“Full of Grace”
As I try figuring out whether we’re still supposed to call the label “Tranquility Tapes” – what with the fact that this debut LP from Brooklyn pop duo Imperial Topaz is the label’s first foray into the terrifying and beautiful world of vinyl after a whopping 55 cassette issues, all of which are 100% gone, by the way – I can’t help the nagging suspicion that our time would be better spent in the frozen chrysalis of a track like “Full of Grace.” Yes, there’s something inherently icy about it all: Caroline Teagle’s voice sparkling like ice crystal atop expansive planes of synth that roll out for ever, as the endless tundra. But what’s amazing about Imperial Topaz, and indeed their whole new album, is the fact that the music still manages to move like it does. The sparse but powerful percussive elements of Zachary Zierden pump the song’s blood through its veins, combining with Teagle’s voice and its inherent emotional resonance to give tracks like this one a surprising and welcoming warmth. It glows from the inside-out, a radiance that beams through the minor key with an unmistakable optimism. It’s how the words “Away, away, away” can actually seem to be saying “Closer, closer, closer;” keeping its distance while beckoning for an inescapable intimacy.
Full of Grace by Imperial Topaz drops direct from Tranquility (Vinyl) in ten days (February 21)!!
Jerry Paper Feels Emotions
Jerry Paper Feels Emotions and allegedly so do we. If past tape releases on Orange Milk or Digitalis haven’t acquainted you with the singular world of Brooklyn resident Jerry Paper (neé Lucas Nathan), his debut LP on Patient Sounds, streaming in full below, will introduce the reluctant maestro in splendid fashion. If you’re wondering “Who Is Jerry Paper?” the documentary short released alongside this album will answer this question more fully than I ever could. If you’re wondering “Where in the dense timeline of contemporary music can I contextualize Jerry Paper?” the next paragraph is subtitled: Something Of A Lineage.
In the 1950s, lounge legends Esquivel and Martin Denney fill parlors and kitchenettes across the world with “exotic” tones and animal sounds that evoke stylized visions of South Pacific, Latin, and Asian cultures -> In 1978, Haruomi Hosono spurs Ryuichi Sakamoto and Yukihiro Takahashi to adapt Denny’s composition “Firecracker” into the “chunky electric disco featuring synthesizers” of Yellow Magic Orchestra -> Hosono pioneers chiptune with his Namco collaboration Video Game Music in 1984 -> Around the turn of the century, ensembles like Stereolab and Broadcast hijack the trivialized tones of lounge and chiptune and juxtapose them against repetitious kraut-rock performances and detached vocalizations ->
Cut to present day: Jerry Paper meticulously programs and records an amalgam of lounge, post-YMO electronica, and video game music from a bedroom arsenal of analog synths and drum machines, and he croons over these “vintage” sounds about his own insecurities, romantic tribulations, and internet-era ennui. While the traditions that JP channels were designed to hypnotize and captivate the masses (see: sell units) with their novel tones and repetitive grooves, he aligns himself with Stereolab and Broadcast by applying those signifiers to quite opposite ends: to make us consider our “slapstick nightmare” existence, analyze our own quotidian desperations, question our state of technological and cultural saturation, wonder how and if we’re going to work it all out.
Say (or feel) what you will about Jerry Paper’s identity crisis frame narrative — does he musically deliver the goods? Oh, does he. Yeah, man. Ya. He totally does. His loping analog compositions exceed their predecessors in levels of squelch, synth layering, and harmonic complexity (check out the ascending chord structure before the coda in “Today Was a Bad Day” or the gorgeous melodic break of “Holy Shit”). His lyrics hit the sweet spot between hyper-specific self-deprecation and universal emotional truths (“If I stumble around / That’s because I’m drunk” vs. “Maybe / It’s not so bad / To be here / Without you”). His song sequence bubbles with bizarre interludes that flesh out his alter-ego with a brand of satire somewhere between Tim and Eric’s Tom Goes To The Mayor and Zappa’s We’re Only In It For The Money. The emotions I feel while listening to this album include: wonder, glee, empathy, gear-related envy, satisfaction, mild depression, hope. Excuse me, I have to go jam “Want to Be the Waves” until I become the waves.
You can order Jerry Paper Feels Emotions from Patient Sounds now.
Formes De Viure
Always keeping an eye on the prize, death comes as a peaceful blend of morose and euphoric agitation. Like making out during the Exorcist, which is something that happens. OR reading a WHACKO’s manifesto under a street lamp in the library parking lot. But this is all about Formes De Viure. The way we sharpen our knives. Dancing ‘til four or five AM. Becoming more than 1080p in a misty haze. Minimal definition of “Guitar” and “Voice.” Walking through a virtual installation of your home, but without walls, and the colors are as you remember them, only slightly too pastel and bright.
New Balance is definitely bringing that post-hypnagogic vibe in a production/mixing sort of way. Like C L E A N E R S (TMT Review) by way of editing, “fluidity,” and togetherness, but Formes De Viure seems to be all one-man made. No sampling works outside the personal realm. All detail of the individual. And layered like a mother fucker. As well, touching a bit on the Tangles and Banana Head side of linger jamming. Potentially even Taterbug creep-crooning. Though, the physical tragedy of Formes De Viure is that “Guitar” is side A and “Voice” is side B. Curiously, though, when I get home I’m going to layer BOTH tracks atop of each other – digitally and at the same frequency – and listen to a glorious mesh of fiddling and faddling.
Listen to New Balance’s Formes De Viure below or [pre-order] grip the tape here from your limited friends at EXO Tapes Inc.
• Exo Tapes Inc.: http://exotapes.tumblr.com
“Takin’ My Time”
LAKE excel at composing songs that sound familiar but feel entirely modern and new. Their latest record, The World is Real, shows that the band knows how to take classic/soft rock tropes and restructure them into something beautifully strange. Part of this is undeniably due to the synergistic songwriting of Ashley Eriksson and Eli Moore, but “Takin’ My Time” proves that the other members of LAKE are equally adept at syncing into a unified musical vision.
“Takin’ My Time” is the first LAKE track to be written and sung by Mark Morrison, but in the context of The World is Real, it fits the album’s modernized, stripped-down Steely Dan aesthetic so well it’s hardly noticeable. LAKE have always immersed themselves in particular styles/songs, and “Takin’ My Time’s” John Farinelli-directed video articulates this well, as the film’s protagonist — former LAKE member Lindsay Schief — gets literally sucked into the videotape that’s given to her. But while the video’s movie-within-a-movie narrative is a visual representation of LAKE’s ability to emulate the artists who influence them, they always manage to update their sources. And when the protagonist becomes stranded in VHS land at the video’s conclusion, I can’t help but see the parallels between her new imprint on the VHS world and LAKE’s imprint on indie pop.
The World is Real is out now via K Records. You can watch the video for “Takin’ My Time” below:
It’s interesting to experience sounds from Alex Gray’s D/P/I project. Like, it’s such a blend of background casual, humor in the moment, and “life-and-times of…” that submission to “SWIN.G” is practically an involuntary reaction. As if it’s all merely cast within his own world of “social networking.” Everything that happens in D/P/I is a part of the fellah’s life. The listener witnesses everything he witnesses. And this video for “SWIN.G” blends his reality to the cracks within: chance images flutter off the screen, waves of heat swelter the slow motion creeps, and deep gaze times angle out a variety of furniture.
In the future world, as Earth continues to grow, one day we’ll have a D/P/I application on our out-and-about persons. It’ll even capture memories of dreams being covered in money – almost smothered in it – reaching always further up, grabbing at air, but then more paper. Set the world ablaze with every bit of your daily aesthetic. Pave a direction to Jupiter and stick around the wild. Discover something that has always been real, yet never tangible enough to reach out. Though, if you want to grip, pop, and play a release like 08.DD.15 by D/P/I look no further. It’s been at Leaving Records since last Tuesday, and only in addition of 200. As well, 08.DD.15 went global today via Boomkat! ALSO, Jeanette (TMT Review) is poppin’ off cassette style via Bootleg Tapes super soon.