Lazercrotch: Gemini Air Systems
Field Hymns

With Lazercrotch's Gemini Air Systems having been deemed Field Hymns' first proper skweee release, perhaps we should first take a moment to clarify what skweee is. A quick search reveals that the style, which originated in Sweden and Finland, embeds simple 8-bit melodies and basslines within funky, stripped-down arrangements; credited to Daniel Savio, the term itself refers to the idea of “squeezing out” the most interesting sounds possible from vintage synthesizers in the production process. Now that we've got that out of the way, we can consider a prime example of the form courtesy of Portland, Oregon's John Murphy who when not birthing Lazercrotch tunes runs the skweee label Poisonous Gases.

Armed with a mini-arsenal of gear (Korg ESX-1, Akai MPC1K, Moog Voyager, Roland Juno 106, Akai Miniak, Korg MS2K), Murphy kicks out thirty-one minutes of synth-funk jams. But don't be fooled by irreverent track titles like “Space Jizz” and “Neon Dude”: Gemini Air Systems is a seriously good mini-album that's definitely worth one's time. Funk and head-nodding rhythms abound, typically of the slo-mo kind, and one can't help but be struck by the sophisticated counterpoint Murphy fashions in “Wassup Dog Don't It,” even if the song's got more than a little bit of Kraftwerk's The Man-Machine woven into its melodic DNA. Murphy artfully alternates between percussion and synth flourishes during “Boss of Clubs,” and no amount of bleepy synth gear can hide the strength of his songwriting, whether it be the skeletal low-rider “Space Jizz,” lurching funk of “Ironic Hooker Park” and “Used Car,” or breezy soul-fizz of “Get Up On It.” More than anything, the eight pieces reveal Murphy to be a darn good melodist and arranger, and the whole skweee business quickly becomes a secondary issue, if not a non-issue altogether, once the tunes start playing.

August-September 2013