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Thursday, March 22, 2012


Eli Walks "Parallel"

Special to The Japan Times

I've long believed that Japan's cultural and geographical isolation has been key to the country producing some of the more interesting electronic artists of the past 10 to 20 years. This trend started to fade as MySpace and the Internet eroded the divides that once made Japan a fertile experimental ground, and led to an increase in pale imitations. Yet the country is still capable of delivering surprises.

News photo

Step forward Jeff Lufkin (aka Eli Walks), a classically trained Okinawan-American musician who moved to Los Angeles in 2006 to study before returning to Japan having fully absorbed a variety of music-making skills and knowledge in both the analog and digital realms. The Eli Walks moniker is the result of this growth, and his debut album, "Parallel," brings forth 10 productions that fit neatly alongside the electronic and hip-hop sounds that have emanated from both the United States and Europe in recent years. Not surprisingly, Eli has supported the likes of Prefuse 73, Gold Panda and Brainfeeder in the past year — all artists and labels his music bears a close resemblance to.

"Parallel" is a fuzzy affair that's full of digitally enhanced grit, pounding dance-floor rhythms and colorful melodies. Eli clearly references hip-hop in some of the rhythmic foundations and sample manipulations, while electronic- and dance-music tropes are found in the processing and melodies. The synthesis of ideas and influences sometimes falls a little short — as on the tracks "Spectrum" or "Freefall" — while at other times it works incredibly well, thanks primarily to the sheer brute force with which it's delivered — see "Warm" and "Vertex" (just remember to pick up your jaw off the floor).

The lineup of tracks provides plenty of peaks and troughs adding to the moods and emotions Eli crafts. The processing and melodies on the second half of the album, though, feel more coherent — almost as if the first four tracks were a sort of a testing ground to see if the listener would stick around. Despite its missteps, "Parallel" shows plenty of promise and has broad appeal for both beat heads and electronic-music fans. Where he walks to next should be interesting.

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