Music Review: Symrun – Care Work

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Symrun

Care Work

[TT; 2019]

Rating: 4/5

Symrun’s mixtape Care Work is a 10-track, 14-minute ode to a bedroom millennial generation, chockablock with cultural references but down on socio-political optimism. Sulphur-drenched streets, typified in the music videos for “Where I’ve Been” and “Betablockers,” linger for an out into the world, a disembodied practice lurching from the dark. India cricket top adorned in an almost nihilistic disidentificatory thrust, where neo-ethnocentrism fuels diasporic commercialism and cultural work lies ossified in its wake.

On the cusp; moody and abstract in a similar vein to label-mates Organ Tapes and Don Sinini, where SoundClound rap meets East Asian pop. Set before the economies of indie band circulation, the Sheffield-based artist also imbibes a Blood Orange-esque sensibility. If a post-indie vibe is insurgent, then the golden age of filmic optimism lies in pre-financial crash territory. Instead, a fragmented visual culture now litters a society boasting its post-industrial creative capacity. Creative labor finds itself in a social fix escaping the capture of commodity-relation while being driven by interests’ coterminous alignment with desire. Alienation rings true.

Symrun’s mumble-toned, downbeat, saturated sound is a contemporary product of that prevailing structure of alienated creative labor. But in its gesture of care work there lies a social revolutionary desire, something being called in through tone and aesthetic, as well as being desired verbally (Symrun’s 4-day-week ambitions). Similarly, the fragmented nature of the visual is complemented and touched upon by the accompanying digital booklet composed of a series of filmic collages at the cross between the abstract and the bodily.

Perhaps the bleeding edge is really a racial desire — that place of de/composition — where Asian life is being pushed into popular discourses on domestic work reflected by Symrun’s focused composition — on the laptop, in the bedroom — a scene developed perhaps in parallel and in conversation with post-rave culture. Saturated sounds of mumbling meditations operate as a sound-board for a social avant-garde, rooted in affective labor relations and poptimist failings. Composition acts, thinking with contemporaries like Jai Paul, as an agglomerating cipher; a refracted vision of the present state awash with bend and color; popular, prescient, and precise.

Music Review: Organ Tapes – Hunger In Me Living

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Organ Tapes

Hunger In Me Living

[TT; 2019]

Rating: 5/5

Organ Tapes’s signature auto-tuned vocals croon through the loops of a knot in his throat. On the verge of tears, or after bawling, he sings himself into or down from states. The lump stays when alone in bed, which is where I want to be when lolling to the melancholic and moody textures of “Servant” and “Ugly.” It grows a bit tighter when the edges of my lips turn up to the bouncy keys of “Signs.” Album closer “Sunset in E5” transfers that knot to my entire body. Listening welcomes forming. But for what? Love.

Hunger In Me Living is full of relational and directed ballads suffused in sentimental narratives and speculative methods. Each has its own orientation toward instrumentation, pathos, and influences, with vocals as the throughline. Bodies exist at the other end of each lyric. Some might even be imagined, fragmentary, conglomerate, internal. So many references to you and me and us, which is pop. What amount of songs that fall under that umbrella explore themes and stories of love? Many, if not most. Turning on any no-frills Top 40 radio station says so, whether they are songs about infatuation, ecstasy, breakups, heartache, anger, or asserting independence from love, through love, loving oneself, whatever, however, whenever. The way is multiplied and nonlinear and clear.

Growing up on Top 40, I obsessively heard and lusted after the same songs on the radio or looped the few albums that I owned (Peter Andre, Mariah, Britney). I attached myself to my favorites very seriously before being totally thrown when, suddenly, new favorites would emerge to articulate something else in me, previously unutterable, revealed through lyrics or melodies. I’ve gone through that whole process with Hunger In Me Living and continue to. My love started with “Ugly,” went through “Sunset in E5,” and now as I write, I’m stuck in the quicksand of “Condition” and “Servant.” But “Simple Halo,” the winds in “Flung Wide Open,” and the horn-heavy “All” wonderfully come out of nowhere relative to the rest of the album’s predominant spangle of guitars, keys, drums, and well-placed field recordings. But, like with a good restaurant, you can’t really go wrong. Each time I return, it’s not from craving one single thing. I want the whole experience of Hunger to collect over me so that, based on context, certain parts can reveal themselves to me when I need them.

Hunger In Me Living by Organ Tapes

One of Organ Tapes’s recent NTS shows felt like listening to someone switch on the shuffle feature to flit around a long-accumulated music library. I found myself parroting along to songs that I didn’t even know that I knew. Those words have taken root in my mushy childhood brain to never leave me. Many of the songs on Hunger feel fit for radio but resist the idea of the fully-fledged singalong. He’s kept his lyrics close, kind of obfuscated from total comprehension, mumbled or farther affected past their base tech timbre, which we get but won’t be totally got. Certain words and phrases jump out, like “baby,” “alone,” “I was wrong,” “Something in me falls apart.” In “Simple Halo,” there’s what sounds like “You live and you learn,” although I know it’s probably not that. I hear what I want to or can, and the vocals encourage that — that experience of hearing something one way for months, even years, and one day, suddenly, the “actual” words spoken become clear. Hunger allows for that potential, but not always. In “Ugly,” layered vocal lines indecipherable in their quantity point to multiple dialogues happening in one’s own mind, especially around ideas of shame, regret, doubt, dejection, rejection, those things that keep tripping me up in love, falling, falling for her. I’ve fallen. Can I address these feelings toward you, directional, but not quite where you’d expect? Can I be the one for you? Unbelievable…

Unbelieving, in the beginning. I begin to need her. I do not sleep not from this needing, but from thoughts of her and thoughts of sleeping beside her and pain upon waking my knee bent against her all evening. Aching. I roll to stretch myself out. I smell. My eyes are puffy and caked. My mouth is dirty and hot. I kiss her ear and suck it and she moans and I stop it. If I could hold you in my arms.

I have touched her. She has touched me, shyly, my body like a huge question on the verge of being asked. She asked it, patiently, over time, through nights and afternoons and mornings squinting in the bright light of a sunrise we fall asleep to, finally, or wake up to, suddenly, and she’s still there. She begins to touch me, my hands, my hair, my knee up underneath that thin skirt I always wear. One day, she touches my waist, and it’s as exciting as anything remembering the silence of her touch. Touching her is like touching my putting my is like her. We do not enter and meet. We give up and begin. We stop and fade.

It’s possible if you don’t try. Watching her, I want to cry out. I drip for her I think of things to say and do not say them. I could say them. When I say them, she responds and we speak. She takes my hand on the street. I watch her do these things as if I am another. I could not, in her room; she has a way of laughing, of speaking as if wrapping her tongue around my chest.

I just stand there. I could for too long. She moves. I remember to move. I sit. She bows to her empty room. I am in it. I lie there. I can no longer speak. I watch her. Quietly. I need to go silent and for her to love my silence. She asks I would give everything but a sound. You still dream about the whole truth, in my song. Light curves under her cheek catching in an angle, a touch. She flips and can. I feel her one thing would be to stand beside her. I would. I would walk through that bright street to her. One hour, two, more for her. I would wait. She is stuck in a place she has never been, the right place, close, and this way I fit and seep.

It’s all so new. We scoop it with a spoon.

♫ Listen: hmurd – Boycott Ethical Consumption

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London’s hmurd presents some fresh feeling, avant-twinged techno to start off TT 2019’s roster. Three super crunchy tracks, crisp and invigorating, like vegetables. And, like those, these are really good for you. Each explores non-systemic rhythm sets that tease with varying levels of accessibility and abstraction. I would enjoy being on the dance floor to all of them, though, especially to be a part of a crowd rising into euphoria with the huge chimes that clang in near the middle of “Shepard’s Delight.”

In the subway station the other day an artist had put up 200 or so line drawings, each 6×8” in size. Different abstract line works and shapes all balanced by an invisible grid. We discussed his drawings and he asked me which one struck me the most. They all did, but in front of me at that moment there was one of two bent cylinders rising from a horizon line and poised to twist together. He said, “They’re dancing.” He said, “If you want to stave of stress you have to move, keep moving your body.” His pictures were not for sale. I’m flailing around to hmurd and heeding his word.

Boycott Ethical Consumption by hmurd

TT – “Love Leaks”

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Two years ago, Jenny Lee Lindberg, singer and bassist for the Los Angeles band Warpaint, went solo under the name jennylee, releasing her album right on! Today, we learn that Lindberg’s Warpaint bandmate Theresa Wayman is doing something similar. Wayman, who sings and plays guitar in Warpaint, has taken on the alias TT and … More »