Fresh Sounds

Limbs – Sean Matsukawa

Rating: 7/10 for quality, but 9/10 for creativity and effort.

It’s been a while since I’ve been given anything new to listen to and had it actually be new, be different. Despite my attempts to find creative music or sound, everything I’ve been jamming out to lately sounds too clean and sober, perfected with a gloss finish and somehow all falling into identical folders in the musical catalog of my mind.

Sean Matsukawa, a 17-year-old from Torrance, California– near LA County– took over two years to build this album. Having followed him on Twitter for the last little while, and wanting to start reviewing emerging artists, I wanted to give it a listen. 

The first thing to note, though, is that Limbs has no genre. On Soundcloud, the only thing Matsukawa has tagged it with is “cinema”, and I suppose that’s the closest thing there is to describe it: Limbs sounds like the soundtrack to a movie about drug-soaked teens living by the boardwalk, shot in slow-mo with a blue, green and yellow colour palette. There’s rock (“Pools Ovr Pools” brought back some nostalgic feelings– actually, it reminded me a bit of Lemon Demon, but seriously), there’s piano, there’s definite hip hop and rap influences, there’s jazz– there’s no set tone. The whole thing is unexpected, and interesting. Fresh.

Limbs starts off with the promise of soft-wave electro, “Altar” kicking things off with a beat somewhat similar to the previously mentioned cloud rap, but pushing it a little more towards industrial, and later, almost upbeat vaudeville as a wonderful into. “Vult” pushes things into a more hard-boiled electro sound, but still wavy and familiar– before the raps drop. However, by the time you get to the 10th track, “1939,” things have moved into a much different direction, with intense jazzy influences and a featured artist, Luminositty, adding a new element with higher-pitched, female vocals. Taking a break between tracks to throw in a somewhat funny but generally interesting skit, pure hip hop style, the intro of the final song, “Lost In Translation,” brings things back to the soft electro vibe that started things out in the beginning, before opening the doors to a new wave vibe. 

Truthfully, yeah, I liked it. But I had to make myself listen to a few songs before I fully got into it. “Vult” really did it for me, but then I lost interest again until track 5, “Tunnels & Trails” came around. Limbs is a well-crafted piece of creative output, and especially impressive considering that Matsukawa is only 17. The effort he put into the album is obvious, especially regarding things like composition of songs and the track ordering– surely he must have known that “Lost In Translation” would be the strongest song to end off on, that the 4-minute break and sudden return in the middle alone would prompt me to play the whole album all over again in succession. It’s different, but it still comes off somewhat rough, which I suppose somewhat adds to the appeal. Jagged at the edges, but really, really coming together is, I think, the best way to describe Limbs. I appreciate the clear dedication, and it’s definitely one of the more creative and interesting albums I’ve heard in the last while, but I recognize that Matsukawa obviously has work to do before he can make an album I’d drop $12.99 for at the record store.

About author

Sofie Mikhaylova is a music writer at Live in Limbo and local nobody who spends her time loitering in parking lots and chain smoking. She listens to a lot of music and has an extensive CD collection, which she's spent many a Saturday night reorganizing. Her work has been published in Vice and Noisey, among others. Follow her on Twitter @sofiesucks.