Sunday, July 29, 2018

The Doll - Hiss [Big Sleep]/Patrick Cosmos - Tonal Rotors [Big Sleep]

On today's menu: a compact cassette tape twofer from the Jersey boyz at Big Sleep Records.

The Doll - Hiss [Big Sleep]
The Doll is a secretly great sonic moniker (soniker?) because it completely guards against assumptions of what an artist called The Doll sounds like. Some iteration of "doll" I would have at least had a hint. The Babydolls? Doll Face? Doll Eyes? The New Jersey Dolls? But just The Doll? I had no fucking clue. Literally no ideas popped into my head. The red bubblewrap cover didn't prod me in any direction either. Now Hiss was potentially a proper clue, but I don't know, maybe after all this it's just neo-post-neo-nü-shügaze?
Turns out this is a slovenly cassette concrète-ish whirlpool. The curtain raises on "Bubblewrap" a repetitious dirge that sounds like it's composed of the looped snap of the titular popping bubblewrap, a digital glitch and a field recording of a running toilet fully immersing you in the Hiss-y mood.
"Saw" is a bit of a bedroom-version of a 60s horror movie soundtrack, bristling with uncomfortable idiophonic overtones. The Doll is really speaking my language on "Wheel" with a garbled something or other that could be some gnarled-ass cassette tape scraping along the head or maybe just The Doll blowing bubbles in her Coke cup. I'll let the people decide.
"Silence" is not quite that but it's close, capturing the occasional incidental noise in ragged fidelity but with a heartbeat pumping from the far corner of the room. The track lasts a mere 98 seconds and vanishes right as the hypnotic spell is really starting to take old; I would have easily traded the following track, the lo-fi fuzzy strum-drone of "Lean", for an extended cut of "Silence". "Radiator" doesn't start off with The Doll getting behind the wheel (that would be "Static") nor does it feature a honking car alarm for a backbeat (that would be "Home, Sweet Home") but it does feature teenage drum practice dusted with feedback emanating through the air ducts in the living room from the basement. The best thing about Hiss is how it creates very specific environments while listening.  
Hiss is difficult to write about but if you're intrigued by any of the above (you know who you are) get at it and listen for yourself.

Patrick Cosmos - Tonal Rotors [Big Sleep]
And now a tape so nice it was pressed twice... Tonal Rotors is a long player from Pat Cosmos and who knew that Mr. Hilarious on Twitter, a real Ryley Walker meets Neil "DeGrassi" Tyson personality, was out there pounding the pavement, wiring up some synth&sampler contraption and rocking that old Guided By Voices tee?
As a person who (occasionally) writes about music, I try to avoid reading press releases because sometimes that really fucks me up. I did, however, make the mistake of reading the one for Tonal Rotors. It's actually a pretty accurate description so that's not the issue. It read: "a 2000s-era IDM/drill n' bass album condensed into the poppy, proggy, quick-hit format of a GBV record" and that is actually impressively accurate, but when we're talking three letter acronyms, IDM (which I actually don't know that much about) and GBV (which I know much more about) don't hold equal weight in my mind. Unconsciously, I got it fucked around and was expecting "a 2000s-era GBV album condensed into the poppy, proggy, quick-hit format of a IDM record" (nonsensical as that may seem) and it took several listens to unlearn that bullshit and start from scratch. After doing so, I could finally see that this tape is a fun time.
The man of the Cosmos whips through 22 tracks at a rapid pace, modulating his approach from track to track. The first three tracks illustrate this right away. Elegiac opener "Portentious Omen" would slot in quite nicely over a credits sequence in the post-OPN and SURVIVE-as-film-composers world. "Narrowly Avoided Pun-Title" flips into a 20 second chopped/screwed blip of the Yo-Yo Dieting variety and the longest of the three "SX-150" conjures memories of the most raucous moments of Endtroducing... deep fried in synth-batter. That gives you an idea about the parameters of the sandbox that Cosmos is playing in.
Despite the long list of tracks, cassette is a perfect format for Tonal Rotors and I don't think there's a benefit to skipping around the album. "A Helicopter with a Computer in it (for Joe)" is nice to return to on its own but the pleasure of the unexpected thump of the filtered bass thrum is increased when in the context of a mid-side movement. Similarly, the peppy techno-power-pop of "Fear of Heights" that follows immediately is a perfect foil that would lose some impact following another song. All I'm saying is the sequencing is aces and I'm never gonna listen to this thing on "shuffle."
To totally contradict my previous point, the transcendent flutter of "The Blood and the Soil" and virile dog bark 'n groove of "There's Always Something (feat. Squints)" are so potent that they'll succeed regardless of attachment or detachment to the rest of the proceedings.
The second side of the tape gets a little more expansive with some longer tracks, best exemplified by the wordy standout "Maybe My Best Friend is a Dog, and This is My Dog, and I Made My Best Friend a Sweater" which shirks the fragmentary concept of many of the tracks for a steadily mounting dynamic. "Profanity-induced Parity Error" follows as an all-too-brief coda which drops a sick Depeche Mode-styled banger in the last 20 seconds. Hope we get more of that on the next tape.
As alluded to earlier, I don't have any credentials to flaunt with regard to IDM, techno, or whathaveyou. But I can say as a person who doesn't get particularly excited about the prospect of listening to a techno tape, that this stuff is definitely good enough to earn a picky layman's approval.

Hiss dropped recently and is available and, as alluded to, Patty Cosmos is cruising along on his second pressing which is also available. Dank audio squalor or introspective techno-bro jams, Big Sleep is here to serve you so take your pick. Or be cosmopolitan and pick both. There's no wrong way to buy some tapes HERE

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