Memory Tapes - Player Piano Album Review
They'd probably be offended - or more likely remain completely totally non-plussed - but of all the fascinating acts to emerge from America in the last few years, surely the most influential right now has to be Animal Collective. After years lurking quite happily in obscure, non-conformist shallows, the Baltimore quartet's eighth album Merriweather Post Pavilion struck upon a dazzling formula that melded both their weird and their wonderful into an (Almost) everyman form, one which has eventually percolated further down towards the mainstream, as evidenced on releases like Player Piano.
Memory Tapes is/are really Dayve Hawke, a New Jersey native who like all electronic artists worth his salt finds communication with the outside world - and more specifically people - something of a challenge, made even more difficult by the fact that he claims no doesn't even own a mobile phone. This social castration hasn't however stopped him from remixing the likes of The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and (Allegedly) Britney Spears, or releasing his debut album, 2009's Seek Magic, to overwhelmingly frothing hipster acclaim.
Hawke describes himself in youth as 'A real spaced-out kid - I used to walk around in circles and envision this world happening around me', which perhaps goes some way to explaining some of the more esoteric spaces on Player Piano. Yes I Know is peaky, bled out psychedelia, the wobbly choral undertones of Humming chases the darker ooze of Boards of Canada, whilst the organ heavy, alternative gospel overtones of Worries also straddles the line between art and entertainment. All of them smooth out the rougher leftfield edges of Caribou and yes, Animal Collective.
The flipside is a writer unashamedly addicted to all aspects of pop, a fifty year vista taking in everyone from The Beach Boys to Yellow Magic Orchestra and delivering sublime thrills along the way, especially on the loveably weedy Owl City soundalike Offers and the riffing sixties jangle of the appropriately titled Sunhits. It's dance music Jim but not as we know it, with any accusations of Hawke attempting to ride the chillwave erm...wave being shunted aside by the muscular guitar solo of Today Is Our Life, whilst the quiet/loud contrasts provided by the two parts of Fell Thru Ice are dreamlike without being aimless.
There is a theory that what constitutes haute couture one year is in the shops the next, and if so what is regarded as musically avant garde simply becomes just a new form of expression a few tweets later. There is hope for us all if Davy Hawke continues to borrow from the outsiders to make music for the Top Shop of our mind.