In The Tape Deck this month, Nooga.com spends some time with cassettes from Flying Circles, Cruz Somers, Erik Levander and Talk Midway.
Flying Circles, “Of Loving Grace”
Oakland, California, post-punkers Flying Circles are the result of former band Twig Palace’s dissolution. Formed by Colleen Johnson and Evan Hasi, the duo eventually brought on guitarist/keyboardist Preston Bryant to play synths and, in the process, cemented the new group’s lineup. Their time together has been marked by a need for change and challenge-and this is seen throughout their music. Sporting the usual angularity of post-punk’s guitar lineage, they add in various other rhythmic elements until the mix is so wonderfully disparate that influences seem to be thrown out the window and the band appears to be operating on pure inspiration.
With their new release, “Of Loving Grace,” the band blends the serrated edge of post-punk with a whirling pop-minded psychedelia. That’s not to say that their sound has no bite to it-far from it. But they’re just smart enough to know that you can’t always completely engage your audience with a limited musical perspective. Veering between a languid pop atmosphere and a smoky rock intuition gives them the opportunity to blend as many of their impulses into a single cohesive statement as they want. There’s no concept of limitation on “Of Loving Grace,” nor a sense of constriction in terms of how they approach their evolution. This release finds the band shedding their old skin and finding something far weirder and more wonderful underneath.
Cruz Somers, “Beneath My Blood”
The work of Los Angeles-based DIY punk rocker Cruz Somers is bathed in the grit and spirit of the late ’70s, but displays a distinctly modern approach to these venerated sounds. His music possesses a feral rock attitude, which is derived from its lo-fi bedroom origins. Voices are buried under layers of static and distortion while a drum machine bleats away in the background. His use of brevity isn’t all that unusual in regards to his punk musings, but the way he constructs his mini-opuses is completely unique and demands your attention. There’s a touch of abbreviated hardcore and thrash, but it’s tempered by Somers’ use of strained melodies and harsh vocal stylings.
On Somers’ latest release, “Beneath My Blood,” four tracks of pure ferocity are laid out in front of us, and they begin to systematically disintegrate as we listen. These tracks aren’t trampling on the coattails of any recent punk fad or mimicking the verve of punk’s godfathers-rather, their astringent pulses are built to reveal the detail and immediacy that punk rock was able to deliver in copious amounts in so little time. With enough fuzz and bombastic rhythms to satisfy even the most hardcore punk fanatic, “Beneath My Blood” showcases an artist who completely and irrevocably understands the viability and relevance of punk rock’s history in a modern context.
Erik Levander, “Halv”
Things are complicated for Swedish noisemaker Erik Levander, whose haunting and warped electronic aesthetic is constantly being refined and torn apart wholesale. His music is filled with glitches, warbling circuital melodies and a host of darkly sinister rhythms. Akin to artists like Ben Frost and Fennesz, Levander occupies an unusual, impermanent place in the pantheon of electronic artists, a roster of musicians who hold to no single methodology and whose works boast enough fractures to produce a tectonic shift. But far from being a simple noise artist-although his songs do include a measure of musical harshness-he crafts apoplectic electronic beats and tones that will disorient your consciousness at an alarming rate.
With “Halv,” he’s once again produced a shadowy and emotional collection of tracks from the recesses of his craggy headspace. Combing bits of drone, industrial ambient and post-rock, he fashions an ode to all his influences, regardless of their specific tenure in his development. “Halv” is the sound of a man releasing rather than seizing, a joyous catharsis rather than a static continuation. Listening to these songs is akin to dousing yourself in the electronic noise of Levander’s unconscious mind. You’re not always sure what to make of each individual track; you only know that you need to listen to them just one more time. This need becomes a kind of puzzle that only resolves itself after multiple listens, and only after the songs finally give you the necessary resolution that you didn’t even know you were searching for.
Talk Midway, “You Wish Us Both in the Water”
Talk Midway is the moniker of musician Patrick Nylen, and through it, he compresses a lifetime of experiences into extended bouts of ambient noise and beautifully glacial acoustic arrangements. The extensive use of field recordings gives an added depth that accentuates the instrumental force that is conveyed through his music. Loose repetition and resilience in these rhythms and patterns mark his work as some of the most interesting to appear in some time. He is able to finesse entire worlds from just a few simple elements and musical phrases. The music becomes more about your immediate response than any prolonged revelation that might come through a thorough exploration of what’s created.
On his latest cassette, “You Wish Us Both in the Water,” Nylen has created a collection of songs that detail and explore the day-night cycle of a single day. With side A documenting the sounds and impressions of the daytime, he turns to side B to reveal the intimate and casual ease of the night. Animal sounds are mixed with distant human voices and the rhythms of acoustic introspection to produce a sobering perspective on the nature of our connection with the world around us. But as we hit side B, we’re greeted with a quiet chorus of calm tones and melodies. Insects chirp softly in the distance and we’re anxious to watch the moon rise. The guitars are all but absent, which allows somnambulic synths to form in the night air around your head. It’s beautiful and mesmerizing and devastating in its grace.
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.