What to make of the surface noise that’s fairly high in the mix on the languorous song “Conceptual Crush”? The song appears on Clovis Heald‘s Wading for Motorcycles, which is being released as a tape cassette (you read that correctly) by Moore & Moore (moore.perris-beauchamp.com). The run is limited to 100, but lest the idea of a limited edition strike you as anathema to everything that’s good about music these days, Heald has posted six of the album’s 11 tracks for free download.
At their best, as on the album’s “A Very Small Bedroom,” a gently looping instrumental, the Wading songs summon up the modest, mundane pleasures of a Kid Koala or a Tommy Guerrero (MP3). Likewise “Cardigan Lonely,” with its sedate, Rhodes piano basis and the light chimes and cardboard-box drum beat that tag along (MP3). As for “Crush,” on which Heald sings, that surface noise may be a sample of raw turntable static, or it may be part and parcel the slacker exotica that infuses the track with the feel of a hungover Sunday afternoon that lasts all summer. Either way, it’s seductive.
He’s joined on “Calling in Sick,” which has the waxen guitar of a Brian Eno pop tune, by drummer Josiah Wolf (of the band Why?), who contributes what sound like the martial drums of a deeply dispirited army (MP3). Also guesting are the Bomarr Monk and Odd Nosdam, on “Our Song,” which is so tremulous it feels like it might dissolve if listened to too often (MP3); so much for strength in numbers.
Please keep in mind that one of the odd tenets, the odd results, of so-called slo-core, to whose ranks Heald’s album is an exemplary addition, is that terms of seeming derision are in fact high praise. Everything that is wan and slight and decrepit and worn out about Clovis Heald’s Wading for Motorcycles is what makes it wonderful. Get the full set of downloads at the apt URL druggedconscience.com/clovisheald.
I remember the most recent cassette tape I bought, which was back in 2004 or 2005: Japanese avant-hop figure Turntabrush’s Direction of Rainbow. And I got it on cassette because it was only available as a tape, the tape being part of a “trilogy” of related releases, the others being on CD (View of Rainbow) and 12″ vinyl (Rainbow EP). I bought a few cassette singles (aka “cassingles” — talk about memory lane) and DJ mixtapes in the decade prior, but the next previous cassette I can clearly remember buying was a Kinks compilation. I bought it way after dark at a truckstop in the desolate southwest in the spring of 1995. Just minutes thereafter, a police officer pulled us over for speeding (Tucson beckoned) and asked if we had anything illegal. I told him I’d just bought a tape a few miles back and that it appeared to be a bootleg Spanish pressing of a classic “British Invasion” rock band. He said, “Heck, if that was illegal they’d have hauled me and my computer away long ago.”
Sorry for the tangential reminiscence, but that’s the state of mind that Heald’s Wading for Motorcycles produces.