Sydney-based DJ and producer fm has arrived, and on touching down his debut Buttons EP it’s clear he has plenty of new, new-wave electronics, adorable synths and enough of a reinvigorating style to help define an original, chilled set. fm (Francis Michael Pascua) also plays the club night Dysney (anagram of Sydney?), which, when looking at the artwork, tempts me to board a long-haul flight just for the experience.
‘No place to go now’, sighs a cool, female voice, in remembrance of the psy-trance explosion around the early millennium. However, Buttons is anything but restricted; there are lots of areas to explore. Surrounded by downtempo beats, catchy hooks and nocturnal synths, “Maise” kicks off the EP with a surety and an admirable agility. This is no Mickey Mouse music.
Sparkling harmonies take to the dance floor like a seasoned clubber with all the right moves; an impressive touch on a debut release. Joining the synth lines are tripping beats that gleam in the spectrum of light like shiny jewels. An influence and love for video games shines through into the music, as extra layers and sub-layers project an extra life into the rhythms. Synths light up like neon glow-sticks reflecting lasers of light. Only the stuttered frame-rates of glitch lag the music, interrupting the flow temporarily. Lost in the glare of lights amid slowly dancing figures, a chilled vibe spirals throughout the EP like the blue, eternal swirls on a Sega Dreamcast logo. Cymbals splash back in 16-bit nirvana, creating vivid music that gives fm a 1-up over artists who have played the game for way longer.
A dark, frisky atmosphere descends over the music like the lively, luminescent nightlife coming out to play on the streets of Sydney. “Rose Madder” reverses in on itself like a new kind of gymnastic dance move; chiming synths enter alongside icy vocals that sound like they’re streaming through a futuristic air vent, shuddering with delay. fm keeps a steady pace, never increasing or slowing down too dramatically, and while the melodies feel slightly dated, it’s a retro paradise instead of a failing system. These synths have low graphics – adored by many – and they’re proud of it. Buttons revels in its electronic history, a period when bubblegum synth was fresh out of the packet and hadn’t lost any of its flavour.
Flowing rhythms recline over a cool stream of melodic air, pouring out of the club’s air-conditioning (or maybe it’s a tornado of breath bringing a Nintendo cartridge back to life). A neon atmosphere is only cut by fine scrapes of glitch, chopped up like grated cheese for hungry mice. Taking everything in his stride, fm is never in a rush. The coda, “Which House” – clever, huh? – highlights the DJ’s playful style and the genre the music has been hinting at. Yet, in reality, fm skirts witchhouse in favour of chillwave, electro and retro synth, without settling down in any area for long. As synths stutter over a jet lag of delay, upbeat, hip-hop styled vocals emerge, and the music becomes as enchanting as a Disney princess, although not as sweet and innocent.
Buttons will offer you a night pass to a magic kingdom, under a sky as black as Mickey’s famous ears. A day pass isn’t needed for entry; Buttons has been released as a free download, and you can explore this park all day and all night. It’s an awesome debut, direct from Australia. (James Catchpole)