The Designer’s Drugs: Memory Tapes/Handsome Furs

Medium: Album

Stimulus: Memory Tapes – Player Piano

Anno: 2011


When jerkwad music journalists like me use the word “ethereal” to describe a work, they usually mean one of two things: the music is a near-ambient sound collage that aims for pixielike and adorable, or the singer is drugged to hell and babbling inane or incomprehensible lyrics.  Memory Tapes is an example of the first school of ethereal, though Player Piano gets a bit too motivated in places to be completely described as fly on the wall.  There are a lot of precious electronic-driven instrumentals on this album coupled with earnest smurf pop tunes, and all of it adds up to one simple message: hug us.

The instrumentals are generally better than the vocal tracks, but one lyrical track stands out as the album’s best work.  “Offers” is a moody and seductive song full of empty hallway vocals, bleeding synthetic squeaks, and some really pretty keyboards at its core.  While there’s not much on Player Piano that I’d call memorable, “Offers” is a fairly arresting piece of work.



Medium: Album

Stimulus: Handsome Furs – Sound Kapital

Anno: 2011


Though it could be called a few different things, one thing Sound Kapital is not is a slick album.  The keyboards which overpopulate what is ultimately a rock album sound like they were purchased at a rummage sale, and the tones they create for the album are so rough and abrasive that they dominate every song.  The vocals and beats are rendered incredibly secondary.

That said, Sound Kapital is a pretty sterling example of bargain basement electronica.  Sure, there are tracks like “When I Get Back,” which is one more example of the recent crop of drawling hippie electropop, and “Bury Me Standing” sounds too much like a teched-up Billy Idol song to be taken as anything but silly.  But there are good tracks like “What About Us,” which blares its Nintendo dancefloor to maximum effect, as well as the glittering, pulsating “Memories of the Future.”

On this album, Handsome Furs sounds highly competent, but its caustic lo-fi orchestration does seem to render this work as strictly for old school tech geeks.

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