Euglossine Complex Playground

[Beer On The Rug; 2015]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: post-vaporwave?
Others: Pat Metheny, Steve Hauschildt

Beer On The Rug, for me, always releases weird shit, and Euglossine’s Complex Playground continues the label’s strange curation. To begin with, it’s got a baffling write-up, written by the artist himself (“pat metheny finally looks in the mirror and laughs about how he looks like mel gibsons sister” is a line from it). And the cover art? It looks like the 3D DNA of a killer whale hugging a piece of coral reef. This illustration, created by Eyebodega, complements the artificially tropical theme of the music: It’s like music for fish tanks, or music filtered through a fish tank.

Pastel underwater visions, jumping off a pelagic cliff, verbal in aquatic fervor. Here and there, a jewel gleams — the water’s dark fantasy — over before it begins. Is this music for Mario Party 10? It could be. The producer — Tristan Whitehill from Gainesville, Florida — certainly has the guitar skills for it. Pat Metheny is a good reference, too: like Complex Playground, the smooth jazz of Metheny’s music is totally softcore, with overblown, overembellished 80s flair. But Metheny never intended for his music to be heard through the ears of a clownfish. (Do clownfish even have ears?) These songs feature guitar melodies that dart in and dart out, with effects from a Nintendo game. It’s music that incorporates the tropes of vaporwave but isn’t making a big deal about it. Indeed, Euglossine is letting us speculate these things, tapping into imagery by way of sound design and jamming out, smiling, fucking with us.

But while these songs are jammy, they don’t have a cosmic attitude: this is more Osmosis Jones than Tangerine Dream. The guitar seems to largely improvise over the beats, guiding the music’s harmonic content. Some tracks seem to start in a major key but then melt into a minor one by way of arrangement or chord progression; these transitions feel dramatic but with a gamey, melodramatic style. This guy either has a composition degree or just really knows his theory. And yet the songs also bop, happily, grooving in a poolside way. They bobble, wiggle, and jiggle. There’s a sense of drama to them. They have their moments where they’re about to skyrocket, and then they get calm. A sense of adventure guides them along, as if we’ve found ourselves in an ocean full of dancing fish.

But get it right. This isn’t an IMAX wildlife documentary on the octopus. To skew Wittgenstein: although this music is composed in the language of vaporwave, it is not used in the language-game of vaporwave. Nostalgia and reappropriation, the main compositional aspects of vaporwave, are only minimally used on Complex Playground. And in the real world, things are going along about as well as we expect them. By enabling all sounds to become something different but not necessarily their opposite, the dreamlike imaginings at the center of Complex Playground appear more vivid, hurling us into a chaotic yet eloquent aquatic simulation. And it’s an amazing trip.

Links: Euglossine - Beer On The Rug

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