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Cloaks: Reassemblage (Rvng Intl.)

Fellow
Portlanders Spencer Doran and Matt Carlson’s Reassemblage surfaced
early in 2017, but I didn’t hear it until recently. I’ve been
immersed in its seductively canned palette of Eastern influences and
sounds, dipping their toes fully into the same library and MIDI sound
flirtations of contemporary acts like Oneohtrix Point Never, Co La,
or even Jlin, but with a decidedly Japanese influence. It made sense
when in reading up on the duo that I discovered that Doran has compiled mixtapes of early 80s Japanese recordings that show
these influences clearly and honestly; as such, Reassemblage doesn’te
really come off as appropriation or pastiche but instead exudes an inspired reverence. They may not be trying to sound like Ryuichi
Sakamoto ca. 1980, but they manage to exude that spirit with an
effortless breeziness. There are numerous “traditional”
instruments to be found here, only they are often digital library
equivalents; much like Doran’s mixtapes collected “Fairlights,
Mallets, and Bamboo” and assembled them into a continuous mix,
Reassemblage finds the pair cobbling together influences and
inspiration and channeling that into a newly assembled body of work.
The digital sample method that Jlin has exploited to great success —
often repeating and machine-gunning samples over and over — is evoked here laterally, with digital instruments being
triggered sometimes in ways that feel haphazard or deliberately
“sprinkly,” the initial attack or gesture of the recorded sample
re-triggered each time to give it a transparently canned feeling, not
trying to hide that these are recreations, facsimiles,
approximations.

Reassemblage by Visible Cloaks

That these digital instruments weave so freely in and
out of more overtly manipulated synths and electronics only adds to
free spirit of Reassemblage, its eleven tracks bubbling
by like an active brook. Its lightness is one of its best virtues,
with very little low end in most of its tracks. Guest vocals
courtesy of Miyako Koda (featured also in Doran’s mixes) take “Valve”
more obviously into Japanese territory, its synths following Koda’s
spoken cadence as tightly as possible, while some of the other cuts
include breathy vocoder mixed seamlessly into the production, but my
favorites are cuts focused around bright and shimmering synth flourishes
like “Wintergreen” and “Screen.” Rather than overly pensive
or referential, Reassemblage feels sunny, airy, and animated —a
recommended ray of sunshine to combat the post-holiday blues.

Buy it: Bandcamp