Other than that Under seems to be one person and female, I know nothing about this project, but she has spent 2013 releasing material to Bandcamp on a pretty much monthly basis, culminating in this stunningly beautiful five-track demo. The track list is just as mysterious as the artist, the song seemingly having been made by just switching on caps lock and holding down random keys, although it’s curious that an acronym of the titles reads “No Age” — not sure how much it’s worth reading into that. In any case, it serves to focus the listener intently on the music, free of preconceptions or instructions from the author.
2013 saw a growing interest in the Japanese shoegaze scene with a lot of interesting records coming out, but while some people seem to take shoegaze in a watered-down form, treating it as just another kind of retro indie music, and others see it as a way of adding sonic depth and contrast to post-hardcore or metal-influenced music, the low-key, psychedelic, spectral roots of the genre — its Galaxie 500s, its Cocteau Twins — often get lost. My twin touchstones when dealing with music like that are always Flying Saucer Attack and Movietone, and Under Demo 20November sits right in the middle between those two acts. It sounds as if it was recorded on a portable cassette deck at the bottom of a well, and infiltrates you in waves of rural psychedelic drone like the sun rising over the Avebury stones on a misty winter morning.
Heavily effected human voices seem to be used as underlying texture on tracks like NNNNNN and GGGGGG, but AAAAAAA and the closing EEEEEE are the only tracks that could easily be called “songs” and while the lyrics remain indistinct, the vocals are a powerful and heartbreakingly affecting instrument to deliver their melancholic folk melodies. It feels like an act of sheer reductive barbarism to assess a collection as shot through with fragile beauty as this using as blunt an instrument as a ranking, but let it at least be said that this was one of the finest things I heard last year and is all the more precious for having found me out of what seems like nowhere.