(Lost Sound Tapes)
Unleashing the power of a deadline, indie-pop songstress Rose Melberg—of Tiger Trap, Go Sailor, The Softies, and more recently Brave Irene and PUPS—recorded 30 songs in the 30 days of September of last year, 22 of which were cover songs; these home-recorded, multi-tracked mid-fi covers are compiled on the cassette/digital download September, and while it’s pure joy from start to finish for those who favor the twee-pop spectrum, it also provides some insight into Melberg’s tastes.
Some selections come as no surprise, like those from New Zealand pop bands The Bats and The Clean, Jonathan Richman, Stuart Moxham and his post-punk-era trio Young Marble Giants. Others are a bit less expected, delving into hard rock and punk, including Thin Lizzy’s “Jailbreak,” “The Wizard” by Black Sabbath, and “Mystery” by The Wipers; these are delivered with the distorted guitar bite of a teenage garage band but with the disconnect of hearing a sweet, fresh-voiced female lead singer.
The arrangements are mostly simple and understated, several of which feature just a single instrument and vocals while others have full-band arrangements including drums and keyboards, all played by Melberg. September is often cute but doesn’t overdo it with the preciousness, although some may disagree—if the thought of a girl with a ukulele makes you roll your eyes, then this is not for you. One hard-to-resist track is “Tonight You Belong to Me,” which takes obvious inspiration from the Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters scene in “The Jerk,” and another downright adorable selection is “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon,” originally performed by Ernie on “Sesame Street.” A few unfamiliar names, including Norma Tanega, represented by an excellent autoharp cover of her “Jubilation,” also make September a launching point for further discoveries, while primarily being a sweet, but not syrupy sack of Hallowe’en ear candy for indie-pop fans.
Montreal synth alchemist and touring member of Dirty Beaches, Francesco De Gallo a.k.a. Hobo Cubes a.k.a. Frank Ouellette, Hobo Cult label curator, whips up aural concoctions that can vary from drifting atmospheric works to noisy, brain-scratching digital avant-splatters, with eclectic approaches that draw from German Kosmische Musik and 21st century ambient. His 6-track mini-album Serpensulla Gardens, prepared in 2012 and recently released officially on cassette on Bridgetown Records, plays with the notion of the thin line between pain and pleasure or comfort and unease, as if the music was a carefully balanced scale that would gently swing toward one side with the addition of a blade of grass.
The opening “Shade Bathers” offers a thick, pulsating gelatinous mass of abstract synthetic strata, gradually becoming a more complicated, impenetrable dense white dwarf of sound. “Fragment Fusion” begins with percussive synth tones, suggesting an aural manifestation of a biorhythm or perhaps the human beats of a cardio workout; with a patient binary chord progression, it builds its intensity with a bright attitude, and by the end, it is nearly overbearing. With video game sounds, “Keygen Atmospherics” suggests a dystopian future, complete with a calm, pitch-shifted speaking voice that brings to mind the computer HAL from the film “2001: A Space Odyssey” that offers disjointed fragments like “I am breathing out” and “feelings of pleasure, discomfort, pain” in a borderline ostentatious manner.
Clocking in at under 80 seconds, “Hypnotherical Fascination” is too short and could have gone on longer on its tenderly warped pathway, and “Bending the Love You Keep” uses discordance with a positive sheen, gingerly twisting its electronic tones as if they were tree branches swaying in a breeze. By overlaying melodies and dissonance to evoke both relaxation and slight discomfort, Hobo Cubes offers its own unusual vision of paradise with a hidden inferno.