Week in Pop: Ha Ha Mart, Mane, The Tablets

Sjimon Gompers

The Tablets' own icon Liz Godoy filmed in front of artwork from sister Melissa Godoy Nieto; photographed by Habib Khan Awan.

Ha Ha Mart

An introduction to the new cool pop phenomenon of Ha ha Mart; press photo courtesy of the artist.

This week saw the release of the beguiling, bizarre & outright beautiful debut full-length album from Ha Ha Mart with Family Denim courtesy of Noumenal Loom. Anyone familiar with the fiercely independent (yet internationally inclusive) imprint knows that every new release from each artist/group is something that operates outside of the conventional & expected brands of typical status quo styles of sound. And the arrival of the high-conceptual instrumental wonder of Ha Ha Mart’s Family Denim presents the soundtracks for all those special moments that are exploited as Hallmark fodder. But make no mistake, this is some serious novelty pop that aims to create what we honestly hope is the soundtrack for escalators, elevators, elaborate department stores or whatever hip chain of tomorrow that will inevitably emerged after the next cycle of gentrification to swallow up all mom & pop bodegas/vendors in their immediate vicinity. This is that sound of safe that we the people cling to next to our faded tales of glory days & fish-scale fairy tales. This is the retro-future vision of the bubble that contains a collected array of slippery & sophisticated pop tropes that exhibit some smart, yet outright silly, music for today’s modern spaces.

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From the album’s own propagated preface alone, we all knew something interesting to incredible was in store:

The air conditioned linen feels good against your skin while you wait for your brother and dad to wrap things up at Family Denim. Giulietta Boldrini winks and sends a soft smile your way. There’s a slight unease to the muzak—you’re not sure if you’re at home in your me. Theme songs from a life—a love—a party that you forgot / lost / took for granted…a homecoming all the same. The tease of so many aha moments forgotten right as they arrive—an invitation to be cozier and remember who you are. This is Ha Ha Mart.

And from here Ha Ha Mart is open for business with “Theme for Eliza” that rings with vibraphones that resound like the opening welcome to a whole new kind of commerce palace of endearing, wondrous & nostalgic arrangements. “Now Only!” breaks out of the elevator music mold for something that swings into the advertisement entourage of “Fall Time Specials” that features textile pop guaranteed to excite everyone & all attire trend interests involved in the equation. Contemplative & calm moments in commerce are heard on “Premier Shoppe” that exemplifies what an efficient & successful business sounds like with a host of smooth & clever key swagger that hits all the right super-silk-striking notes.

Ha Ha Mart is the pop-up shop of your dreams. The keys will scramble your ears & mind with a nearly indescribable joy as heard on “Riverchase Galleria”, emulating the rhythm order of New Orleans heroes The Meters on “Funny Business”, while “Clementine” showcases that smooth rock romantic side. “After Hours” keeps the dance party on it’s toes in a super low key after party fashion that then descends in a landing on the bed of pillows that is otherwise known as the title track. The super deluxe sophistication is delivered in the ultra sappy (if not aromatic) “Tiger Perfume”, that only finds the Ha Ha Mart pouring on more syrupy synths with “A Pineapple For Mr. Mai” that is a soundtrack for a Hawaiian vacation that the old world auteurs deprived us of. Interludes of remembrance are heard on the foghorn key-sustain wail on “Theme For Edy”, to the supermarket sentimentality of “Shopping Any Time” that delights in vibes & xylophone keys of exhilaration while “Thank You” is the source of public broadcasting cart loops that have burrowed their catchy/deep cognitive tones deep into our collective psyches.

Haha Mart,Family Denim

The elusive artist who makes music under the moniker of Ha Ha Mart was kind enough to talk to us via remote go-betweens. The following is a transcript of that interview:

How was the Ha Ha Mart established?

The project came into being rather organically. I was experimenting with recording a lot of different sounds, making a lot of instrumental tracks for no good reason while discovering a lot of different artists, and eventually I realized oh… I’m making a thing…then I decided to hunker down for a bit, round off the edges and try to make something somewhat cohesive.

What song composition approaches are employed to make such rich, spatial, environmental textures?

Honestly, most of these tracks came from a pretty basic approach. I often start with a very basic chord progression (typically on a keyboard) and begin to improvise over it melodically with different instruments/sounds… then I just swan dive off of that base, changing the meter, layering tons of melodic lines, finding things, ditching things..often for many hours at a time [laughs].

Off of the snowy sidewalk with Ha Ha Mart; press photo courtesy of the artist.

What are you listening to right now?

Lately…Keith Jarrett, Ahmad Jamal, Cortex, Thelonious…

Ha Ha Mart grand opening plans?

It feels like we’re in our “soft opening”… I want to take this thing in as many directions as it can go. Maybe that’s our next album.. “Grand Opening”!

Summer wishes?

Sync deals 😏 , get togethers on my roof? Collabs with friends.

The hilarity, humor & art of Ha Ha Mart; press photo courtesy of the artist.

Other folks you wanna recognize?

Big shout out to my dear friend Garrett at Noumenal Loom. He’s encouraged me to make an album for NL for a long time. He was just beyond accommodating within his means, and he really wanted this album to achieve the very most it possibly could. He’s the best.

Another shout out to one of my favorite graphic designers Kevin McCaughey who created the album art/layout. And a shout out to my dear friend Travis Swinford (Plains, New Love Crowd) who has shared many artists/albums with me over the years that ended up being huge inspirations for this project, and he also mastered the album!

Advice for consumers and fans alike?

Don’t buy into it… keep shopping.

Thank you for your time & talents.

Thank you for shopping here!

Ha Ha Mart’s debut full-length Family Denim is available now from Noumenal Loom.

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