Seek Magic’s late release – assuming you missed its super-limited run back in the summer – means it probably won’t feature in too many year-end round-ups. Which is a shame, truly, as the debut from Memory Tapes is a rare album of delightfully addictive pop, positioned on the difficult-cum-enviable dividing line between the indie underground and mainstream recognition.
The work of one man, New Jersey-based Dayve Hawke, Memory Tapes’ sound is immediately accessible but entirely capable of haunting your thoughts when it’s not filling your ears. Already the recipient of ‘net-wide blog praise, Hawke’s modus operandi is comparable to those of M83 and Cut Copy – this is shape-shifting synth-pop, big on beats but almost counteractively woozy of atmosphere. It’s effortlessly, achingly cool, but also clever enough never to rest on its laurels, as arrangements flitter in and out of focus, vocals drift without ever settling, and sleek synth lines dance rings around basslines borrowed from a library of 70s funk albums, as played by Hooky himself.
While its method of assembly may be comparable to the work of another bedroom maverick, Bradford Cox, Seek Magic is a more vibrant affair that Atlas Sound’s long-players. It follows a lineage closer to Deastro’s Moondagger album of the summer – upbeat but oddly understated, slipping and sliding and never quite fully in control, yet beguilingly complete and instant of repeat-play appeal. It’s evocative of a thousand records you’ve heard before, and hundreds you own, but bafflingly unique, as if the recognisable elements have never before been assembled quite as exquisitely.
Of course, there will come a time when Seek Magic begins to feel too familiar, and it’s entirely likely that this moment could occur after but a week, such is the must-listen-again nature of the collection. Don’t be surprised to see it top your personal most-played list in no time at all. But if that’s not a sign of a quality album, what is? Slow-burners are for those with time on their hands – Seek Magic rewards the impatient with true class and keeps them hooked ‘til they’ve had their fill.
Hawke’s already confronted the commercial coalface with remixes for Britney Spears and Michael Jackson, but don’t be surprised if he steps into the spotlight himself if there’s more where this collection has come from. Best pencil him in as delivering a future album of the year, now. --Mike Diver
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