Memory Tapes - 'Seek Magic': a Review thereof.

Hullo crazy crew,
Ceri got us writing reviews in contextual studies last week. I thought I'd share mine with you- it's a review of the album 'Seek Magic' by Memory Tapes. Enjoy!...


It's fair to say that Dayve Hawk is something of an enigma. A stay-at-home dad, he lives in the countryside of New Jersey, effectively cut off from the rest of the world by the simple fact that he can't drive in a country that demands this skill of any would-be traveller. He listens to classic rock bands, and admits that he doesn't understand how people go about discovering new music in the technological age.

However, like some kind of musical Clark Kent, Hawk has spent the last couple of years perfecting his own brand of dreamy, psychedelic dance music, self-releasing a series of EPs under the pseudonyms Weird Tapes and Memory Cassette. People outside of New Jersey began to take notice: Hawk has performed remix duties for such luminaries as Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Peter Bjorn and John and even Britney Spears.

Now, as Memory Tapes, Hawk is bringing out his first solo full-length, an album which splits the difference between a straight-ahead Balearic summer-time vibe, and a slightly more experimental underbelly: as if Paul Oakenfold had listened to more Ash Ra Tempel. The music has a hazy and almost vintage feel to it: analogue synths squirm and bubble underneath the gentle propulsion of carefully programmed drum beats, augmented by cut-up samples and found sounds, occasional guitar, and Hawk's own voice, which is, more often than not, pushed right back in the mix and hidden under a thick fug of reverb.

The vocals have an ethereal, somewhat androgynous quality to them: in places strongly reminiscent of Donna Summer (a comparison that's hard not to make when 'Graphics', one of the album's stand-out tracks, beings with the words 'I feel love'). Another easy comparison is with label-mates Air France, the Swedish band who have been practicing a similar brand of blissed-out, beach-ready electronic pop over a couple of years and EPs.

Where 'Seek Magic' really shines, however, is in its slightly more experimental moments. Despite Hawk's clear hook and song-writing skills, it's instrumental track 'Pink Stones' that really showcases the album's depth in sound: the track sounds like it's being piped to you underwater, and is symptomatic of the beautiful sense of flowing movement that goes right the way through the album; sections and parts falling into and over each other like an ice-cream sundae of aural pleasure.

It is in the context of bonus track 'Treeship', too, that Hawk's production and arranging prowess really shines. Freed by the track's 20 minute + length, he is able to create a track that really is his own - incorporating a much freer structure, and more found and tape parts (everything from African tribal drumming, to conversation, to a game of pool) that link various sections together. The massive synths are still here, but they're freed from the shackles of 4/4 repetition and are given more space in the mix. None of this is to put down the rest of the record: the more straight-up disco tracks are constructed in a similarly masterful fashion: 'Stop Talking', 'Bicycle' and the aforementioned 'Graphics' are all instant classics, which, through some strange voodoo or alchemy, seem designed to affect the listener's brain by unlocking grooves that were part of your DNA all along.

However, the fact that Hawk is able to express both sides of his project on 'Seek Magic' makes for a far more complete experience. In fact, and in keeping with Hawk's insistence that he only listens to classic rock, even this more experimental side seems old-school. This is music that sounds like it could have been made at any time in the last 20, or even 30, years: it just hasn't, in quite this way, until now.


  1. spot on, treeships is wahey better than anything on the albumen proper. also, this little peach of an EP is worth a spin, especially if you're organising an 80's halloween rave in an abandoned victorian mental asylum

  2. ooh cheers benjahm... i'll give that a spin, no doubt