Tuesday, December 01, 2009

A Dream of Summer

Memory Tapes - Seek Magic (Something in Construction)

Here is a hazy, warm and blissful pop album in which to drown happily. Davye Hawk is a Philadelphia bedroom producer who has been releasing singles under the monikers Memory Cassette and Weird Tapes. As the new name suggests, Memory Tapes is an effort to combine the preoccupations of his former outfits. The result is a splendid hybrid fusing reflective melancholia with the urgency of disco and house music.

There are hints of New Order, Arthur Russell (most noticeably the facet of Russell preoccupied with dance music and hip hop compiled on ‘Calling Out of Context’) and perhaps even of more contemporary synaesthetic groups such as Animal Collective. Yet there’s also something singular about this project – particularly in the way the dreamy vocal harmonies are subsumed into the overall sound so effectively.

There’s a fuzzy, nostalgic glow to the opening trio of tracks that hints at the capacity of memory to provide a safety net or a path of escape from more immediate concerns. Even when the obscured lyric might be hinting at a form of desperation, the abiding musical sensation is one of lush, sensory beauty and comfort.

‘Seek Magic’ is therefore a collection of music that pushes and pulls in different emotional directions. Its more than possible to enjoy its moments of squelchy funk as pure bolts of joy, but beneath them is a keen awareness of our many changing moods. This is perhaps best captured on the seven minute ‘Stop Talking’, which captures a strong duality between sugar rush and an undercurrent of regret.

Hawk has a wonderful ability for finding simple but striking melodies and placing them against a delicately warped array of synthesisers and found sounds. ‘Plain Material’ almost buries its unnervingly pretty mellotron line beyond walls of fuzzy guitars and an insistent rhythmic urgency.

The closing ‘Run Out’, the slowest and gentlest piece here, suggests that the good times might be gone, but ‘Seek Magic’ at least makes a valiant and noble attempt to revive them. It’s a curious combination of melancholy and nostalgia on one hand, and unashamed joie de vivre on the other. This is a beautiful summer dream in musical form.

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