I reckon every recording artist both signed and unsigned pre-about-2000 has at one point in their career recorded music in the Lo-fi style. The mental image of a young Rick Astley crooning into a 4-track tape recorder accompanied only by a rickety nylon-string may startle more than say, Keith Morris doing it, but I suspect it will have happened.
This is because Lo-fi is very often our first contact with songwriting; wistful days spent sitting in bedrooms with David Bowie, Kurt Cobain, Lydia Lunch, Julian Casablancas or whoever else your teen idol was adorning the walls while you cooed dissonantly into a Tascam 4-track, experiencing music unfiltered by marketing; free and pedestalled only by its inherent merits. Maybe it’s overly pretentious to categorize Lo-fi as such, but it’s hard to argue that its spawn (cassette culture) is fuelled by anything else other than sheer love for creativity and D.I.Y.
Thus it becomes particularly problematic to shoot releases from cassette culture through your normal tunnel of judgement, as due to the aforementioned traits, perks and quirks the cassette tape does not present music as the end product of a meticulous campaign (both of music and PR) planned down to the last snare EQ and bought NME cover, but rather a chaotic stream-of-consciousness that makes a very personal world of immersive emotion, tentatively rendered merely for the catharsis and merits of its makers enjoyment.
The fact of physical release seems almost haphazard and secondary when I suspiciously presume that such a wide breadth of artists cannot create ‘end-product’ LPs at the rate they put out songs, thus releases are what they are in the moment and not a second more, everything that can’t be afforded a cassette discharge gets strung up on the Bandcamp for £2. Which, although makes for a very human and treasured output, can also breed a distinct lack of quality control.
I say this because Manchester based label Icecapades’ new split tape ‘Yr Nu Favourite EP’ (or ‘Yr Nu Favourite Band’ depending on whether you read press release or cassette cover) spawned by London’s Joey Fourr and Copenhagen’s Eerie Glue presents a distinct product of this habit – a dichotomy of the ok and the excellent.
Take Eerie Glue’s side of this split: The songs are certainly pleasant enough, with his style being characterized by manchild vocals that caper around behind the mesh of surf guitar and Deal-bass sometimes holding onto monotonous yet memorable hooks, rigid 808 loops and a erratic tendency to flavour the pot with backmasked keyboard sounds. The songs themselves can be said to favour getting into a hook early and persevering with it, as both opener ‘I Don’t See It That Way’ and ‘Up And Down’ dig their claws into hooks within the first 30 seconds, as each recalls early Liz Phair or Nirvana convictions where monotony trumped progression. Which of course is not always a bad thing as both have strong choruses (the latter especially), but just look at his Soundcloud, there’s absolutely bloody masses of the exact same ilk, which doesn’t do much to alter my original assertion, and makes me wonder why third track meanderer ‘Circle Song’ got a physical release when other’s by Eerie Glue that shake up the mould a bit like ‘Mumbo Jumbo’ traverse the internet unaided.
Though I can safely say that when we hit the second side this judgement issue has really subsided as Joey Fourr presents what I can safely reckon is his best song (committed to tape or otherwise) yet: ‘Mickey’.
An unashamed pop banger, the song provokes me to me to recall Pavement’s infamous hookworm ‘Cut Your Hair’, which after an early career of lo-fi antagonism they released to show the pop world that they could swagger, strut and write just as good a chorus’ as any chart zombies’ 8-man production team. ‘Mickey’ is Joey Fourr’s ‘Cut Your Hair’, throwing all the right bones to the mainstream dogs the song contains of course a fantastic chorus, a manipulative structure (complete with payoff drop moment), a classic bedroom pop melancholic chord sequence and most intriguingly an intricately constructed 808 drum track that, rather than loop monotonously, has been programmed seemingly bar by bar to evoke crevices of rhythm otherwise hidden. ‘Mickey’s up tempo ravings are nicely complimented by follower ‘Str££t Sister’ and collab ‘Read Yr Mind’ which act as great comedown bookends, all night drive sadness and pubescent longing.
Despite my early accusation of inconsistency it’s very hard to dislike this EP. As Lo-fi culture breeds visceral humanity, flaws will appear, but this only seems to add to the legitimacy and truthfulness of the emotions evoked by each artist, so as a human myself I reckon it’s more genuine to embrace ‘yrself’ in the culture than peddle for perfection, and with their lovable bright eyes that’s exactly what these artists have done.
‘Yr New Favourite EP’ is out now on Icecapades and can be bought on cassette here.