The music of i-fls is something that few may understand, but those who do will be completely overwhelmed at the amount of emotion it contains. With a conflicting sense of surrealism and serenity, it can perhaps be related to the Japanese term mono no aware, which is used to reference an empathy or awareness for subtle passing moments and things, with i-fls’ discography serving as a sort of “slice of life” handbook.
i-fls himself is from Japan, although his location on SoundCloud is only referenced to as “on the table,” perhaps referring to the near exploitative nature of his feelings. He has released 3 albums and 2 EPs during this past year alone, his latest, and possibly most bleak out of his entire discography is the haunting Diary of Spectre.
i-fls’ name is an acronym for “i from listening suicidal,” a reference to a blog he runs which plays off as a sort of manic personal diary and avant-garde approach to Microsoft Paint-esque art, paying homage to many of the musicians he loves by producing fan album art, as well as producing his own original drawings and photography as well. His blog name is also a reference to now defunct Japanese band, BOaT, whose aesthetics were also grounded in constant genre shifts and rampant emotion. i-fls is very much a product of the Internet. He disguises his true identity, but we can’t help but know him completely through the work he puts out.
One of the most distinct qualities of i-fls’ music is that it is all produced on Garageband, playing off as like a sort of lo-fi outsider version of Susumu Yokota. While many may have his or her own predispositions about using Garageband as a full-on musical tool, to think in such a way really takes away from how one should experience music in the first place, which is that we should hone our focus in on sound and emotions, rather than the source a sound is derived from. With that being said, all of i-fls music is composed entirely by himself, with no loops or samples. He simply uses the presets of Garageband just as anyone who has ever used the standardized sounds of an 808 drum machine or Casio keyboard.
The sound on Diary comes off as quite eerie, even for an i-fls album. On Diary, i-fls delves deeper into exploring the elements of shoegaze and most recently, chiptune. The second track, “abegawa,” is one of i-fls first tracks that sound distinctly like it was pulled from a video game soundtrack, sounding oddly reminiscent of the music in the video game, Yume Nikki, which in itself only contained chiptune songs when it was trying to depict surreal alternative universes or metaphysical “game within game” situations to the player.
Like many of i-fls’ other albums, Diary is referential to a lot of his past work, seen in song titles such as “residential town loneliness” (the name of an album released earlier this year) and “theme of yamane skepticism” (which references “theme from yamane loneliness,” a song on his EP, reality hallucination). The reason why it is important to note such subtle references in i-fls’ music is because it serves as a point of reinterpretation. If i-fls’ scope of work is truly to be seen as a “musical diary,” then much like a person reflecting upon the regrets and ill thoughts of their past, i-fls does very much the same in his music.
Often artists seem to be frowned down upon when reinterpreting their work, as if it’s to only rehash the best of their early days, but i-fls doesn’t really have earlier days. His musical journey is simply just placed on one single tangent, devoid of interpreting what is the past, present and future. It simply is, and that’s what is so beautiful about it. The amount of work that i-fls releases isn’t exactly overwhelming nor redundant, in fact it makes complete sense within the spectrum of who he is as an artist.
I struggle to say that i-fls’ music is not completely bleak, yet although that is so, I find much comfort in hearing his music. While some artists retain a depressive aura around them, I sometimes find it hard to listen to because it makes me too, depressed. But with i-fls, although he is the musician, he also seems like the listener, honing in on what I am experiencing as well and reflecting it back to me. Anyone who isn’t afraid to feel can relate to i-fls, and that is what is truly magical about the music he produces, making him one of the, if not the most emotively effective musicians I have ever heard.
i-fls- tamaki (album version)
Link to the Release Page