Avey Tare's Slasher Flicks
The power to mislead is a gusty, adventuresome force, and Slasher Flicks by name alone is not what it appears to be. Scrambled horror film soundtracks? Not even remotely. A bunch of East Coasters making their quintessential LA album? No, more like escape from LA, say leather masked guitar-wielding Avey Tare (of Animal Collective), knife-wielding keyboard player Angel Deradoorian (of Dirty Projectors, Deradoorian), and the cannibal chief drummer and decaying grandfather Jeremy Hyman (of Ponytail, Dan Deacon). If LA is an environment to get lost in, as they claim, this group sewing roots in SoCal have become lost in the best way: relocating and reinventing sounds they’re already skilled in making, sounds that as Avey Tare says, are not only regionally unrestricted but that “come from a place that’s not human.” In that, the Slasher Flicks’ music is rather monstrous, like the band’s love of horror comic books, and is audibly underpinned by Avey Tare’s constant dedication to garage music distorted by miscreant artifice: Arthur Lee’s LOVE, Misfits, and Cramps. Slasher Flicks’ inaugural release undulates like a mirage: beyond the sonic space it creates, the band hopes it expresses something more synaesthetic, what they call “pure emotional space.”
Slasher Flicks is uniquely its own “jazz power trio,” but does find lineage in Avey Tare’s history of collaborations outside of Animal Collective (i.e. Terrestrial Tones with Black Dice’s Eric Copeland). Having composed the bones of these eleven songs on acoustic guitar, Avey Tare invited Deradoorian, to create melodic lines to flesh them out. Then, enter Hyman, whose backgrounds in painting and music proved his rare combo of flexibility and acuity, “free but structured”. For Hyman, Slasher Flicks has been a fun challenge, in that it’s the first time he’s played without multiple drummers. Which makes sense while listening, because at times it sounds like he has ten arms drumming simultaneously. Pounding, danceable beats alternate with breezier percussion even if it’s “hard to play soft” as Hyman says. The softer beats create dynamic, especially in the sweet pop jam “Little Fang,” which the band describes as “clean guitars, soft everything and special smoke called ‘PYT’ blown into the tape machine shows off spirits conjured from sweeter worlds.” The spirit of Michael Jackson’s “PYT” was conjured for “Little Fang,” yet many of the other tracks also embody the true spirit of this particular collective: Avey, Deradoorian, and Hyman’s independent signature talents, collaged with openly acknowledged inspiration and influence, informs and sustains Slasher Flicks. One immediately recognizes Avey Tare’s singular vocal styles and guitar riffs, Deradoorian’s mellifluous singing and Eno-style modular synth moments, and Hyman’s enervated drumming, but Slasher Flicks is densely layered and textured with completely new tones, moods, and notes.
And it is oddly jazzy—not literally but gesturally, procedurally—funk-jazz, rather, with expanded moments built in and plenty of prog improvisation harkening back to touchstones Weather Report, Soft Machine, Herbie Hancock (Head Hunters), even early Hall and Oates (War Babies). In keeping with the jazz vibe, the band recorded live and used only minimal overdubs; the live sound is key to Slasher Flicks’ spooky dynamism. So while there are nightmarish moments peppering the lyrics and melodies, there’s a sense of renewal, transformation through constant flux. As the band says, “happiness is just around the bend.”
Dustin Wong's second LP Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads, is a departure from Dustin's previous methods but more closely a distillation of his live show into recorded form. The pieces are so intricate and detailed that we've asked Dustin to explain his process and he happily obliges us:
"When I begin to explore and to build a song through a series of pedals, I begin with the tuner. It helps keep my guitar's pitch consistent. An octave pedal and the distortion pedals allows me to change the textures and colors of the guitar. The delay pedal determines the tempo and the pattern. Once these sounds are determined, it then gets replicated and repeated through a loop pedal. Repeating that process, I lay different sounds and melodies on top. After the loop pedal comes the envelope filter that changes the color of the sounds but in a different way, more like a blend or like a dye. At the end of this chain of pedals awaits another delay pedal that corresponds to the delay pedal before the looper, further accentuating and changing the patterns of the loop.
I see all these pedals as a kind of textile factory. The sheets and colors are determined then the patterns are laid on top, one layer after another until it becomes a fabric mille feuille. Once that cake looks done it gets replicated again through another delay pedal. I can keep building these sounds on top each other and decide whether I want to take half of the cakes slices or not, if i do, I can gaze at the symmetrical void of what I have taken.
I changed the recording process for Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads from the process used for Infinite Love. In Infinite Love I recorded every layer as a separate track dividing them up throughout the stereo-field, but in Dreams Say… it was all mostly recorded live with a few overdubs moving around in the stereo-field. The presentation of songs are also different, Infinite Love was presented as a whole, and in Dreams Say… I decided to have titles for each song or idea. In a way the physical documentation and the presentation of the idea got switched. Just like choosing how to see a light through a prism. Whether to see the fragmented light into the prism and out to the single ray of light or the other way around."
Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads will be available on both CD and LP and Dustin will be touring extensively in support of the new release throughout the coming year.