Music Reviews

Memory Tapes Grace/Confusion

(Carpark) Rating - 7/10

Memory Tapes producer Dayve Hawk strikes as an introvert surrounded by a form of music that begs for attention. Not to imply that every artist should exploit his/her swagger to the fullest, but lately it seems as if those who factor in image into the equation have something of an advantage over those who contentedly write for themselves. But back in the late aguhts, “one-person acts” connected by way of advertising themselves, proving their talents outside of the bedroom and showing their true selves outside of an official soundcloud page. Due to opportune timing, Hawk got pushed by a strong current of new acts (Toro y Moi, Baths, Neon Indian), young electronic producers that had the commonality of using the Internet and operating on the tenets of exclusivity.

Grace/Confusion marks Hawke’s third release, being the first of his generation to prove that laptop music can be considered as a viable venture to achieve longevity. It didn’t look like Hawk had much mileage left in him after last year’s Player Piano, a satisfactory collection of thinly cut, yet crude tracks that felt more like peeping into the mind of an arranger in full brainstorm mode. Grace is meant to reconcile with his more audacious behavior, discarding the option of writing snippets of sound in favor of stretching them to their extremes. Opener Neighborhood Watch holds true to that commitment – its six minutes are a continual surprise, beginning with a longing guitar lead over a beatific haze until it breaks into a nightmarish concoction of abrasive synth patterns and digital guitar squealing. On the other hand, the kraut-inspired Thru the Field is a welcome return to more familiar territory, in which Hawk repeats some of the Bernard Sumner-inspired flourishes of Seek Magic set against an enticingly danceable motorik groove.

Hawk has an innate ability to distill the complicated into the simple, and even when he explores different elements at once there’s always a compromise to tap into that pleasure center. Even if Let Me Be begins hesitantly with a foreboding chill, it quickly converts into a blissed-out celestial smog made up of fizzy synth drones and a percussive steel drum sample. And for those who thought that Bicycle couldn’t be beat, then Sheila may very well be the pinnacle of his brief oeuvre – the eight minute epic is nothing short of spectacular, crafted into a jazz-led groove akin to Steely Dan’s Do It Again; it recounts a spellbinding narrative that eclipses into a voltaic, maximalist finish, closing with an excessive, yet perfectly earned cocksure guitar solo.

Grace/Confusion is an aptly confounding record, its six tracks very much dissimilar to each other yet held together with a sense of grand gesturing and tireless virtuosity. Hawk’s main strength lies in demonstrating minimum force to maximum effect – he approaches the creative process with complete disregard to any limitations whatsoever, even if it sabotages the album experience to some extent. But when taking some of Hawk’s tracks into account as individual, separate phases of his inwardness, there’s no question that he’s delivered some of his most accomplished work yet.