There used to be a time not too long ago when you would walk into a record store and be faced with the organisation of music catalogued by genre. That art has all but faded simply due to the overwhelming volume of sub-genres and the fact that artists often cross boundaries between albums. Now, though, the evolution from basement recording rooms to portable digital studios has afforded the solo artist total control of and access to any sound on a whim, rendering the application of musical labels almost irrelevant. At least that seems to be the case with Memory Tapes. Dayve Hawks embodies the spirit of creating music based on impulse and instinct rather than worrying about agreeing with a particular musical rule set. His Memory Tapes albums are all unique in their own right, but this latest crosses boundaries tenfold, its multiple disjointed soundscapes digitally sewn together like a patchwork quilt.
There is definitely a sense of Grace/Confusion on this aptly titled third full length record, perhaps leaning more towards confusion than grace, with the momentum gained from one particular section offset by the album’s conceptual stubbornness and the multiple musical personalities emanating from most of the tracks.
From the opener, ‘Neighbourhood Watch’, we learn that Memory Tapes does not sit still. The track moves from melodic pop, featuring Hawks’ delicate vocals, to a synth-guitar driven riff with a crescendo of elements coming together near the end. The synths transform from their warm and soft origins into an alt-rock guitar aesthetic and the initial catchy chorus refuses to make a reappearance. Like most of the songs on Grace/Confusion, the tracks start with a reserved feel and end in a more chaotic and confusing state often completely disregarding any previous elements that may have surfaced in the first few minutes. ‘Thru The Field’ begins with a bouncy synth motif of exaggerated happiness. When the evil twin of the songs takes over at the 2:30 min mark, a great Cure-esque guitar riff evolves and creates a fantastic sonic breakthrough. That moment is fleeting as the track refuses to play any form of genre association for more than 30 seconds. The best part of the song was the shortest; an idea that permeates the album.
The epic eight minute long ‘Safety’ lulls you into dream for the first minute and a half then kicks it up a notch with a danceable beat. Vocal melodies are key here, and the track has more hooks than a fishing store, but once again no musical pattern really stays around long enough to get acquainted, causing the songs to evaporate from the cranial song storage centre. On completely different level, ‘Let Me Be’ starts out as a dark ambient brew and eventually transitions to reverbed steel drum sounds with restless beats underneath. The track is an instrumental and is probably the most cohesive as far communicating a particular emotion. It is also the shortest track on the album. The majority of the songs last beyond the 6 minute mark giving Hawks plenty of opportunity to stray from any established musical forms, which he does with vigour.
On Grace/Confusion, Memory Tapes crafts music with memory loss. The mathematically calculated disjointedness within tracks and across them is not obtrusive when you are not fully paying attention to the album, but Grace/Confusion will struggle to make an impact. Memory Tapes makes beautiful music in brief moments. The difficulty lies in finding a label to describe the whole package, or even a single track.