Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Dylan Ettinger - Safari Zone, Bread of the Dead

Dylan Ettinger is a man on a mission. From his face-melting blend of chaos and catchiness that goes into his live set with his band, The Rude Dudes, to his label El Tule, which is putting out a variety of music on cassette, Ettinger exudes passion for music and artistry that belies his age. If you are fortunate enough to have seen him or heard any of his music, it will come as no surprise that his two most recent releases, Safari Zone and Bread of the Dead are both beautiful in their own right.

Safari Zone, which was released on Dylan's own label, is a sterling juxtaposition of groove, chaos, and nostalgia. The opening track of side A, Gameboys begins with the construction of a sonic wall that eventually resolves into a melodic section whose simplicity reminds one of its namesake. The following song, Sub Sub grooves hard and makes use of a veritably infectious synth hook as well as driving percussion and effected vocals to produce a piece that lends itself well to getting lost in the music. The final track of the side begins with meandering percussion, distorted synth swells, distant vocals, and a laser-like drone. This track treads familiar territory for many listeners, and it is to Ettinger's credit that he can own the textures so convincingly. This track builds to a final disintegration resting on a single sustained not and a snippet of conversation, and throughout the build the drummer on the album shows great patience in his part, bringing a dynamic sense that is lost on many percussionists that seem to be merely a time-keeping formality when it comes to playing this sort of music.

Side B opens with the beautiful Love Song which centers around a bell-like melody fed back into itself to make an almost crystalline musical aura. Beneath this comes shimmering swelling textures and chant-like vocals that seem to float somewhere behind everything else. This is not your typical love song, but it might be one of the most honest, owning up to the inexpressibility of its subject and walking the razor's edge in terms of sound between ecstasy and agony, such as can be the case in life. Following this, Ocean Rain defies its new-age-sounding title and puts a different perspective on instrumental reflections on nature's work while still being honest about its inspiration. The final track, the title track of the album, builds off of samples from the game Pokemon, from which the name Safari zone comes. Eventually percussion comes in and propels the track to a sparkling finish that evolves into an almost tribal chant over a drone that sounds beautifully organic, especially given its digital source material.

The second tape that I have of Ettinger's is Bread of the Dead. The opening track is a complementary piece to the second track on Safari Zone, making use of similar instrumentation and some saxophone work by Clark Joyner, the percussionist on Safari Zone. This tape seems more aqueous than the other one and uses a sonic palette that is warm shimmering. On this tape Ettinger makes use of some of the material from the infamous Buddha Machine and bears witness to his ability to paint sonic landscapes with tangible depth.

Overall, Ettinger's maturity in his output is what stands out as his greatest quality. Both tapes are extremely well put together and all of the strengths of the first carry over to the second. It would be useless to say that either is better, except on the basis of textural preference. Furthermore, his choice to put these out on tape rather than on cdr or something similar is a wise artistic choice that really brings out the strengths of the medium itself. The warmth of cassette is done much justice in this music and complements the production style of these two releases. The work and reflection that has gone into these two releases transcends its ephemeral availability. The amount of thought in these two releases is rare in the tape world and is on par with much of the material coming out on much bugger experimental labels.

Ettinger mentioned that a new batch of the second tape will be available soon and that the first is still in print, pick both of them up soon as they will disappear quickly it Ettinger's reputation parallels the quality of his music.

Both tapes get a 9.3/10, to make room for future improvement.

Both releases will be found on the EL TULE page, http://www.myspece.com/tapeseltule

Good job kid.

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