Friday, September 18, 2009
Seek Magic - Memory Tapes
Rough Trade Records.
SCQ Rating: 88%
When Rough Trade announced its upcoming release of Seek Magic, limited to one thousand copies and packaged with a rare second disc of bonus material, I decided against picking it up. Yeah it’s a collectible and sure it’s packaged with some cool frills but paying twelve pounds plus shipping (which, as a Canadian, rounds out to nearly thirty dollars) simply wasn’t jiving with my financial situation. Well, turns out it would’ve been worth it; following Memory Cassette’s attention-grabbing Call and Response EP a few months back, Dayve Hawk returns with alterna-alias Memory Tapes to craft what might be his first masterpiece.
Now in all fairness, Call and Response EP pulled a George Costanza, going out on a high note after its brief but extraordinary twelve-minute running-time. Appropriately, those four songs shot on all cylinders. Was it reasonable to expect no less of Hawk on Seek Magic, despite it bearing a different moniker and spanning the man’s first full-length effort? Maybe… OK yes, but Memory Tapes delivers more than left-field electro-pop here, sequencing dreamy breakbeat landscapes next to mountainous symphonies that, like Seek Magic’s cover-art, melt the notion of pop into gorgeous rainbow puddles. That’s just the beginning; ‘Swimming Field’ acts as a Cocteau Twins placebo, catching our allured ears and sinking us into its soft haze before the blender-pop of ‘Bicycle’ revs in, trading unsettled verses for electro chorus embellishments, and climaxing with a feel-good triumph best described as Air France covering Daft Punk with Robert Smith on guitar… but better. From there, you’ll have to wait until the percolating keys and long sighs of finale ‘Run Out’ to catch your breath again as Seek Magic maintains its chemical high with ‘Green Knight’’s smooth disco and the gauntlet which is ‘Stop Talking’; a seven-minute centerpiece that intersects Hawk’s take on electro, IDM and shoegaze. Now using the term blender-pop seems misleading, likely stirring up comparisons to Girl Talk’s last mash-up record, but Seek Magic finds the descriptor taking on new meaning as its wide influences are filtered so wisely and showcased so fluently, there’s nothing jarring or primitive about it. Even the record’s most blatant double-take, ‘Plain Material’, which opens with lo-fi guitar and quickly evolves into Hawk’s singer-songwriter debut, replete with laptop snaps and sampled chorals, feels ingrained to the album’s spontaneous, irresistible vibe.
Unlike that Memory Cassette EP, which carried its marvelous instability like a guerilla mixtape, Seek Magic belongs to a higher order, free of homemade stitches and featuring some impressive vocals. It takes an outsider to pull something of this magnitude and Hawk is up to the challenge, crafting a full-length of his creative surplus and quashing all the rules modern electronica didn’t know it was shackled with. In the process, Seek Magic debuts an author breaking beyond his remixing gig with a fresh angle to unmitigated pop. Um, is it too late to pre-order?