Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Letterbox Project

Memory Static (Self-Released, 2010)

For: Toro y Moi, Big Spider's Back, Memory Tapes

Byline: Blissed out Chillwave from the deep south.

I know all of us are kind of waiting to see where this glo-fi/chillwave thing is going to go. Watching something gestate, exit the birth canal, and take its first baby steps on wobbly legs within a few years is exciting, also kind of scary. It would be easy to pass this whole thing off as another in the seemingly endless waves that wash up the collected bones of sunken sub-genres every couple of years, that is if chillwave wasn't the child of the lifestyles of most of us city-dwelling 20-somethings. Chillwave is tied to a sense of regionalism that I thought extinct in the playing-field leveling internet. Chillwave largely exists out of not being able to: 1) afford fancy recording equipment (in theory) to modulate the output above the washed out panning of underwater drum beats and sunbleached synth lines. 2) play loud enough to play without getting the upstairs neighbors calling the cops, or, getting grounded by your parents. Chillwave was made by headphones, for headphones. All this coupled with a love of being totally blissed out on acid and you've got yourself the next big thing in music.

Enter The Letterbox Project, coming out of the same fertile southern states that birthed Toro y Moi and Washed Out, LP's Tyler Bates explores similar sonic terrain. Sounding like they are coming from a house party next door, LP's beats pop like distant fireworks, muted but resilient, as if reverberating through concrete. Endlessly looped, Bate's vinyl warped percussion creates enough space to fill the corners with aria-like synth washes and meandering guitar lines. The Letterbox Project, through the ample use of pan and delay, crate a fully three-dimensional soundscape. Sounds audibly drop underwater, reappear, drown each other out, and resurface. Listening to this outside with nice headphones inspire all sorts of auditory hallucinations. At one point I had to take off my headphones because I thought that the car at the stop light in front of my bus stop was blaring his music really loud. Turns out it was a 2-step beat with the bass turned all the way up nestled deep in my right headphone. Delayed vocal loops trace infinity patterns between the right-left channels on the album's gorgeously affecting first suite. While it may be impossible to seperate this early attempt from the sub-genre that inspired Memory Static, Tyler Bates manages to merge wistful, hazy drones with after-hour club beats. While easy to fault for sticking close to his idols, Memory Static is simply way too interesting to simply write off. Plus, Bate's reach extends beyond his Chillwave contemporaries by pulling in flashes of Eno and the chopped up melodies of Growing. Don't expect not to be moved by this.

Ryan H.

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