In this month’s edition of The Tape Deck, I take a look at some cassettes from Tim Cosner, Filthy Ocean, Afraid and Coin Locker Kid. Across these tapes, you’ll find bits of fractured electronic landscapes, languid pop melodies and experimental beat tape aesthetics that whirl and settle down deep inside your brain. If you’re looking for a few cassettes to occupy your Walkman (and to wear down some AA batteries), I’d definitely suggest spending some time with these releases.
Tim Cosner, “DEADTECH/MODERNHOMES”
Tim Cosner creates dense and gloomy circuital atmospheres full of splintered electronic rhythms and thick synth melodies. And there are more than a few hints that push his music into beat tape territory-though there’s also a bit of subtlety here that draws back the pomp and theatricality that can be commonly associated with that kind of music (although Cosner does tread through some wonderfully dense arrangements on occasion). When he veers into that deep, thumping, beat-driven sound, he comes across as equal parts Timbaland and MF Doom, a wild amalgamation of tone and musical verbosity.
On his latest cassette, “DEADTECH/MODERNHOMES,” Cosner wraps his warped electronic aesthetic around some skeletal melodies and forms a collection of songs that favor brevity over indulgence while still maintaining a sense of depth and weight. There’s the requisite drones and looping rhythms, but it’s the way in which these sounds are constructed that really sets Cosner apart from his analog brethren. Across both sides of the tape, he sustains a perfect balance of mood and temperament, walking a careful and practiced line between a handful of genres.
Filthy Ocean, “Riders Palace”
Filthy Ocean is the moniker of electronic artist Cole Kilgo, and it’s the vehicle through which he explores a heightened sense of rhythmic equilibrium through a series of ambient tones and textures. The music is so stark and austere at times that it feels as though a strong breeze might carry it away, but Kilgo grounds these weightless moments in an unexpected emotional depth that belies their relatively self-disciplined nature. Across his records, there lies a curiously affecting sense of time and place-a rhythmic geography that keeps each cable and circuital spark in place, ready to streak past you at a moment’s notice.
With his latest cassette, “Riders Palace,” Kilgo crafts a warm and oddly comforting series of droning synth and electronic melodies that wrap around you in layers of gauzy ambience. Streaks of vibrant synths wash from one ear to the other, catching and refracting the light in a dizzying array of melody and texture. Even more than his past work, “Riders Palace” manages to elicit a wide range of emotions from just the simplest of sounds-his synth work tends toward the bare minimum (with a few notable and gorgeous exceptions) and cocoons you in an insular aural aesthetic.
Afraid, “Sinister Vibes”
Portland, Maine, trio Afraid likes their pop music slow and languid, full of melodic stillness and a glacial sense of movement. Although their earlier work was a bit more on the abstract side, they’ve slowly morphed into a band whose purpose seems to be in creating gloomy atmospheres of lethargic rhythms and melancholy pop theatricality. It’s fascinating and successfully draws out every note until the bonds between them seem ready to split and shatter, but the band is able to hold everything together-despite the ever-present sense of dissolution that hovers over everything.
With “Sinister Vibes,” Afraid’s new release for cassette imprint Crash Symbols, the band fashions a sort of sluggish pop production that never feels aimless but does take its time getting to where it’s going. This slowly unfurling aesthetic actually works in the band’s favor, allowing them to fill each moment with enough personality and emotional resonance to fill a dozen albums. Bass notes shiver in the darkness, voices moan in circular melodies, and keyboard lines flutter under effects-laden rhythms-but the music goes on, collecting stray bits of sound as it shuffles toward some distant destination that is always just on the verge of materializing.
Coin Locker Kid, “Hailstorm and Maelstrom”
There’s a cognizant abstraction to the work of Coin Locker Kid. Is his work almost entirely sample-based, a particular strand of avant hip-hop or a collection of disparate sounds cobbled together through experience? The answers to these questions are as ill-fitting and inconclusive as the questions themselves. His music deals with the struggles of an artist bound by expectation while trying to confound his listeners through a set of determined rhythmic experiments. There are samples and some hip-hop aesthetics bouncing around in his work, but he’s never weighed down by any one genre.
On his recent release, “Hailstorm and Maelstrom,” he concocts twin narratives of lost love and of an artist pushing back against perceived musical limitations. The music is jagged and prone to lacerations. It’s often angry but not without a certain understanding of the world around it. Incorporating half a dozen different genres, the songs here aren’t concerned with what is expected, only what moves each song forward. Shouts, howls and raps spin around droning melodies and caustic tones-with each song spiraling in on itself. It’s rather miraculous in the way it uses these extreme noises to construct such a narrowing timeline, which pulls us along in its serrated and uncontrollable wake.
Joshua Pickard covers local and national music, film and other aspects of pop culture. You can contact him onFacebook,Twitteror byemail.The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.