This past month, more or less everyone kept talking about Daniel Lopatin and his forthcoming Oneohtrix Point Never LP Replica on Mexican Summer’s sub-label Software, which is run by himself and Joel Ford. However, I’d rather point to Airbird here, which is the solo project of Ford, who of course is not only the second founder of Software but also the other half of, you may have guessed it, the more synth pop-oriented duo Ford & Lopatin.
Airbird’s debut 12” City Vs. Mountains has just been released by Software, and it’s the single’s B-side, “Rotating Cloud”, that I think is of particular interest. It starts as straight ambient mainly consisting of slowly meandering synth patterns, yet halfway through the track surprisingly adopts not only a very straightforward beat but also some very decent layers of (supposedly sampled) saxophone, giving the whole thing a very clubby touch that almost puts it in line with the recent “hipster house” surge mainly championed by the Not Not Fun offspring 100% SILK.
Another highly prolific duo, though apparently now more or less defunct or on infinite hiatus, are The Skaters, long-standing legends of the LA noise underground, consisting of James Ferraro and Spencer Clark, who both have pretty much defined the genre of 80s mainstream culture-informed, muffled outsider pop for years.
Being signed to Hippos In Tanks now, in a way it seems that James Ferraro is becoming another underground artist following the path paved by Ariel Pink, recently John Maus, and soon Gary War, out of the murky shades of a sheer endless stream of cassette and CDr releases traded among a relentlessly hip yet small circle of insiders, into the glaring spotlights of indie superstardom. There’s a considerable difference of course, as Ferraro’s work is still, as it always has been, way less accessible than, say, Pink’s, and “Far Side Virtual” is no exception despite its inexorably polished, shiny surface.
Musically, being mainly assembled with default sounds found on Ferraro’s newly purchased MacBook Pro, and with track titles such as “Google Poeises”, the record is so very 2011 that it almost hurts. You might call it a massive piece of contemporary art, in a way bearing more resemblance to a sound installation than to an actual album. Seriously, this should probably be put in some museum, so when in 200 years people start wondering (for whatever reason) what the civilized world sounded like at beginning of the third millennium, all one needed to do would be to point to “Far Side Virtual”: Here it is, just listen.
James Ferraro – Earth Minutes
Meanwhile, his old partner in crime Spencer Clark has been busy himself, setting up another new project (apart from The Skaters, he’s been releasing as Monopoly Star Child Searchers and a bunch of other monikers) named Fourth World Magazine. He stays way closer to old Skaters stuff than Ferraro, so in case you miss that I suggest you go get The Spectacle Of Light Abductions via Pacific Sound Visions right away, it’s pretty awesome.
Fourth World Magazine – The Spectacle Of Light Abductions (Track 3 Excerpt)
Let’s dwell in hypnagogic pop realms just a little longer: Our beloved Joe Knight aka Rangers has recently dropped his second full-length Pan Am Stories on Not Not Fun, and this LP really is, no hyperbole, one of the finest releases of 2011. The record is a beautiful and nicely coherent effort, sonically somewhere between ’70s soft rock inspirations and swirling psychedelia. Knight has managed to create an incredibly compelling trip into your subconscious, like a faintly remembered daydream of those hazy late summer days just before the fall sets in.
Rangers – John Is The Last Of A Dying Breed
Another artist who’s adopted the melancholic fall mode is LA resident Nicolas Ray, otherwise known as Speculator – to my surprise, that even appears to happen to folks living in Southern California. Anyway, Ray has just put out new material as Cool Angels, though it’s not really all that different from his latest Speculator stuff – way dreamier, more longing, and maybe more song-oriented, sure, so that you could almost call it shoegaze, but apart from that it’s all still hidden behind a thick fog of tape hiss and reverb, just like the Speculator we’ve come to love. The release – Demure, out now digitally and soon on cassette via Gnar Tapes – has pretty much blown me away this morning, in particular the wonderful collaborations with Stef Hodapp of Young Prisms and Christa Palazzolo of Boyfriend. Take a listen to the beautiful “Are U Real” below.
Cool Angels – Are U Real (feat. Stef Hodapp)