Review: Seabat – Mountains of Palawan (Goldtimers Tapes, 2012)

I am torn. I am torn between writing a review right now and waiting a little more. Because Mountains of Palawan, the newest cassette offering from Seabat, the duo of Brooklyn-based John Also Bennett & Forest Christenson is like an ever-expanding archive of sonic nuances and hooks which keep popping up with each listening. What is more, Mountains of Palawan is a true goldmine of different genres of electronic music, both delightfully oldschool and surprisingly modern, all filtered through the analog, New Age-ish aesthetics, perfectly reflected on the cassette artwork.

The album opens inconspicuously, with a pulsing, purely kosmische musik opener “Song Shift”. The music ebbs and flows, and while some might discard it as having that “been there, done that” feel written all over it, the track sets the mood nicely with its mysterious synth moans and groans. Track two, “Transnatation”, and already we’re leaving the drifty-droney areas for something more proggy: the lighted, pastoral melody set to a dynamic beat recalls Harald Grosskopf and his contemporaries in the modern synthesists’ struggle to re-create the magic sound of Germany in the late 70’s.

But the mere recreation is not the target for Seabat; they’re attempting to reach a much wider spectrum of sounds. Mountains of Palawan sounds like an attempt to recreate the evolution of electronic music without changing the equipment: the deconstructed, fragmented techno beat of “Riverine”, the hyperkinetic, pulsing tapestry of “Dream Cable”, which doesn’t fall far from the early Caboladies output, the glossy, high-life ambientalized hip-hop beat of “Diveworld” (listen to this and try NOT to imagine an exclusive, VIP-only party on the biggest yacht in some marina in Miami under a starry sky, I dare you), and even the simplified, droning future garage on “Puerto Princesca” which sounds like Scuba at his most minimal. There are even some dirty, distorted crunk beatz in here, served in the wonderful nugget of “Bat Attractor”. But the high point of this cassette is the sprawling, autobahn-friendly and incredibly lush “Lesbian Sex Scene”, which creates sonic equivalents of curvy bodies, silk spreadsheets and tasteful lingerie steeped in pure bliss.

Mountains of Palawan is a showcase of Bennett and Christenson’s music-making skills. The music on the tape sounds like a history of electronic music filtered through the prism of basic electronic equipment. It offers us insight as to what electronic music might sound like if we never switched to computers. Highly recommended.

Stream the entire album on Bandcamp

Buy the cassette from Goldtimers Tapes

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