Memory Tapes - Player Piano - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Memory Tapes - Player Piano

by Rich Morris Rating:6 Release Date:2011-07-04

Following his debut album, Seek Magic,which included the fantastic 'Bicycle', Dayve Hawk aka Memory Tapes is back with album two. Like Seek Magic, Player Piano is a mix of chillwavey psychedelia, vintage rave sounds, ambient textures and 80s indebted funk. Despite some likeable pop songs in the form of 'Wait in the Dark', 'Offers' and 'Trance Sisters', the album is at its most impressive when Hawk dives into pure electronica, as on the intricate, interlocking melodies of its opening and closing tunes, 'Musicbox (In)' and 'Musicbox (Out)', and the beautifully atmospheric opening of 'Fell Thru Ice II'.

However, these are all fleeting moments, and Player Piano feels very much like a collection of moments, some interesting, many so-so, rather than a captivating album. Player Piano's case isn't helped by the sentimental streak running through Hawk's songs, which sometimes becomes appealingly mawkish, as on 'Fell Thru Ice I'. His thin, fey vocals don't do him any favours here: Hawk could sing the opening lines to The Manic Street Preachers' 'Yes' and make it sound like a syrupy evocation of lost summertime love.

If you take Player Piano as simply another chillwave-style burst of musical sunbeams then it works pretty much fine, but there are frustrating clues of greater ambition on Hawk's part. 'Worries' has a symphonic scope to its lovelorn yearning that's worthy of Brian Wilson. 'Humming' opens with a lovely choral melody which is then replicated on what sounds like a melting Casio keyboard. As I say, there's so much here that impresses, but no one song you want to play over and over a la 'Bicycle'.

Along with Washed Out's disappointing Within and Without, Player Piano may indicate the exhaustion of chillwave, a genre which has persisted and thrived despite being saddled with a terrible name and written off as a fad before any of its practitioners had released an album. Artists such as Memory Tapes and Washed Out now need to search for subject matter and a way to communicate which is not steeped in Hipstamatic style instant nostalgia. As Hawk does on the best parts of Player Piano, they should use their song-writing and technology to explore new sounds and new experiences which keep their music fresh.

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