Third Time’s A Charm
Grace/Confusion, the third album from New Jersey virtuoso Memory Tapes (a.k.a. Dayve Hawk), hangs in the balance between catchy electronica and a mature, almost cinematic sound. While 2009’s Seek Magic was full of short, slick dance tunes, Grace/Confusion takes on a greater variety of styles and delves into a new lyrical intimacy. Hawk is coming into his own as a producer and multi-instrumentalist, crafting more complex, robust songs than ever before.
The album opens with “Neighborhood Watch,” where slow, maracas pick out a beat behind the sounds of trilling cicadas and crickets, bringing to mind the image of a suburban street on a summer night, street lights surrounded by buzzing insects in the half-light. Warm layers of guitar melodies accompany Hawk’s warbling tenor. But the song isn’t unambiguously about a calm suburban night – loud, driving guitars emerge in the bridge, cascading into an orchestral crescendo.
“Safety” and “Thru the Field” have bouncy synth melodies and psychedelic, retro sounds. Memory Tapes almost sound like a bright, jubilant Kraftwerk with more guitars. The syncopated, jazzy “Sheila” plays with its rhythms, pairing synths and keys in a reflective, intimate ode. “Safety” features an expansive soundscape, starting out spare and somber, but growing and changing, adding layers of synth melodies. While its texture is varied and constantly evolving, it’s not necessarily riveting, and you can get lost in its meanderings. “Let Me Be,” likewise, isn’t the album’s strongest point. Vocals are filtered through strange, dissonant effects, as if they came from across a long, empty room, and when it finally picks up, low, bassy synths create an ominous, uneasy feeling. But even “Let Me Be” shows the careful composition and orchestration behind the music of Memory Tapes: its elements, even if a little discordant, blend together masterfully.
“Follow Me,” appropriately, concludes the album. It’s a blend of the catchy electro melodies that characterized Seek Magic, but it exudes more maturity and control; classical female vocals give it a cinematic feeling, floating above interweaving synth harmonies. Hawk sings about missed opportunities, an ended relationship, lamenting “we had faith, we were so young.” If Grace/Confusion is what Memory Tapes sounds like as it ages and ripens, it will be interesting to see what Hawk comes up with next.