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White Noise: Memory Tapes – Player Piano

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Memory Tapes – Player Piano

Wait In The Dark



Dayve Hawk's long-awaited second album as Memory Tapes was always going to have to be a little different as the musical climate has changed since his fantastic debut, Seek Magic (reviewed here). Although his appropriation of touches of French house into his nostalgic, sunny sound shone when compared to other similar artists, chillwave is now a much more crowded genre and so in this album he was really going to have to push it to stand out from the crowd. Thankfully, he has largely succeeded in this, crafting a far more complex set of compositions that both incorporate more of Hawk's voice and a much warmer feel of live instrumentation beyond those great riffs.

Although some other reviewers have stated that his vocals don't work as high in the mix as they are here, I have to disagree. His voice is perfectly suited to the faded pop-disco he creates, and in this album he truly presents himself as a master of the pop hook. This is clearly evident across the LP; mid-album highlight Worries commences with a loping synth melody and semi-tribal beats, but the moment where these songs hit home is those fantastically catchy choral lines he writes, in this song the instruments erupt bouncily and he cries “Heaven is waiting / heaven is stood outside your door” and after you've heard it a few times you'll have to sing along.

Anthemic opener Wait In The Dark is another perfectly pitched dance pop track, with the introduction of a more untreated synth sound the pace and happiness of the song is instantly recognisable as a Memory Tapes production while sounding different enough to not feel like a rehash of the material from Seek Magic. His closing cries “If this is it / don't make me wait” are emotionally universal and worm their way into your brain, followed by the harsh, soaring synth line. The music can sound happy at first but the lyrical content (although I wouldn't call Hawk a lyrical genius his lines are simply and effective) presents tale after tale of romantic longing and fatigue, allowing the melancholy behind the guitar riffs to be heard throughout, such as in those reverbing beats on Today Is Our Life and the lushly emotive melody of Fell Thru Ice.

The latter is an especially notable cut as it is the first time his music has moved beyond the emotive effect of energetic longing to a genuinely mournful track, and his voice admirably carries the intense longing of the feelings expressed, reinforced by details such as the great bass kick. The album is full of great details like this showing Hawk is not only invested in the surface effect of his music, from the fantastic vocal looping at the end of Today Is Our Life to the near-pastiche surf riff following the chorus of Sun Hits that evokes wonderfully the titular sun. Another aspect of the album that really lets you admire the detail of the production is Hawk's outros which consistently sound like tracks in themselves, such as the submerged melody at the end of Fell Thru Ice II or the bouncing synths that mix with the theramin-esque synths at the end of another sure album standout, the laid back Offers.

There is a lot that is positive about this album, but I wouldn't say it quite matches the quality of Seek Magic. Cuts like Humming, Fell Thru Ice II and the musicbox songs are forgettable with only a few nice details that don't quite add up to worthwhile tracks. I don't quite know what to make of the strangely aggressive closer Trance Sisters, and although the last minute is a wonderful turnaround I'm not so keen on the first few and as a whole it sounds out of place on the LP. The other problem is that because these tracks are more wrought and complex, they lack the instant bouncy joy of those on Seek Magic.

However I wouldn't say that this is a disappointing sophomore album. If Seek Magic was excellent, this is still good. A second album ought to be an expansion of an artist's sound and themes and that is exactly what Hawke gives us, proving himself able to truly understand how to re-incorporate the sounds of his youth into his music all the while being acutely aware of how to construct a great pop track.


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At 8 August 2011 at 00:20 , Anonymous marc said...

At least the cover is gorgeous.

At 8 August 2011 at 10:28 , Blogger Tom Faber said...

yeah it really is


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