A Sony Walkman WM-A12, a truly classic little deck that probably weighs about half as much as your smartphone and has a classy geometric case that is easily 4 times as large. Definitely pushes the limits of “pocket-sized,” but luckily it comes with a belt clip that ‘s very reliable, unless you try and sit down.
Green Mansions is Peter Bonneman of Denmark and Michael Pigott of Massachusetts, who also runs the label Masstropicas. Their name might be a reference to a book/movie that I remember being kind of along the same lines as Tarzan, but with a girl who can talk to birds. Vacation No.2 is their first release on UUU Tapes and is available exclusively on cassette, because these guys are very serious about that. That doesn't happen very often. Cool, right?
Vacation No.2 is defined by its exploration of varying degrees of distortion, evolving atmospheres, and unsteady melodies. The clever use of drum machines and more subtle rhythmic devices helps anchor the tracks during some of the denser sections of these instrumental tracks. Deft guitar work and plenty unexpected touches lend the music a sense of intention, as well as variety, as manifested in the accessible and almost loungey “Vacation #9” or the buzzy synth and guitar centric “Vacation #6.” None of the tracks will let you get too comfortable, though. There’s always something obtuse; an unsteady pitch bend; a contorted sample; some dissonance suggestive of a music box past its prime.
How it sounds:
Will admit that I cheated and listened to this on some speakers, as well. The more distortion heavy tracks were gratifying to hear blasted out loudly, but I definitely see a quality pair of headphones as the way to go, at least for your first listen. Otherwise, the impulse to try and pick apart the mixes with your ears might drive you to distraction.
The full package:
The packaging features a nicely illustrated mansion over a green background. The font and the lines of the house faintly call to mind Edward Gorey illustrations.
Only two of the tape’s 8 tracks are available digitally and represent the most drone-inspired pieces on the release. “Vacation #7” is a monochromatic burner that’s definitely the most full bodied and intense of the tracks, serving as an effective contrast to the poppier songs on the tape.
Moving a bit back towards the more explicitly melodic end of the spectrum, we find “Vacation #5.” Miko Revereza’s analog video manipulations are a fitting complement to the willful ambiguities that make this such a lovely track.
Vacation No.2 is now available from UUU Tapes.