Stones Throw & Leaving Records Present: Dual Form
Dual Form is a calling card, released as part of an announcement that Stones Throw - the label which should (if it isn't already) be your first port of call for the "weird" and experimental side of hip-hop - have become proud distributor for Leaving Records who, since 2003, have been releasing similarly weird music to Stones Throw. Their USP, though, is they release everything on cassette, that most fickle and ephemeral of music formats (outside of digital, anyway).
Dual Form, reads the labels' joint press releases, "is a 53-minute dive into the musical other, a place where freedom of form meets depth of vision, where the old world rhythms meet new world means, and where your labels - wonky, lo-fi, ambient, body music, nerd shit, beat scene, No Wave, pysch, pop - begin to fall apart.” Which, er, is correct. Musically, Dual Form isn't too much of a challenge. That's not to say it's conventional, it's just such a grab bag that it's hard to put down in writing (that dancing about architecture feeling).
Except no, to go back to that calling card idea again, you know that scene in American Psycho, with the business cards? Listening to Dual Form is like watching that. Not because you're worried somebody's about to get killed, but because each track is almost a one-up to the one that comes before it, steadily rising in quality.
The minimalist two-step of The Cyclist – which sounds like a stripping of all the vocals and string section from Massive Attack's 'Unfinished Sympathy' – ambles along nicely enough until the beat-heavy, codeine flow of Davis stumbles into it. Oscar McClure's 'Labelle Gross' can scarcely decide on what card it wants, shifting from a spacey Clams Casino-style instrumental beat into a sort of free-jazz-on-fast-forward piece of...I don't even know. From there we get Julia Holter covering Arthur Russell live, her voice going off on tangents as a crowd mutters below here like a backing track; Sun Araw, who seem to have left such bourgeois musical structures as choruses, hooks or even an identifiable rhythm behind long ago, choosing instead to float through a Steve Ditko-space of free-floating squelchy synths, falsetto squeals and other funny noises; Dem Hunger is instrumental hip-hop with a little more bite; and Dream Love are like Daniel Johnston-gone-synthpop.
(Side-bar: the majority of the tracks appear in truncated form so, whilst compelling calling cards they may make, how good a full album of each artist might work is kind of vague)
Even listening to a digital copy – cassette's disposable sister format – there's that familiar crackle, warm analogue feel and ever-so-slight sneaking suspicion that the creasing or tangling of the magnetic tape is adding to the freaky sounds coming out of your speakers. A suitably, enjoyably hodge-podge mix from a pair of eclectic labels that never stand still for too long.