In this month’s edition of The Tape Deck, I take a look at some cassettes from Ross Fish, Junior Pande, More Eaze and Orca Life. Whether you’re a tape head or not, you’ll definitely find something to enjoy among the sound experiments, beat tape tendencies and analog synth loveliness.
Ross Fish, "The Pelican Curse"
Ross Fish is half of electronic duo Moffenzeef, and he recently broke ground on a tape release under his given name. Since taking a game audio class with Matt Akers (the other half of Moffenzeef), Fish has been hooked on what he describes as "nonlinear composition and synthesis techniques outside of the typical Western philosophy." Through this open-ended search and preoccupation with this kind of ephemeral electronic music, he began to lose touch with the physical act of making music. That all changed when he acquired a modular synthesizer—an instrument that allowed him to indulge in his search for skewed electronic sounds but also gave him a tangible means of performing.
On his latest release, "The Pelican Curse," he gives the instrument a full workout, crafting tracks composed of live single takes that are recorded on reel to reel. These songs—although that term is far too limiting for what Fish does here—quiver and warble with an almost-tangible sense of experience. Detailing his own musical development over the past few months, "The Pelican Curse" is the sound of an artist finding his voice among the static and hiss of an already-crowded electronic landscape. The music can be difficult but also curiously joyous, never losing your attention; it’s the sound of a series of moments from one person’s life told through a skewed rhythmic synthesis.
Junior Pande, "Five"
Noisemaker Justin Peroff (AKA Junior Pande) knows that you need more than just a clunky assemblage of sounds to keep someone’s attention fixed on a given rhythmic point. On previous releases, he accomplished this through a determined and atypical beat tape approach that allowed him to absorb hip-hop tendencies and jazz inclinations, subverting his identity into something new and without noticeable precedent. His music feels broken, cracked along the seams and showing its foundation. His influences are not what define him, but how he uses these sounds in service to a larger and incredibly detailed musical plan.
On "Five," his latest cassette for Spring Break Tapes, Peroff is still mining the beat tape aesthetic but continues to refine and devolve his impeccable sense of musical construction. Sounding like the best jazz joint at 3 a.m. after an evening of heavy drinking and illicit substances, these tracks careen from one rhythmic track to the next in a series of unpredictable variations. Grabbing a fistful of funk attitude and tossing it in with the jazz and hip-hop noise, he creates a swirling genre mashup that doesn't feel contrived or sloppy. "Five" finds that perfect balance between innovation and the themes explored in his previous work, fashioning a percussive ode to these specific rhythmic movements.
More Eaze, "(Frail)"
Recently, Austin, Texas-based multi-instrumentalist Marcus Rubio took on a new moniker. Rubio now creates music as More Eaze, and based on what he's released so far, it seems an apt description for his music, as he certainly devours whole musical lineages without much effort. Pop music, bits of stray R&B rhythms and a fair share of classical noise all come together to form an oddly cohesive homage to the music that has so obviously meant a great deal to him. But his music is more than just a random musical constitution; these sounds have purpose and an inherent need to evoke an occasionally unwanted remembrance of jarring past experiences.
On his latest tape, "(Frail)," Rubio uses looped sounds, live instrumentation and some well-placed drones to create a slightly unsettling glimpse into his own psyche. There's structure here, but it never quite resolves in the way you expect—the songs shift suddenly, leaving you feeling somewhat disoriented until he brings in something familiar to allow us to get our bearings again. The pieces of pop music sprinkled throughout are made all the more vivid through his use of atypical rhythms and a feral sense of experimentation. The songs benefit from this purposefully uncertain execution. It lends them a skewed perspective, though still wholly affecting in the reactions that they draw from their listeners.
Orca Life, "Synthetics"
Orca Life is the moniker of Virginia-based electronic artist Chris Roberts, and it's the avenue through which he explores a particularly gauzy shade of ambient and divergent new age music. You can hear the synthetic heart pumping its electronic impulses through a host of filters, modulators and various other circuital implements, but Roberts never loses sight of what makes this kind of music so obsessive—the intricately wired heartbeat that controls every note and pattern. Without this grounding (to a degree) sense of melodic underpinning, these sounds would simply flitter away and be forgotten. But for Roberts, it's more about the evocation of mood and geography than any other aspect.
And he proves the durability of these droning and cacophonous textures on his latest cassette, "Synthetics," which came out earlier this month on Cloud Bank. Roberts manages to explore the intangibility of drone while also showing that it's more than a collection of weightless tones. It's comforting in a weird way but will occasionally make the hairs on your neck stand straight up. Over his past few releases, Roberts has proven his command of atmosphere and mood, and on "Synthetics," he certainly continues to develop this gift for making soft and unobtrusive sounds seem colossal—life-changing, even. His music is never held back by genre preconceptions but is driven forward by a need to create and expand on what he's already produced.
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.