COOL PERSON: FOUND TAPE
Released / February 20, 2018
Recorded in / His home
Sounds like / Musique concrete
Inspiration/John Fahey, Alan Lomax, Sublime Frequencies
Key tracks / “Juicemen”, “Wretch Like Me”
Where to get it / Bandcamp
Instrument(s)/ Re-purposed machines
For Joshua Tippery, one man’s trash is another man’s instrument. Drawing from the depths of nostalgia and retro thrift stores, Tippery salvages long-abandoned equipment to produce what he calls “sound art.”
His latest release, Found Tape, reflects an appreciation for the art of the ordinary. Each track elicits an eerie sense of déjà vu with spliced-in snippets of everyday sounds: the chiming of what could be an ice cream truck, snatches of a chemistry lesson, clips of a futuristic staccato beat. It’s like a former self is reaching out of the past, carrying ghostly vocals, restlessly played piano keys and distorted guitar twangs with it.
Creating the album meant patching together sound bites scavenged from old recordings before playing them back on a loop, mixing them and putting them back together.
It’s like “a collage of sounds, just being remastered,” Tippery said.
Driven by a “thirst for simpler times,” Tippery is partial to plucking barely-audible refrains from foreign CDs and indistinguishable phrases from dusty cassette tapes. Gathering audio requires hours of scouring for “memorable bits” in sound effect albums and children’s educational tapes at garage sales and secondhand stores. Tippery spends countless visits to The Salvation Army bent over the vinyl pile.
But noise isn’t the only thing Tippery recycles. Over the course of 12 albums, he’s commandeered thrifted walkmans, old record players, and an archaic karaoke machine to create his musical collages. He’s been hooked on outsourcing sound from second-hand gear since college, when he first messed around with his roommate’s old keyboard.
“Even the instruments I use kind of make a name for themselves,” he said.
In the end, each tape is a composite of about 20 others, queued and ready to play in sequence. When Tippery performs live as “Cool Person,” he usually appears at Action Research, an ongoing series of experimental music shows held in small, DIY spaces. He often creates and plays tapes specifically for one event, a 20-minute blip in his discography.
“After that, the tapes get all out of order or lost and they are kind of gone forever,” he said. “It’s a kind of ephemera in that way.”
Tippery tries not to take music making too seriously. His mashups are done for fun with the knowledge that it’s hard to live off art.
“I’d definitely say that it is more about enjoying what you do than anything else,” he said. “You get a sense of pride from seeing 50 handmade mixtapes side by side.”•
By Maria Sobrino
MANNY BRAVO: HIGH DIVE
Released / February 14, 2018
Recorded in / His bedroom
Sounds like / Kendrick Lamar
Inspiration / Kanye West
Key tracks / “Why do N—-s Fall in Love”, “Left on Read 2k18”
Where to get it / Bandcamp, Soundcloud
Upcoming shows / working on next album
Instruments/ Vocals – Emanuel Griffin
Women are confusing, at least according to 21-year-old Emanuel Griffin, who raps as Manny Bravo. His feelings toward a blue-eyed girl led to the creation of his newest album High Dive, a compilation of seven introspective tracks born from the heartache of missed opportunities.
High Dive explores the rise and fall of relationships, from the excitement of infatuation and attraction to moments of bitterness and sorrow.
It’s a story of boy meets girl. Boy takes too long to reveal his feelings. Boy writes, produces and performs a body of music about what could have been.
“This album helped me come to terms with the fact I can’t control everything that happens in my life,” Bravo said. “You can’t make someone love you the way you want them to.”
In the privacy of his bedroom, Bravo dove deep into bottles of liquor, pretty girl-induced sadness and ultimately, reflection. The result is a mellow hip hop album fit for daytime drinking in an empty bar.
Bravo’s relatable lyrics combine with a familiar boom-bap, bass-driven style of rap to weave a narrative of his attempts to move on wearing a veil of indifference. But jazzy instrumentals in the form of Chet Baker’s lone piano and other slow, distorted samples tell another story.
The drowsy, lo-fi elements of the album don’t hide the hurt behind Bravo’s lyricism. His cadence fluctuates between heavily-altered vocals and mid-tempo rap in a style that’s choppy, raw and personal.
“If love is a drug then I’m trying to stay clean, because no one was at my bed when I OD’d,” he spurs with an attention-grabbing infliction of the voice, one of the many instances where Bravo sets his emotions on full display.
“I used to think that if you work hard and try to be a good person, things will work out,” Bravo said. “Unfortunately, stuff can go sour even if you do that.”
Bravos’ bedroom rap sessions cover a range of topics. His lyrics lay bare both his insecurities and the intimacy of allowing himself to fall for someone.
“It was a leap for me to be that vulnerable,” Bravo said. “I was afraid that people were going to hear these songs and think I’m some sort of sucker for love. Then I realized I didn’t give a f–k what people think because I’m speaking my truth. When you speak your truth, nobody can use it against you.” •
By Edysmar Diaz-Cruz
THE CO-PILOTS: BLACK RAINBOWS
Released / December 2017
Recorded in / His bedroom
Sounds like / Tame Impala
Inspiration / Sex Pistols, Bowery Electric
Key tracks / “Bleed Me Out,” “Flashing Lights,” “Emerald Isle”
Where to get it / Bandcamp
Instruments/ Tanner Williams – Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Keys, Drum, Programming
Ricky Brockway – Bass, Keys, Drums, Guitar on various tracks
Following the departure of longtime friend and co-producer Alex Roumbos, frontman Tanner Williams was ready to reimagine The Co-Pilots’ third album into his own uninhibited, experimental outlet. The result is Black Rainbows, a densely instrumental concept album that blends both songs and themes.
“My MO was to go as crazy as possible,” Williams said. “Every idea I had, I was going to throw in.”
Inspired heavily by the neo-psychedelic collective Tame Impala, the project is unnerved in instrumentation and lyric. It weds reverb synthesizers and lush, dreamy guitar to shuddered, melancholy vocals:
“And I all I can think is I don’t want to fall in love/ What’s the point of even falling in love?” Williams belts at the end of “Nude.”
“I love the dichotomy between lyrics that are insular, lonely, a little bit insecure, with music that’s expansive, bright and colorful,” Williams said.
The first two tracks, ”Invisible” and “Bleed Me Out,” set the album’s uncompromising tone. A synth-rock ballad on its surface, the sound intermittently depresses into a whirlwind of baritone synth melodies and bass licks before crescendoing into vaporwave-esque rock anthems.
The album’s mercurial quality reflects Williams’ struggle to find meaning in life.
“A black rainbow is like when you’re trying to convince yourself that everything is rosy and perfect but it’s actually fucked up,” Williams said.
Yet what makes Black Rainbows so sugary is its wavy guitar jams that propel you from the suffocating sloughs of space to the backseat of a convertible. By the end of “Flashing Lights,” you can almost feel the wind running through your hair.
The album is anchored by the band’s new bassist and keyboardist Ricky Brockway. Brockway, a keen technician proficient with the music software Ableton, helped Williams turn his vision into something tangible.
“This album would not have come out the way it did without Ricky’s help,” Williams said. “He says he only contributed 15 percent, but I don’t think I could have made this without him.”
Black Rainbows is part rosy pink, part matte black. But Williams said he revels in the gymnastics of juxtaposition:
“That’s where the sweet stuff is.” •
By Alcino Donadel