Memory Tapes - Seek Magic, Album Review


Memory Tapes
Seek Magic
out August 25th

[Rating Scale]

Memory Tapes’s debut Seek Magic is all about bait and switch. At first, each track sucks you into a lo-fi universe. It’s engaging, but not something I haven’t already heard a million times before; for the most part, it’s a generic forgettable cloudy day in the land of Seek Magic. And oddly enough, that’s where the magic starts. The album at its transcendent best are the moments when a gap in the dense cloudfog lets Memory Tapes’s sunnier side shine through, and like a hot-boxed concert venue in between DJ sets, suddenly the lights dim, a spotlight falls, and through all that reverb-soaked haze comes a thumping bassline, a huge synth, a guitar solo, and with it a burst of aural euphoria straight to the mainline vein.


Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think any DJ who wants to keep the floor packed would crossfade “Boom Boom Pow” into even any of Seek Magic’s most accessible material (of which, on the whole, is most), but that hardly matters to anyone who cares about good music. That’s because Seek Magic is the sort of album that forms in your head when you’re dreaming of a dance party, not actually at one. It’s the kind of music that words like “soundscape” were made to describe, and within that dense kind of atmosphere the sudden burst of kinetic force is inhibited within the restrained structure of the rest of the song. What you really feel is the dance of its sounds in your own head, in that little space your headphones create. Not to say it’s impossible to dance to, but I’ve been to Brooklyn, and dancing other people can see, just isn’t that cool anymore.

Have you lost me yet? Or am I just lost inside myself? Hold on, let’s take a step back here. It will all make much more sense once you grasp that Dayve Hawk, the artistic force behind Memory Tapes, combined two separate musical projects (Weird Tapes and Memory Casettes) to create Seek Magic. One was electro-dance and the other was ambient electronic, respectively. Then it should come as no surprise that a lot of Seek Magic sounds like an alternate universe exsiting within a universe, a separate life within life, a (gasp) memory. And as far as I’m concerned, one needs to drown in all that tired sounding reverb whimsy in order to feel the power of the musical flourishes Hawk touches each track with like first breaths of fresh air.

There are multiple songs I can point this trend out in when the rest of the song seems to be just building up to something else entirely. There’s the fist-pumping guitar solo set to a backdrop of oohs and ahhs in “Bicycle”, there’s the bombastic distorted synth riff that drops at the end of “Green Knight”, there’s the huge post-rock breakdown at the end of the too-long “Stop Talking.” But what I think is the best snippet to take from the entire album, is in “Plain Material.” Hawk’s neutered vocals distantly repeat “it was a beautiful dream” until leading into a simplistically triumphant mixture of vocal harmony and uplifting piano melody.

But portions are never worthy enough to justify a whole, transcendent and copious as they may be. There is still that whole backdrop of musical gray that weighs the score down a little, something that took me awhile to get over in order to really appreciate the album. But, as I said, it’s a necessary element that adds the needed depth of support to one of this year’s most unique gems.

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