Formant, Paradise, and WWC
Texas Platters go mondo
Reviewed by Greg Beets, Fri., Aug. 8, 2014
Cassettes live? They do for Chronicle contributor Conor Walker and Charles Ballas, proprietors of Austin/Denver electronic music label Obsolete Future. While no new car sold in the U.S. since model year 2010 has included a tape deck, that hasn't stopped the pair from reimagining the fleeting format as a sort of retro-futuristic calling card. Coupled with the label's focus on vintage electronic experimentalism, it's easy to get swept up in a plugged-in landscape that's simultaneously nostalgic and forward-leaning. The best place to start is House of Mutes, Vol. 1, a sprawling (literal) mixtape vacillating between intimate living room techno (Mannequinz's "Shiyan36"), drip-drop proto-glitch (Cygnus' "Varaxis Networks"), and ambient Dutch still life (BuzzzuwfarfewwW's "Morninghaze"). Other standouts among the 15 tracks include "Live at Switched On" by Austin-based house spelunkers Bodytronix and Dyad's silky-smooth "Vertical Hold." Amino from Denver's Formant offers a tightly wound half-hour of atmospheric delights, some passages bringing to mind Raymond Scott bending circuits alongside Goblin, though the overall mood is surprisingly naturalistic. If Georgetown's Inner Space Cavern ever resurrects its Aquarian-era "Sights and Sounds Show," this could be its soundtrack. At an evolving pace, Paradise's Void Weather cultivates a refined air of detachment. Majestic bursts of mechanical bombast pan out across the sky over insistent spartan rhythms. Hints at dystopia underlie the reverberant bleeps and low-end drone of "Ziqqurat," but the hypnotic qualities of Austin's Morgan Jones make resistance futile. Alienself from WWC (local Bill Converse) luxuriates in an even deeper strain of esoterica. Pulsating synth figures on "Understory Rain" slice through static against a macabre hum backdrop, while "Threshold" scavenges distressed TV news bumpers from the Seventies, and the 21-minute "Wingspan" invites epic contemplation of radio waves bouncing around the far reaches of space. Fret not if you can't scrounge up an old jambox. These releases are also available on Bandcamp.