!! major news right there.

Anonymous said...

Awesome - a great find to brighten my day!

Anonymous said...

Thank You!!!

casino poker live said...