Tired Tape Machine is the solo project of Swede, Petter Lindhagen. With no idea what to expect at all, the opening track of Tired Tape Machine’s latest release immediately captivated me. Drawn in by the rumbling drone in the background and almost shrill counterpoint provided by strings, the melancholy acoustic guitar hooked my soul and set my feet firmly on a path into an enchanted forest.
As the mournful warmth of the harmony vocals of ‘Sisyphus’ rose and fell over a much less sinister acoustic guitar I knew I was not leaving this journey until it was done. This is music for contemplation and immersion. The first words of the album are, “It’s a hole that keeps on growing. It’s a hole I’ll try to fill.” And the music bears this out. The variety and mix of influences are vast and complex throughout and yet crafted together to form music that is bewilderingly simple and catchy. Don’t get me wrong, there isn’t a pop song in sight here. No power ballad chorus anywhere in this magical world. But there are repeated vocal lines, simple but effective guitar arpeggios and hypnotic melody lines. And we’re still in the first real song on the album.
RELEASE DATE: 19 November 2014 LABEL: Feeder Recordings
These threads of melancholy and warmth suffuse this album. This album feels like it could be a nervous breakdown and recovery done in slow motion. Tracks such as “Stella’s Other Waltz” are mesmerising fantasies. Echoing ambient electronic sounds lead to a majestically sombre solo piano. This in turn develops at its midpoint to a lush arrangement of strings and shimmering guitar chords before the repeat of the original piano line. In the restating of this piano line it is doubled by what sounds like a glockenspiel perhaps, reminiscent of the tones produced by child’s music box,. This is a theme I notice across the whole album. The juxtaposition of almost creepy, dark, drone noises, typical of dark ambient music are balanced by childlike chimes that float like memory above it all. This song is a full fairytale in under four minutes.
‘Your Ghost’ introduces what sounds like a live drumkit and a very Americana sounding solo guitar. Loud and twangy in the solo sections and buttressed by haunting vocal harmonies. The whole song is threaded through with a rising and falling synth that seems out of place on first listen. Something about this really has an almost trip hop vibe. Repeated listens are a must for this whole album as there is so much depth here that different elements stand out each time. And whilst these songs work well individually, I must praise the composition of the album itself. The songs flow in a musical narrative. The album is a larger representation of each of the songs in the way it rises and falls, ebbs and flows and builds finally to its own definite climax and release.
I don’t understand the logic of having the track ‘Stella’s Waltz’ coming later in the album than the aforementioned ‘Stella’s Other Waltz’ but I have enjoyed coming up with reasons for this. ‘Stella’s Waltz in fact being a much brighter piece than its predecessor and full of hope and light with solo piano again being the primary voice.
The album closer ‘Bury’ really wraps the album up. Lush violin melodies vie with and then dance together with that bright solo guitar. The original vocal melody from ‘Sisyphus’ makes a timely return and for me, this really unifies the album. There is also a much busier rhythm section in this song with drums and bass providing a really interesting and active backbone to the other elements.
But what is this music? It’s part chamber music, part post-rock in portrayal though not necessarily expected instrumentation, nor in song length. No song is ever in danger of overstaying its welcome. Part experimental, part shoegaze and a fine fusion of electronic and organic elements. The bandcamp page also refers to post-folk, a tag I’ve not personally come across before. I can sort of see how that fits but it would not be a tag I would bestow. I find the layers of strings and vocals to be some of the moments that grab hold of me most tightly. In fact, there are no solo vocal lines on this album. Each vocal moment, be they sounds or words, are almost choral in nature.
I don’t want to do a full track by track breakdown of this album because there is unadulterated pleasure in discovering its twists and turns for yourself. This is truly a magical musical journey that should be conducted without a step by step guide lest the wonders that await are revealed before their time. I’ve not managed to listen to this album without having to hear it in its entirety. It’s not really a short album, coming in at about the 41 minute mark but the time just disappears.
The production needs a definite mention here as well. No matter how much is going on at any one time (and it can be a heck of a lot), nothing is overwhelmed or buried. Everything is clear and sharp. It’s easy on the ears. The way you can hear the air of a room in some sections doesn’t feel accidental. This album presents itself as being so well thought out and planned and produced that the room sound (whether real or perhaps enhanced) becomes a part of the instrumentation.
Overall, this album is quite simply, phenomenal. Get it. Set aside some time. Revel in it. Music this good deserves to be listened to.