Bandcamp Picks of the Week is back and better than ever
Category – ARRAYS
Favorite Tracks: “Proteal,” “Sibley Palace,” “Concrete Henge,” “Ice Edit,” “Reddan,” “Viola pCH”
Patrick Driscoll’s fifth release as Category is a testament to the range and versatility of drum machines. ARRAYS, like Autechre’s 1996 WE R ARE WHY / ARE Y ARE WE? EP, is almost entirely produced from a Yamaha RY-30. The instrument is a perfect choice for this project, an album packed with tracks that hearken back to the IDM made when everyone still had Nokias.
ARRAYS hits the ground running with “Proteal,” a menacing track with synths that stretch and snap like a brand new rubber band. Driscoll’s synths are similarly enticing on “Ptn Stop,” a psychedelic affair that makes full use of the Yamaha’s delay function, sustaining some melody’s echoes for nearly a minute. The record comes into its own when the crunchy percussive rhythms on “Concrete Henge” slice through bellowing, low-frequency hums, one of the many moments on the album that grab you by the lapels. While percussion and synths serve as the most enticing eye candy across the record, Driscoll’s low-end atmospheres add a substantial amount of weight to the tracks, much like the way Burial uses found sounds to populate the background. “Ridden” expertly plays with this balance, gently placing the pitter-patter of chimes atop brooding bass growls. The Oakland artist’s kick drums are largely understated yet absolutely essential, no more so than on the album’s final track, which slowly builds into a frantic, anxious blur of rambunctious synths that mask the steady conductor before fading away entirely, leaving surface noise and a few final audible splashes of synths. Give ARRAYS a listen here. [Ryan Moloney]
Part Time – SPELL #6
Favorite Tracks: “I Can Treat You Better (featuring Ariel Pink),” “So Far Away,” “Spell #6,” “I Didn’t Know,” “It’s Alright With Me”
While they’ve flirted with it in the past, SPELL #6 wastes no time fully transforming Part Time into a band worthy of playing in the background of an ‘80s prom scene. Last we heard from David Loca in 2015, he was making lo-fi and charming indie pop music, but it’s here with his latest where he’s fully taken Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and Pet Shop Boys as mentors, with forward vocals and dizzying synth melodies that don’t shy away from guitar and sax solos. Opener “Before You Fall Apart” keeps enough of its indie pop weirdness to be credible in that world (those trade-off freak-out solos at the end make for one of the album’s more memorable tracks alone), but the hooks here are schmaltzy and delightfully over-the-top. Those radio-ready chops are all over tracks like “Shattered Love” and “Silent Francine,” the former acting as the record’s “Stand Or Fall” by the Fixx, the latter offering a glimpse of Loca’s artsier stylings back on VIRGO’S MAZE. Loca himself name checks and honorably stays true to a number of sonic influences: Stephen Street’s production on “Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me,” Crowded House, The Church. And certainly that low tempo heartbreak bop is the riding undercurrent of SPELL #6, as that prom sequence, after all, was bound to be a slow dance from the start. The rainy day ballad becomes SPELL #6’s greatest strength, offering the kind of sad lad grooves Morrissey fans have been waiting decades to hear again, like the Ariel Pink-assisted saxophone ditty “I Can Treat You Better,” which effortlessly and leisurely drifts along with hooks that feel like they genuinely had to have been written before they’re so perfect, or Talk Talk-indebted closer “HIgher Fantasy.” When Part Time go long, as they do on the two highlights “Spell #6” and “It’s Alright With Me,” capturing the kind of true sadness that can only be discovered through meandering musical exploration—it’s a treat for those of us who’ve long loved The Smiths’ “I Know It’s Over.” As a true explorer of influence, SPELL #6 feels like a relic in the best ways possible. Discover it over on Bandcamp. [CJ Simonson]