In The Tape Deck this month, Nooga.com spends some time with cassettes from Raphael Leray, VNCF, Siobhan and Contagious Yawns.
Raphael Leray, "Solstitial Memories"
The music of experimental electronic artist Raphael Leray is housed within the frayed circuits and cables of a minimalist ambient aesthetic. What quickly becomes apparent is just how organized his approach to these fractured sounds is—curiously enough, there seems to be a pop heart beating at the center of his compositions. It’s not necessarily overt, but his noise is guided by the same underlying inclinations that might pop up on the radio. The art of creating melody—such as it is with this kind of music—among the static and hiss is paramount to the impact of Leray's overall sound.
On his latest release, "Solstitial Memories," he transforms glitchy electronic pulses and wobbly veins of wired rhythms into something that functions as a bizarre sort of pop reflection. The music is still very much indebted to the scattered blips and bloops commonly associated with the genre, but Leray forces his listeners to consider multiple perspectives as each track slowly reveals itself. The result, a collection of interrelated songs that slowly melt into one another, is beautifully synchronous and exhibits a wide range of melodic experimentation. By converting our expectations into casually cyclical patterns, he allows these sounds to take on a well-earned life of their own.
VNCF, "Pleasure District"
Even with the endless information that the internet offers, there can be moments when anonymity can still be recognized and held up for inspection. For enigmatic artist VNCF, this sense of obscurity merely lends credence to the validity of creative experimentation within a crowded, often-homogenous musical marketplace. Keeping company with various artifacts of mechanical musicality, VNCF creates an environment of spoken word narratives, beat dynamics and sample-based theatricality. There’s a certain melodic madness inherent to this work, as it places synthetic experience over natural connections, but it completely works because of VNCF’s adherence to a nonlinear rhythmic evolution.
On debut cassette "Pleasure District," VNCF molds humid R&B grooves with languid beats and countless samples of dating videos, commercials and other sources to create a series of hallucinogenic aural landscapes. There’s a manic ferocity that propels each track forward, even when there is no clear destination in sight. The soundtrack to a nightclub run by Hunter S. Thompson and Andy Warhol, "Pleasure District" touches on a handful of clashing aesthetics without feeling forced or weighed down by our perceptions of the noise.
Siobhan, "Buddy's News"
Detroit noisemaker Siobhan creates broken landscapes of melting synths, bleached electronica and defective ambiance. His past works have been wrapped up in a frantic collage of sound and texture. His music isn’t meant to relax or soothe—it’s meant to challenge and distort our expectations. But that doesn’t mean that he forces us away when we try to get close. It’s more that we can see these patterns through a cracked lens, a warped perspective of instrumental music that focuses on repetition and jarring disparity rather than any tonal cohesion. And it’s within these split musical personalities that his creations truly become animated, wiry things that growl and stalk through fields of circuits and field recordings.
With "Buddy’s News," Siobhan takes a slightly different approach, as the tracks on this release feel more upbeat and lively. Melodies actually manage to claw their way through a fog of whirring synths and subtle percussion flourishes. There are moments, however, that still recall the clang and stomp of his earlier work but are compressed until the jagged electronic serration feels less like a distraction and more like a unified rhythmic approach. Fans of the toothed noise of prior albums will find just as much to love on this album, with tracks gradually devolving until their sounds are flayed apart and gleefully exposed.
Contagious Yawns, "Some Places Aren't Around Here"
Inspiration can take many forms. For some, there's a casual cadence to the natural world, while other artists find influence from more mainstream sources. For experimental outfit Contagious Yawns, this idea of a communal musical association can even be absorbed through the medium of film. This obviously shouldn't come as a surprise, given the unbreakable ties that cinema and music share, but the band is very specific in their chosen influence. Mixing the cinematic possibilities inherent to instrumental music with a love of all things ambient, Contagious Yawns form amorphous landscapes of organs, vague voices and an unexpected psychedelic shimmer.
For their latest release, "Some Places Aren't Around Here," the band takes their cue from director Stanley Kubrick's impressionistic masterpiece of science fiction "2001: A Space Odyssey." Mirroring the narrative structure of the film through a combination of haunting organ lines and bits of ethereal vocalizing, they create an enormous environment in which the profound ideas and philosophies brought up in the film are developed and resolved in an aural manner. Much in the same way that the film uses visuals to induce an awe-inspiring wonder in the minds of its audience, so too does Contagious Yawns evoke this idea of expansive emotional release within the minimalist beats and melodies found throughout this cassette.
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.