Memory Tapes

Grace/Confusion

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    7
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AllMusic Review by

Memory Tapes is one of the most relevant acts in chillwave, but soloist Dayve Hawk attempted to break barriers and get adventurous with his third album, Grace/Confusion. Here, Hawk expands on the usual dreamy, '80s-referencing sounds of the genre -- washy synthesizers, crystalline vocals, and lo-fi drum machine beats -- and goes to great lengths to avoid snappy synth pop structures. Instead, he takes a winding, prog rock approach to his pieces. As a result, most songs on the sprawling 39-minute album are two or three times longer than usual. Hawk explained in a press release that he was in a mixed-up place while recording, expressing doubts with the new direction of his project by promising a return to form on his next release. This feeling of confliction embodies the album. Select copies of 2009's Seek Magic demonstrated just how far Memory Tapes could stretch when given free rein with a 22-minute bonus track, and the schizophrenic Grace/Confusion shows signs that Hawk might rather be spreading his wings and making something completely bizarre like Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti (these moments would fall into the confusion category), but he can't quite let go of the sparkling, somewhat sterile style (or grace) that comprised the second album. "Sheila" shape-shifts from a silky Rhodes ballad along the lines of Alan Parsons Project into a modern dance groove. But, just when you think you have it pegged, a ripping buzzsaw keyboard solo is introduced, and the textures evolve into a third part. And so on. This ongoing motion keeps things interesting -- and, cleverly, because no tracks break tempo, from a distance it all seems natural and unforced. While a good background album it may be, it's not exactly gripping. The songs are too multifaceted to feel cohesive, yet they never seem strikingly experimental. The debut is a better bet, but even a mediocre Memory Tapes album has great moments.

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