In this month's edition of The Tape Deck, Nooga.com takes a look at some cassettes from Hypocrite in a Hippy Crypt, Bleubird, Inner Travels and Peter Kris.
Hypocrite in a Hippy Crypt, "Better Days"
There's a casual charm to the music of Bloomington, Indiana's Hypocrite in a Hippy Crypt. Just look at the name—you're either on board with their idiosyncrasies or you're not. Thankfully, though, after one listen, you'll be hooked by their distinct strain of gentle, reverb-y indie pop. There are touches of the pastoral folk tendencies of bands such as Fleet Foxes and My Morning Jacket, but they're drenched in waves of glorious bedroom production and a sense that you don't have to turn everything up to 11 to make your point. The band revels in the small things, in the quiet moments that resonate the most in our lives—even if these moments aren't all that pleasant.
On their latest release, "Better Days," they strike a balance between the images of ecstatic wandering that seem to come pouring from your speakers (you're likely to imagine long stretches of deserted highways at night) and the downtrodden singer-songwriter inclinations that remind you that life isn't as easy as we'd all like it to be. Sounding like some long-lost Laurel Canyon gem from the '70s, this collection should help the band find a much wider audience—after this, they certainly deserve it. The guitars are crisp, evoking the long, winding evenings of late summer and the ending of things. But among the ruins in the distance, there is a hope that after everything falls apart we might have a chance to rebuild.
It's difficult to describe the music of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, hip-hop artist Bleubird with any sense of finality—it's indebted to the more experimental side of rap music, but there's also a wicked sense of humor and execution that keeps it light on its feet. The beats stutter, wobble and dissolve in front of our eyes, only to return later in completely different forms. He seems to have no regard or care for genre limitations; his songs meld a handful of disparate aesthetics before settling into something that can only be characterized as uncharacterizable. His voice flows over this landscape of ruined rhythms and lightning-fast beats with the ease of a master wordsmith. He flips from a laid-back purveyor of sound to a ferocious aggressor in the span of a heartbeat, and it's absolutely mesmerizing.
With "Lauderdale," he delves deeper into this DIY experimental hip-hop noise and only comes up briefly for air. The music is an extension of his manic personality, all disconnected soliloquies and whiplash vocal theatrics. But he's not spouting these words just to hear himself talk; there's a definite point here—he's determined to describe his experiences through a haze of foggy rhythms and curiously affecting melodies. After hearing "Lauderdale," you'll be surprised that you probably haven't heard of him before. Backed by a swathe of clattering percussion and some eccentric electronic flourishes, he creates a whirling mélange of roaring noise and unexpected arrangements.
Inner Travels, "Phases of a Forest Moon"
Ambient music can be tricky to do well. Go too far one way and you risk having the music fall apart before it can develop a tangible sense of self; if you go the other way, it can build up so much weight that it loses the gossamer textures that have come to define the genre. But for ambient musician Inner Travels, the realization of that perfect middle ground of weight and intangibility has become synonymous with his work over the past few years. Even when the notes seem to hang incandescent in the light, there is always something going on in the background—some melody or contrasting sound that gives each moment a completely new perspective.
On his most recent collection, "Phases of a Forest Moon," he takes these sounds and parses them out even further, extracting every last bit of emotion and heart from their synthetic origins. Consisting of eight "phases," this cassette alters its appearance and sound in subtle and magnificent ways, giving us the disorienting experience of hearing these songs as they come washing out of his head for the first time (or so it seems). There is a sense of spontaneity here, even though we soon realize how wonderfully constructed each piece really is. Both an active and reactionary agent, "Phases of a Forest Moon" is possibly Inner Travels' greatest work—simultaneously comforting and challenging in its gossamer hiss—and finds him working at a higher level than on any previous release.
Peter Kris, "Rim of the World"
As the founding member of experimental noisemakers German Army, Peter Kris has spent a long time working from within a hiss-laden electronic aesthetic. He continually pushes the boundaries of what we perceive as rhythm, incorporating odd structures and decidedly anti-rhythmic touches in his music. But when looking at his own musical output apart from German Army, this sense of disintegrating melodic composition becomes even more pronounced. After spending most of his life in San Bernardino County, California, Kris had an urge to document the economic downfall and physical ruin of his environment.
Taking the form of "Rim of the World," this examination of the remains of this landscape is at once heartbreaking, fascinating and poignant. Looking to give an aural realization of this decline, he seems to dismantle a host of guitars and synthesizers in an effort to actualize the destruction around him. These songs become an ode to his native home and the resulting fiscal war zone. The songs bleed from one to the next, connected by a deep-seated feeling of loss and desperation. Kris has managed to convey a sense of despair with only the barest of musical devices—and it's all the more impactful for it. After hearing "Rim of the World," you'll be moved and saddened by Kris' love, respect and sorrow for his beloved stomping grounds.
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.