In The Tape Deck this month, I highlight some cassettes from DenMother, The Marigold, Bus Gas and Future Flowers. From dynamic electronic experiments to viscous shoegaze rhythms and psych-pop melodies, these tapes will quickly find a permanent home in your Walkman or stereo. Spread out across these bits of plastic and tape, you’ll find a host of interesting and complex sounds on which to rest your ears.
DenMother, "Passion Is Seldom the End"
Toronto electronic artist DenMother creates music that feels both intensely intimate and all-inclusive. These sounds wrap around you like a warm, comforting blanket, with her gossamer vocals acting as our guide through the haze of cables and circuit boards. But DenMother isn't all staid electronic construction and fractured rhythms—the music takes on a far more organic feel, as if she has successfully merged her labyrinthine electronic compositions with her own beat. Aiming for some midpoint between the head and a kind of synthetic inspiration, she conjures beauty from layers of buried vocals, some thudding percussion and a host of elastic synths.
On her latest tape for I Had An Accident Records, "Passion Is Seldom the End," she is still working within an electronic landscape, but there is a sense of natural progression here. Borrowing from a handful of genres and sounds—including an abstract beat tape aesthetic and various chillwave touchstones—DenMother shapes these tones into something far more than the simple sum of their parts. These songs unravel slowly, allowing you brief glimpses into their gears and underpinnings but not really giving you full explanations. And it's here, where that idea of rhythmic uncertainty flourishes, that we find ourselves utterly absorbed and surrounded by the subtle movements of her work. It's a wonder of musical synthesis and one that will stay embedded in your brain for weeks.
The Marigold, "Kanaval"
Italian shoegazers The Marigold create songs that transcend the characterizations of the genre within which they work. Yes, the sounds are instantly familiar, but it’s the execution that sets them apart from the legion of shoegaze clones that have flooded the musical landscape in recent years. Equal parts Swans and My Bloody Valentine, the band pushes against the constraints of the genre, bringing in warped visions of noise and experimental rock into an already-impressive aesthetic. Led by singer and multi-instrumentalist Marco Campitelli, The Marigold pursues an unwavering and oddly affecting rhythmic idealism that gives their songs a more inclusive attitude than much of the dissonant sounds that often occupy this shoegaze territory.
On their latest cassette release, "Kanaval" (handled in the U.S. by tape haven Already Dead Tapes and Records), the band continues to explore and refashion these sounds into something redolent of their extensive influences but that still holds to their own course. Guitars shimmer and sludge through a twisting landscape of waterlogged percussion and dense harmonic turns. But among the compressed sounds, the band displays a surprisingly deft touch at making these cacophonous tones interact with some particularly memorable melodies. It’s curious to think of shoegaze as being catchy, but The Marigold has made an album that will stick in your mind for days—even as its waves of muddy guitars rummage through your subconscious.
Bus Gas, "Snake Hymns"
Omaha post-rock outfit Bus Gas has an absolute sense of their own musical identity. With the swirling melodies, dense instrumentation and languid rhythms, post-rock bands have a tendency to simply imitate those artists who have had such a profound impact on their own development. It takes an extremely confident and assertive band to make their own mark on a genre that has the curious ability to smooth out the interesting details of those who live within its boundaries. But the songs that Bus Gas has created feel alive and tenacious, even if they do shuffle and swagger more than they rock. But the band has a feral sense of unexpected creativity, which also helps maintain their persistent and unfailing dedication to their craft.
On their latest tape, "Snake Hymns," for Spring Break Tapes, this unexpected creativity leads to some wondrous, dark places. Drawing in some additional influence from shoegaze, the band unfurls their bleak and desolate landscapes for all to see. These songs sound dusty and ravaged, as if some grand catastrophe has befallen the world and they are the last ones alive to explain what happened. Through their music, Bus Gas is painting a visceral and uncertain landscape that must be seen and heard to be able to be fully understood—a simple description would not do it justice. Follow them as they travel these scarred roads, and you'll find yourself becoming irrevocably attached to their parched musical vision.
Future Flowers, "Relativity Parade"
There's something particularly exciting about the work being done by experimental pop group Future Flowers (AKA multi-instrumentalist Patrick Clifford). He uses a reckless sense of melody and psych-influenced instrumentation to create songs that spring to life fully formed and ready to ricochet around like ecstatic pieces of pop wonder in your head. There's a determined DIY aesthetic pushing everything forward, enveloping the listener in its subtle electronic flourishes and striking pop narratives. But Clifford is doing more than simply retreading the sounds of his inspirations—Future Flowers is the conduit through which he twists and reimagines these familiar sounds.
On "Relativity Parade," his new collection of songs for Grey Cake Tapes, he digs into the past to connect the psych-pop theatrics of the '60s with the lo-fi indie rock sounds of the early '90s—imagine Mouse & the Traps crossed with Guided By Voices, with a little bit of electricity thrown in for good measure. There's a buzzing rhythmic voice that keeps everything held together while also beginning the process of slowly dismantling his influences and rebuilding an entirely new set of sounds from these separate musical filaments. Clifford imbues these songs with an inherent life of their own, giving them a dramatic pop presence, which allows them to burrow deep within your subconscious. And they will stay there for a very long time.
Joshua Pickard covers local and national music, film and other aspects of pop culture. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.