I approached this record with very few preconceived notions, except for thinking that the title I Guess Sometimes I Need to be Reminded of How Much You Love Me was a bit risky. Having read only a brief biography, learning that Magnétophone are a duo from Birmingham, England who fancy old synthesizers but not having heard any of Matt Saunders’ and John Hanson’s music (not surprising considering that their four prior singles only enjoyed a combined press run of 3318 copies), I really had no idea what to expect from Magnétophone. But I gladly admit that I was struck during my first listen to I Guess Sometimes… and I continue to listen to the record somewhat religiously as a wind-down album, often trying to decipher the LP’s enormity while fading in and out of sleep.
Most striking immediately, and with repeated listens, is Magnétophone’s cavernous sound on the remarkably curt opening track “Oh Darlin’”. Keyboard texture of the Aphex Twin/Autechre variety but pushed to a greater sonic depth over such a short span supports a echoing splay of percussion. Just as the track seemingly prepares to unfold into a massive second phase, it abruptly halts, not even two minutes elapsed. Magnétophone retains that jarring quality throughout the remainder of the record, a constant study of contradiction, never really following the pattern the listener thinks they are out to establish.
The seven-minute long “Frankholmes’ Drive” begins with a torrid arrangement of beats and distorted effects, yet a balmy synthesized melody sneaks in behind the cacophony. The synth undercurrent delicately trails trance-like as the forceful beats stand in a continuous juxtaposition as if Magnétophone has simply recorded one track over the top of another. “Californium” likewise pairs the electronic vibes of a slow-motion arcade with a beckoning sythesizer loop for an oddly shaped consonance.
Magnétophone proves masters of mood as well, weaving a two-minute track like “Californium” into a more drawn out six-minute missive, “Temporary Lid/Georgia” before refocusing for the simple, multi-textured two-minute experiment using multiple recitations of the same loop on “How I Learned to Love the Future”.
As the record moves into its final phase, it becomes strangely apparent how appropriate the album title is after all. The emotional succession of “Why Stop When it Feels so Good?”, “Grateful Aren’t We?”, “So Much As Hold My Hand”, and “Love Needs You” is a dazzlingly complex and emotive progression (as well as final regression) and meditation on relationships within the electronic music context. With Magnétophone it is the sounds, the perplexing symmetry of the tranquil and the transgressing, that speaks louder than words.
// Notes from the Road
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