Album: Storm Clouds – F.O.G.

I love a cassette four-track; we’ve recorded hundreds of songs over the years using one. They are rich with dense, nostalgic possibilities- the hiss of a cheap mic and the fog of the room condensing sound strangely, the bouncing and layering of tracks creating something magical, to these ears anyway. Add to that the waver and vibrations of the tape itself and the recording technique alone can be a significant addition to the overall impact of the music. It makes it feel like a memory – something barely recalled from a childhood dream. People get sniffy about lo-fi as a genre, and I couldn’t really give a damn about genre in general anyway,  but I can’t help being drawn to music made in this way. I always have been but it’s become an unparalleled, gravitational pull that’s only strengthened as I’ve got older. And I feel older than I should. 

So when this latest album from San Diego resident Dima Zadorzhny stumbled into my path, I couldn’t help myself but dive immediately in.  Zadorzhny too understands how this back-to-basics recording format allows for a sense of freedom, where mistakes can become part of the whole- adding a ramshackle authenticity to proceedings from the offset.  The fact that the album is called F.O.G and the opening track is then also called fog also makes sense when you begin to immerse yourself in this cloud-addled sound world. This is slow-paced stuff – lulling and unintrusive but carrying in its whispered lethargy its very own magic. There’s something of early Sparklehorse in the fuzzed up guitars and introspective yet oddly oblique lyricisms and this is clearly a songwriter in thrall to the lo-fidelity recording approaches of 90s DIY. To this end, it makes sense that they themselves refer to this music as ‘dreamfuzz’. Self/image does little to change this glacial pace, indeed it is seemingly deliberately made to blur together in boundaryless synergy with its predecessor-  the relatively simplistic lyrics taking on gnomic potency through their repetition.  The melodies feel like listening to Nirvana Unplugged underwater – it’s a solipsistic and stoned serenade; I love it. 

Anyone who’s ever fallen prey to the uncreative prison of depression will fully understand the sentiments expressed in To do list, Zadorzhny once more proving he understands the power of repetition in the song’s cyclical construction. The mantra-like quality of some of these self-reflections somehow brings them to higher significance. Sometimes though it’s as if he wants to disappear completely as when things are cloaked by a shoegaze haze on Kosmonaut and those already whispered vocals submerge almost entirely in the obfuscating cloud of the mix. 

The warbling guitars at the beginning of Stick Around capture that magical, pitch-bent tremolo of the Tascam Portastudio 424 mkIII perfectly. This bedroom-pop melodiousness continues into Spider/man with echoes of early Bedbug in its catchy but idiosyncratic simplicity. There’s a bitterness though to the lyrics, that reflect upon the toxicity of ill-formed and dysfunctional relationships. 

“… but i know you’re an empty shell that’s why you put me through that hell you tried to make me just like you i finally figured out the truth…”

No Rewind however, seems to be deliberately nightmarish. I feel damaged and broken by the onslaught of its relentless, programmed drum beat. It’s like a panic-attack in sound form. I’m relieved when it’s over. It makes the instrumental ending, Out of the Fog feel like a release though, which in many ways it is… It is a beautiful way to end such an intriguing album, soft and undulating and hypnotic, turning slowly like the tape in the Tascam itself.

Available on download and, rather aptly, cassette, it is most certainly a world worth exploring further.  

Written by M.A Welsh (Misophone)