One of the genre tags on Meishi Smile’s 2012 album, Lust, was “fuck real life.” It’s a phrase he’s used a few times around then—in a song title, and in past descriptions of his label, Zoom Lens. But when the California-based producer tweeted out his sophomore LP yesterday, he did a 180: “fuck the internet,” he said.
Which is a small thing but also a big thing. The fantastic album …Belong, which is out on CD and vinyl today and streaming in its entirety below, intends to subtly separate Meishi Smile from the world of net labels, and the idea of the internet as an emotion-sharing economy. In an email to The FADER, he explained, “I stress sincerity and the distancing of oneself from the detrimental ironies that remove people from an emotional source. I want people to stop co-opting emotions and feelings and identities that aren't theirs. I want people to remember to feel real. [The album concerns] coming to terms with your own being while dealing with those who simultaneously reject or misunderstand you—a process of belonging to your own.”
He achieves that on …Belong through stark contrasts, combining elements of power electronics and dream-pop, hardcore techno and shoegaze, and treating earnest and heartfelt lyrics with distancing noise. (There are echoes of James Brooks’ Elite Gymnastics and Default Genders, who bridges dance music and destruction with equal thoughtfulness. There's also shades of Unicorn Kid, who had his own "Feel So Real" moment.) The lead single, “Pastel,” tells a muffled story about the death of a relative and the dissolution of a relationship, but also features a synth melody evoking a hopeful sunrise. For the title track, on the other hand, which recounts thoughts of hatred and suicide, there’s nothing pretty-sounding to pair it with, just walls of drum and bass. The point, Meishi Smile said to me, was that “you can learn to both love and hate yourself.” Emotionally and sonically, the record successfully expresses duality because, as he says, “it stems from an identity fraught with confusion, yet one so uniform as it is created by the experiences of a single individual.” Take a listen.