It is quite appropriate to imagine Dayve Hawk carrying one big suitcase with him wherever he goes, collecting sounds and tunes, storing an endless amount of musical ideas, memories and artifacts and creating a MEMORY TAPES-album every now and then when the bag is full, to empty it again. We don’t know whether any of this is true – nevertheless his latest work Grace/Confusion exhibits a great collection seamlessly melted together. Like usual, the multiple layered sounds are glued together with shining reverb and carried out by what should be called an orchestra of synthesizers. 2011 MEMORY TAPES presented a very soft and dreamy pop-album called Player Piano, balancing between melancholy and happiness with a tendency to the bright side. Grace/Confusion tends to keep the same balance but though it is not quite exactly the same as the last one. It knows some darker shapes, some clubbier drives, it is a lot more challenging in many ways. Whereas the precursor was mainly warm and evenly textured, this third album knows greater dynamics, immense rise and fall and surprising experiments. There’s enough continuity to recognize the typical MEMORY TAPES handwriting in melodies and overall-appearance, and sure Hawk still has a bunch of 80ies-Shirts in his suitcase, but a great development has to be welcomed, too.
Taking a look into the imaginary suitcase on finds not only sounds but actual noises. Field recordings are woven into the synth-base of Tru the field, firm and laconic bass-rhythms structure the washed-out soundlayers. The tunes spray optimism. Not just optimism but even humorous sequences seem audible: Safety has this sweetly cheesy chorus, that would be a great caricature to some 80ies-radio-format-song. But as soon as you believe the hype and your toes start a little dance in your shoes the song breaks into a darker scene, reveals choirs, loses denseness, turns to almost technoid beats just to flow back into a distanced, supersoft synth-cloud. Listening to this one song you might get the feeling you’ve been going through three tracks – something that is true for the whole album, that consists of only six songs with quite epic length. The most experimental piece is called Let me be. Lightly dissonant, oppressive and lowering wafting bass-tunes create a nightly crawl space. Cutely, carefully led in two voices, Hawks beautifully androgynous voice contrasts the scene. Wave is the historical association here, maybe even early experimental electronics in Krautrock. A great dark danciness develops between shaving noises, driving arpeggios and tons of synth-patterns, and finally spreads in a minutes-long instrumental part. The song balances between structures of pop and electronic dance-music and as hard it is to classify it the more stunning it is.
The single Sheila completely calls for the club (and absolutely inspires remixes). Decelerated and glittering it drifts on cautious sub-basses. The higher frequencies are shared between voiceful synths and Hawks catchy singing, distanced, soft and bathed in reverb as usual. On the epic length of 8:30 the song knows a million turns, to distortion that cuts the mellowness and back to almost-silence. As it appears quite narrative the lyrics point to something very intimate, personal and fragile, that is sensible in all songs. Every last little details has been thought of in the way this album has been produced. The composition seems just right and every breach just contributes to the aesthetic. It is amazing to see how organic and natural all this grows together and gives you such a warm, alive feeling, when none of the sounds used actually are organic. Grace / Confusion is the manifestation of something way too real built from materialized dreams.
electro / pop / experimental
from Philadelphia, United States