In The Tape Deck this month, Nooga.com spends some time with cassettes from Comfort Food, Simon Kingston, Reflex Condition and Avery Gabbiano.
Comfort Food, "Waffle Frolic"
The music of Chicago noise jazz duo Comfort Food should feel far more disjointed and disparate than it actually does. This is mostly because co-conspirators Daniel Wolff and Jake Marshall have such a thorough understanding of the different genres within which they work. And keeping all the free-floating sounds separate and distinct is by no means an easy feat. And under a less focused direction, they could easily feel jumbled and misplaced, but the band never allows any song to meander or feel static. They construct a distinct perspective out of various bits and pieces of jazz, pop and rock histories, resulting in an aesthetic that’s as fascinating to examine as it is to experience.
With the release of their new tape, "Waffle Frolic," Wolff and Marshall have found new ways to explore and deconstruct their numerous musical affinities and rhythmic predilections. It’s still noisy and cacophonous, but like their earlier work, they maintain a determined vision in terms of how they maneuver and rearrange their influences to form entirely new worlds. These songs are inherently unstable, built as they are of fragments of larger musical landscapes. There’s a distinctly experimental edge to "Waffle Frolic," a sense that beneath the roiling jazz beats and math rock tendencies there is a wide world of impulsive patterns and tones that we’ve yet to explore. But better still, every song feels like it’s absolutely alive and capable of so much more than we initially realize.
Simon Kingston, "4 Stupid Songs/If It's Dead Don't Eat It"
Simon Kingston revels in the absolute feeling of lo fidelity, of the hiss and static that accompanies home recording and the freedom that it entails. His music is experimental to various degrees, but it also feels wonderfully comforting. Alongside the more noisy compositions and segments, he stretches out melodies and rhythms until you can see the underlying structures. Guitars are bent and twisted, and empty space is left comfortably empty within each of his songs. There’s a spoken word vibe to his delivery that creates an expectation of movement as each track unravels, and it’s one of the most fascinating aspects of his music.
Los Angeles imprint OJC Recordings recently reissued some recordings that Kingston made in February of last year, resulting in "4 Stupid Songs/If It’s Dead Don’t Eat It." These 14 tracks of dusty bedroom inspiration veer through some of the same territory that artists such as Jandek and Daniel Johnston were known to travel. Aside from the myriad instruments that seem to be on the verge of collapse within each song, he uses this lo-fi identity to further mask the intentions of his musical instincts. It helps to understand that many of these songs were improvised and finished as they were being performed, giving the tape a wholly volatile and completely mesmerizing presence.
Reflex Condition, "Witch Flower"
There’s endless room for experimentation and melodic internalization when it comes to the music of Reflex Condition, a group who worships at the altar of dark wave and favors a rhythmic impressionism over a more tangible expression of influence. Weaving liquid synths and bubbling melodies into an aquatic mix of beats and percussive rhythms, Reflex Condition finds the midpoint between a handful of genres, with each exploration into the synthetic unknown making for some heady and downright danceable moments. There's no clear delineation between the sounds that appear to act as inspiration and those derived naturally from the group's insular evolution, but regardless of how the noise is constructed, the music is instantly engaging and likely to cause bouts of uncontrolled euphoria.
On their latest release, "Witch Flower," the band expertly careens between various strains of amorphous melody and tone. At once an undiluted examination of the ways in which electronic music can be used to express acres of internal experience and an outlet for a certain wayward melancholy, these songs possess an electrical charge that gives each track a distinct personality. From complex rhythms to more minimal production techniques, Reflex Condition scours these circuital avenues for ways to alter our perception about how music and memory are linked. There's little regard for confining itself to one aesthetic for any length of time, and as a result, "Witch Flower" is one of the most absorbing and remarkable tape releases so far this year.
Avery Gabbiano, "Oracles & Chambers"
Driven by a need to combine the elasticity of synthetic music with the grace and motion of the natural world, electronic artist Avery Gabbiano finds release in the juxtaposition of the artificial and the organic. Between these two extremes, he finds that there are both subtle and overt differences and similarities that contribute to our perception of each. Gabbiano breaks down the walls between these two aesthetics and makes them confront each other and his listeners in an effort to document our relation to various sounds—most noticeably those of an aquatic nature—with the way we compartmentalize and assess our own experiences.
On his recent cassette, "Oracles & Chambers," Gabbiano offers a meditative journey through our memories and associations by compiling field recordings and synthetic patterns into a swirl of muted hues and rhythms. Self-described as being "heavily influenced by sacred geometry and marine life," this release gives us a serene and audible enlightenment resulting from our own responses to each of the tracks. Melodies unfurl, repeat and rearrange themselves in oddly elliptical currents before a wash of synths moves in and bathes everything in an iridescent glow. There's certainly some introspection going on here, but Gabbiano wisely lets the music speak for itself and never tries to affix any particular viewpoint onto the fluctuating revelations.
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.