Memory Tapes

Seek Magic

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Former Hail Social frontman Davye Hawk traffics in a voguish synthesis of dappled electronic beats, gauzy tropical textures, and amiable indie pop melodicism (with a hint of burnished post-punk), a variegated style that he unveiled across a series of EPs and Internet tracks released under several guises in 2008 and 2009. Seek Magic, his first full-length effort as a solo concern, works as an excellent summation of that particularly elusive, endlessly summery late-decade Zeitgeist, splitting the difference between the gossamer dream pop he makes as Memory Cassette and the more up-front, dancy electro of his Weird Tapes guise (hence, presumably, the conflated moniker). By any name, Hawk emerges here as a chameleonic sound sculptor of considerable range and finesse, able to render guitar-laced pop nuggets, ambient instrumental excursions, and straight-up dance jams all with a consistent, shimmering hazy warmth, and with an engaging looseness that belies his equally conspicuous, nuanced craftsmanship. It's as though he holds at his disposal all the tools of electronica and indie rock, deploying them liberally, but judiciously, with his focus attuned not so much to style or form as to the particular qualities of the sounds themselves. Broadly speaking, the more indie rock-derived elements (which is to say, the guitars) can be found toward the front and back ends of the album -- the languorous, heavily reverbed figure that opens "Swimming Field"; the needly lines that underpin "Green Knight"; the woozy strumming that forms the core of the synth-kissed "Plain Material"; and the gnarled fuzz that eventually subsumes the blissy finale, "Run Out" -- while the midsection contains more purely electronic material: the gorgeous, rippling, faux-Asian mod-exotica of "Pink Stones" and the dancefloor-ready electro-pop of "Stop Talking" and "Graphics" (although the former does admittedly climax with an immense, intoxicating, and very guitar-heavy coda). As it plays, though, the album forms a remarkably fluid whole, stylistically as well as sonically, and what jumps out is not the songs themselves so much as the diverse array of sounds and countless individual moments that stand testament to Hawk's pervasive attention to detail. In many ways, Seek Magic calls to mind Cut Copy's spectacular In Ghost Colours, another gloriously sound-stuffed album that offered a similarly organic-feeling blend of dance, pop, rock, and haze, but while that Australian outfit's work boasts somewhat stronger songwriting and more immediately overt dance appeal, this album may well trump it in terms of atmosphere. One potential sticking point for some listeners is Hawk's voice -- not that it's bad or even particularly unpleasant (and in any case it's rarely the most prominent feature in any given track), but it is somewhat rough and reedy, and not all that well suited to this type of lushly melodious material. [Some versions of the album included a bonus disc with the 22-minute ambient instrumental track "Treeship."]

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