Sunday, September 30, 2007

Elephant Kiss – Introduce: Red Cat Green Cat [JK Tapes]/Loopool – Spells [JK Tapes]

Alright, so here we have another installment of JK Tapes madness. This time both acts hail from Pacific Northwest outpost (and AuxOut HQ) Seattle, WA. The first is a short tape by arcade pop duo Elephant Kiss which I know next to nothing about and then a one-sided cassette from weird dude/palindroner Loopool a.k.a. Jean-Paul Garnier, who’s had many bizarre releases on Not Not Fun, Sycophanticide and others. I didn’t really know what to expect going in for either of these because I’d never heard EK before, and because Loopool seems to pretty much refuse to do anything similar to his past sonic explorations. The Elephant Kiss packaging was recognized as killer immediately though.
On the insert, Tiffany and Kyle command me “know us!!”, so I guess that’s as good a place as any to start. Kyle deals in drum machines, toys and keyboard, while Tiffany exclusively plays a gameboy. And they both take part in singing, doubling each other virtually all the time. You know that brilliant line in This is Spinal Tap when David St. Hubbins says “It's such a fine line between stupid, and clever.” Well that comes to mind a bit here. Not really a clever/stupid thing, but more like a catchy/annoying line. Because for cool tracks like “Rock and Roll Lazer Land Grocery Store” or “Float Away” there is “Super Magic Bicycles”. For the most part I’d say this tape falls on the catchy side, but it’s still walking a pretty fine line. Musically speaking, I’d say Elephant Kiss is pretty solid, there are a few keyboard lines and beepbeeps here and there that miss the mark, but it’s a jaunty spree of lo-fi electropop. What it really comes down to is the vocals. It’s not so much a problem that their voices are pretty tuneless, but the fact that their delivery is so flat. They sound totally bored and uninspired through most of the tape, and not even in an interesting manner. However, on the exquisite and woefully short “Float Away” their boredom instead sounds discouraged and depressingly inspired and the vocals are actually a strong addition to the sad/pretty melodies that make up rest of the track. The best track on the first side, “Rock and Roll Lazer Land Grocery Store”, is propelled by a buoyant, pulsing synth bass line and cool keyboard counterpoint melodies galore. It’s a groovy jam, worth many repeat plays, and the lyrics are about making a grocery list or something which I imagine some people would find to be entertaining. The final track and default epic is “Cat Lives”, while the elephant kissers say a bunch of nonsense about dance parties, rescue balloons and cat power (not Chan Marshall I don’t think), they move from catchy twinkling bee-boopy beats to catchy casio crunk beats and back again.
I feel as though I’ve been a bit too rough, because even the weaker tracks still have some redeemable elements and if you dig electropop type stuff you will probably be into this. I’d make the comparison of a jumpier, way lo-fi/less emo version of fellow northwesters The Blow. And what the hell, I’ll also throw a weird suggestion out there, maybe Elephant Kiss should hook up with an emcee; Seattle is full of them, they just need to find a forward thinking one. EK already knows how to make groovy trax, they just need someone who knows how to groove over them. They’d probably sound like a little like Food For Animals, but cute and disarming instead of rabid. Anyway, just a thought. This tape is worth picking up for its sweet costume though, pink hand made cloth slipcase with screen printed octopus artwork and sparkly flap/cape.
I think I’ve mentioned before that one thing I do not dig is musick based around creepy vocals, and, well, that’s kinda just what this Loopool tape is. However, I’m a professional and I’m going to do the best job describing it as I can, despite my predisposition. The first track “At Least One Thing in Common” is based around a pulsing synth loop and chattering electronic programming. Garnier also chatters away himself, spewing forth a steady stream-of-conscious/free-association/whatever bit of rambling speech about “learning processes”. The second track “Be Shamed” is pretty minimal and its near impossible to make out what Garnier is saying. “For You” has a bit more antagonistic vibe though. Lots of swishing waves of sound in the background, and pretty backing vocals by Alexandra Crockett, create a strange but compelling bit of sonic space. Garnier’s vocals are supersloshed and manipulated this time around which adds to the general weird, mysterious factor of the track. “Become God” glides along on bass swells and nothing more, and it’s actually one of the musically most compelling moments on the tape. Things get a little hazy after this. Closer, “I Want My Mother Back”, comes next, starkly different than the previous track. Between all the clanging and waves of fuzz cascading into each other, there is little space left open. It actually sounds really great in contrast to the mostly minimal atmosphere of the rest of the tape. Then it drops out leaving the bassline and a pitched down version of vocals from the previous track. Weird, man. The tape comes with watercolored labels on both sides despite its one-sidedness and also an oversize, folded up lyrics sheet that was spilling out of the case, so you have all the craziness/philosophy recorded in textual form too. These tapes are all sold out though, at source at least. Give this a shot, if yr interested.

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