Sometimes, the best thing a creative can do is get a new perspective, and electronic music producer Charlie Yin isn’t sleeping on any opportunities. His latest inspirations? Techno, team sports and ceramics classes at the local rec center in Austin, Texas.
“Since I started doing ceramics, I swear it’s enabled me to look at music in a different way,” he says. “Pretty much all my classmates are old grandmas. It’s the best possible vibe I could be in.”
When he’s not making bowls and coffee mugs with Austin’s elders, he’s making candy-coated, 808-laced dream-pop under the moniker Giraffage. That’s what his fans are used to, anyway, but his latest string of singles takes a grittier, harder edge.
“Workout,” released on March 3, is a 303-heavy acid tune with a harpsichord breakdown. The follow-up “Basketball,” released today, is a grimy stomper composed almost entirely of manipulated basketball sounds. The news songs are heavier than his usual R&B-laced fair, but they still bleed kaleidoscopic colors.
“These two tracks are just the logical extension of what made me want to do the Giraffage project in the first place, which was to experiment with sounds and pull in influences from different genres,” he says. “It’s been fun making shit that I don’t feel like people will expect from me and seeing what the reaction will be.”
The Giraffage project started out heavily sample-based in 2011 with a self-released debut landing somewhere between chip-tune and chillwave. His mood solidified on 2013’s Needs, mixing R&B tropes with a soft rainbow synth palette.
That sound exploded with pre-trend nostalgia when he bought bonafide ’90s synth gear and made the No Reason EP. That was released on A-Trak’s Fool’s Gold label, which also meant he couldn’t just go ripping samples free from copyright worries. That’s when he started making his own.
“I never want to make the same song twice,” he says. “Producing music is such a fun, almost spiritual thing. Just to keep it fresh and interesting for myself is more important than however many plays I think I’ll get or whatever.”
His 2017 LP, Too Real, was his most cohesive work to date, a 10-track sonic story of falling into depression and pulling oneself out of the hole. It was sweet, emotional, honest, and rather pretty to listen to.
Now, it’s time for something different.
“I’ve always kind of listened to techno a lot, but I think I’ve really brought out the things that I enjoy in techno,” Yin says. “A lot of sound design on these new tracks is very classic techno sounds … trying new techniques and finding ways to keep my myself amused.”
With “Basketball,” new techniques is an understatement. He bought a basketball and started sampling the hits and bounces. Most of the drums are just processed basketball sounds. The granular synth is a basketball hit looped so fast it becomes a “synth,” further processed to techno perfection.
“I’ve always wanted to do a song using basketball sounds,” Yin says. “When I think of basketball, it evokes a very specific kind of timbre in my head – the squeaking of shoes, the rubbery sound of a basketball hitting a wood court. Such a distinct vibe conjures up in my mind when I hear the word basketball. To translate something like that to a song was another one of those fun challenges for myself.”
Yin is not an avid basketball fan, so don’t go asking about his favorite NBA team, but he did make some cute Giraffage-brand basketballs for those fans who’d like to try making their own team-sport techno. He also made the music video himself. Video editing is one of his many new creative pursuits.
Fans will be happy to know he’s also working on a ton of new music, some of it under new names and collaborative projects that can not yet be revealed.
For now, lace up your sneakers and tag three of your favorite pals in a friendly game of “Basketball” below.