Review Summary: “The future belongs to the analog loyalists. Fuck digital”
The eastern seaboard caught in the tail end of winter would be one of the last
places to find frolicking waves galloping towards sun drenched sand, and yet this hasn’t discouraged New Jerseyan Matthew Mondanile from remedying his cabin fever one bit on Ducktails’ third album, “Ducktails III: Arcade Dynamics”
. Sounding like the lovechild of Ariel Pink and Panda Bear, Mondanile’s latest project takes a more scenic route, diverting from the fuzz charged and sunbeam totting guitar pop of his previous releases in favor of a more relax and chilled sound. There’s a gentle and warm drone that lingers and washes over the waves of reverberated guitar lines, almost as if he placed a microphone on the shore of a beach and allowed it to capture the foamy hiss of the incoming tide. Choosing instead to house these pop gems within cassette tapes, the crackle and hiss is left to create a distant sound resulting in something both lonely and spacious.
Gentle and brief toe tapers make up a good half of the album, as Mondanile’s mastered blend of surf rock, psychedelic, and folk guitar playing takes the spotlight, crafting multiple melodies that bubble and move against one another. Relax and lose focus, and it all blends seamlessly
together into the sound of pastel painted hammock hideouts. The balance of noise and pop is expertly executed in songs such as “In the Swing”, “Hamilton Road”, and the ode to slackers, “Don’t Make Plans” (“Hey man, do you have a plan"/I don’t have plans to be a man/Hey man, what’s with all your plans"/I don’t make plans, I waste them man”
). While these songs don’t accurately portray Ducktails’ more unique sounds, the guitar work transforms these blissful and perfectly enjoyable tunes into finely crafted works. As the album continues on, the light and fluffy exterior sometimes slowly begins to melt into stranger and spacier drone pop pieces. The dripping “The Razor’s Edge” and hazy “Sunset Liner” are perfect examples of this. Possibly the album’s strongest moment is on the Noah Lennox collaboration, “Killing the Vibe”, and the ten minute long formless and wandering drone of “Porch Projector”. Both songs hold strong as Ducktails’ finest ventures into both the pop and drone territories.
“Ducktails III: Arcade Dynamics”
is a wonderful piece of fake imitated nostalgia, invested in the images of plastic palm trees, cheap coconut shaped cups, and dollar store leis. Growing up in California and spending countless
weekends with my dad playing with mix tapes and worn down home video recordings, I can’t help but have a soft spot for this sort of fuzzy, “glo-fi” nostalgia. Listening is akin to dreaming while half awake and half asleep; lucid hallucinations and dreams stirred together into an anabolic mixture. It’s a testament to what Steve Albini once said, “The future belongs to the analog loyalists. *** digital”
, and bedroom bound narcoleptic analog whizzes like Matthew Mondanile seem to be the inheritors.