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White Noise: Memory Tapes – Seek Magic

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Memory Tapes – Seek Magic

I'm not a fan of the chillwave aesthetic. Re-appropriations of nostalgic sounds and structures often stick so close to the original they sound more like parody than original output. Added to this, the summery sound that every single chillwave album aspires to often comes off as substanceless and light. However these styles can be done well, as was seen recently in How To Dress Well's new album which isn't chillwave but is the same nostalgic re-producing, just done with a purer, more original vision and a deft hand at inserting these sounds only where they belong. I'm pleased to say, Seek Magic is another such success, this time with these sounds of the past being brought into the present in the form of at first unassuming but defiantly brilliant dance pop.

Dayve Hawk, the man behind Memory Tapes, certainly knows what he's doing. His music is all about payoff, waiting for that next riff or that next chorus, because each time we get a hook it's so damn satisfying. Swimming Field kicks off the album rather quietly, with lush outdoor sounds of crickets and reverb-drenched, floating vocals. But about halfway through the track it starts to come together; a sparklingly irresistible slow synth-line breaks through the haze, and about a minute before the end it breaks, drums booming around twisting background synths, it's a transcendent moment on an album that's absolutely full of them. The track perfectly shimmers out of existence and breaks straight into the absolutely fantastic album highlight, Bicycle. On this track he keeps building more and more satisfying riffs and layers onto the track until you almost feel it's gonna break; twice the music drops off before coming crashing back with an insatiable vigour. Just before it all gets too much, the whole track builds into a gorgeously sunny instrumental with a beautiful wordless vocal melody, and then at 3.40 you get literally one of the best guitar riffs I've ever heard on an album this straight.

The majority of the album is pure unadultered summer; but it doesn't sacrifice any weight in the achievement as so many similar artists are prone to doing. Third cut Green Knight is another stunning track, and there's a real emotional heft behind his vocals, placed somewhere out there in the lush soundscape calling “I wanna give you my love / I wanna call your name / At the sound of my voice / You turn away / I remember when you were young and afraid”. It's simple stuff but it's surprisingly affecting, and it's pretty indicative of the whole album – Hawk never goes for anything too crazy or unusual, but everything he attempts he gets absolutely spot on. Green Knight, like Bicycle, spins out into a great dance track (more for the bedroom than the club, admittedly), and later track Plain Material is an absolute blast of a pop track. It's the straightest cut on the album but from the darkly funny first line “Suicide, I know you mean well” it just builds into one of the catchiest things I've heard in a long while.

Still, this album isn't perfect. Pink Stones puts a bit of a foot wrong as an electro-tinged instrumental, and Graphics is slightly relentless on the synths. Stop Talking, too, is far too long, but the stunning synth line 5 and a half minutes in makes it just about worth it- but I feel these synths would've been just as good without the long build up.

Run Out is the closer, it's a darker track edged with a little more longing than the rest of his stuff, but its pulled off nicely through a series of great breaks, widening the soundfield each time it feels big enough already; a neat trick Hawk seems to have picked up somewhere. The synths layer beautifully and it ushers out the album in style.

This album is for the most part absolutely stunning and feverishly enjoyable. If it weren't for a few missteps which can't quite be granted considering the short length of the album (40 minutes rush by in no time), I would easily give it a 9. It's well worth a listen, and from the sounds of it Hawk has a lot more planned for us quite soon – check out the great new track Wait in the Dark on his myspace – and I for one can't wait.


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