“Think of it as the score to JOE D’AMATO directing an ALIEN rip-off flick starring AL CLIVER and GEORGE EASTMAN. 4 tracks (at 23 minutes) of JOHN CARPENTER, FABIO FRIZZI, TANGERINE DREAM inspired synthesizer driven tunes.”
Damn, what more can I say? This is some full-blown, pumping 80’s action/sci-fi cinema music worship right there. And Mr. Akers fucking NAILS IT. Get it. RIGHT NOW.
If David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” were completely devoid of the comedic moments (which means Andy and Lucy gone and agent Cooper not making cracks about pie and coffee, oh no!) and instead focused even more on the grief and horror aspect of the story (I always thought major Briggs and Windom Earle should be far more developed as characters, they had so much goddamn potential, but I digress), the sounds of French ambientalist Maxime Vavasseur (a.k.a. Witxes) might be a good soundtrack for the series. Witxes takes the shady jazzy edge of Angelo Badalamenti and infuses it with harsh, monolithic ambience not much unlike the music of Tim Hecker, taking the best of both worlds and ending up with a monumentally emotional album, sad and haunting at the same time.
Take the very first track, “Unlocation”, as an example – the shoegazy wall of ambience suddenly breaking into a distant, lonely saxophone solo and free jazzy drumming, finally giving a way for emotional acoustic guitar strumming. There are many, many layers of sound on “Sorcery/Geography” and with each subsequent listening another layer is unveiled. What appears to be hazy, noisy drone jam at first, gradually turns out to be a thoroughly melodic and skillfully composed piece, complete with a heart-rending piano section or beautiful saxophone playing. The dark and moody “Somewhere” sounds like the love child of Bohren & der Club of Gore and Barn Owl, while the extreme bass experience of “Misscience” might recall the sonic horror of Lustmord.
The inspirations behind Witxes’ music are all over the map – stemming from ambient music idea of creating “background” music, Vavasseur moves it far away from being merely wallpaper music and forces a focused, intense attention from the listener. Don’t get distracted by the seemingly obliterating wall of sound – give it a few more tries and hear the beauty unveil under the glacier of drones.
GFIFriday’s Gem Jones project drowns the listener in the sea of pure, tongue-in-cheek warped 80’s beach party anthems much in the vein of pre-“Far Side Virtual” era James Ferraro, although here much of the lo-fi murk is dropped and the whole monstrous (and hilarious at the same time) visage of crazy chillwave/hypnagogia and their most unhinged and energetic, is unveiled. There are so many references to weed and hedonism in this little cassette it’s scary (even for a blog named Weed Temple, dammit!).
But what is the strongest part of “Symphony in P” is how incredibly catchy it is, despite all the attempts to make it sound as “mutant” as possible – out-of-place distorted guitar solos crashing into pop melodies, harsh drones appearing out of nowhere in the middle of a song, delayed and reverbed vocals with changed pitch. What stands out here is the guitar work: the licks are truly funky and perfectly complement the vintage synthesizer background which provides head-bobbing, fresh beats. “Symphony in P” is a competent and fully aware hyper-parody of the teen lifestyles of not only the 80’s and 90’s, but the modern “teen life”, too. Because let’s face it: pizza, weed and skateboards won’t disappear anytime soon.
Without a doubt the packaging for the two cassettes I’ve received from the Helsinki based label Jozik Records is some of the most ingenious and original I’ve ever seen: instead of plain plastic cases the cassettes arrived in handmade cloth sheaths with colorful graphics: in case of Ross Baker’s “The Blackbirds’ Revenge” it was a floral pattern which fit the calm folky nature of that cassette, here it’s more abstract and modern, which fits the psychedelic guitar/synth emanation recorded on both sides.
Side A contains Mt. Tjhris’ “Fogous”, a series of watery, delicately bubbling synth journeys steeped in lo-fi New New New Age tape hiss in a manner similar to the style of the early “born again cassette god” musicians like Josh Burke or the Danish crystal explorer Dreamers Cloth. Simple, relaxing melodies weave in an out of the barely audible drones and noisy warbles to blend into an ephemeric ocean spray that permeates the entire side of the tape.
Side B belongs to Frank Ouelette (the Canadian mastermind behind the Hobo Cubes and the Hobo Cult label), who takes over the turns the mood around 180 degrees with haunting, estranged guitar-based soundscapes which immerse in distant, reverbed noodling recalling the darkest moments of Super Minerals. Don’t expect any sort of melody to appear here, Fallen Axe’s “Storm Session” is abstract and seemingly chaotic, snaking its way with dissonant strums through the fog of sinister synthesizer drones. If the first side of the cassette was the optimistic, hippie vision of music, then the second side is the punk, mercilessly deconstructing the happy myth with fear and negativity.
It seems that while everyone else try to bury their ambient music in tape hiss and lo-fi mystery, Infinite Third strikes with head-spinning clarity and sharpness of sound, reaching back to Aphex Twin’s game-changing Selected Ambient Works series while still retaining some of the nostalgic guitar hypnagogia in the vein of newer Mark McGuire. The electric guitar is the main tool of trade for Billy Mays III (I’m still in the process of defining whether it’s a real name or not). He modifies and stretches the possibilities of the instrument by processing it through a heap of guitar effects and computer programming to create enveloping, adventurous structures with a sense of melancholy.
While the idea of completely detaching the electric guitar from the rock context and translating it into the ambient language might have “been there, done that” written all over it, Infinite Third’s tape has a feel of freshness and, well, uh, life into it. “Isolationism” stands out among the long rows of anonymous lo-fi minimalistic synth dronescapes with its intricate, melodic structures filled with ghosts and memories who chatter, laugh and casually conversate between the monumental pillars of guitar-computer sound. Mays’ penchant for reversing sounds might remind of the early tape experiments back in the space age, yet the tape sounds thoroughly modern and polished.
What is more, and what is extremely important, is the fact that every track (or should I rather say, song?) on the cassette has its own identity and a different mood which correspond to the title. A rare feat in an evironment where the song titles tend to be two esotheric-sounding words (e.g. “Amethyst Spoon”, “Postmodern Lysergism” etc.) which blend into each other without the listener even noticing the change. A fine, mature and truly moving ambient cassette from the visionary underground.
Blink, and it’s over: this release by Brooklyn’s synth amphetamine reptile Seth Graham, a.k.a. by his operative nickname, Henry Dawson. Intense, brief explosions of acidic psychedeliciousness, operating in the same pointilistic, fluorescent noise area as Caboladies or Astral Social Club. Densely patched, fragmented drones intermingle with uncontrolled fluctuations in the analog stream. Probably the true meaning behind the term “synth punk”.
Brooklyn duo of Caroline Teagle (the half-mastermind and the visual talent behind the wonderful tape label Tranquility Tapes) and guitarist Jake Pepper (supported by Jef Brown on saxophone on the opening track “In the Waves) craft lazy, chillwave sounds on their debut “proper” album (originally released on Tranquility Tapes itself in cassette form), occupying the summery haze somewhere between lush pop of Toro Y Moi and the astral dub of Edibles. Teagle’s silky voices blends perfectly with Pepper’s delayed and reverbed guitar. A good, quick fix of summery chill sounds in four songs.