Friday, January 16, 2015
Cassette Review: Underwater Death "All I Have Of You Are Radio Waves" (5cm Recordings)
[$5 // Edition of 25 // http://5cmrecordings.bandcamp.com/album/all-i-have-of-you-are-radio-waves]
When I was first introduced to Underwater Death I was also introduced to Underwater Escape from the Black Hole. The projects are by the same artist but have been explained as being separate simply because everything is mainly done under the UWEFTBH name but when it doesn't quite feel like the same vibe as that then it goes under this one. I suppose a lot of artists could do that, and especially the good ones could because the other option would just be having a catalog of music that all sounds the same. Although someone such as Flaming Lips can show us that you can in fact have an extensive back catalog without every release sounding the same yet needing a different name. But whatever. I'm not here to discuss the names because to me it's a matter of whether or not I have to type two words- Underwater Death- or a string of letters: UWEFTBH. Personally, I prefer to type Underwater Death just because they are actual words and every time I type out "UWEFTBH" I have to do so by saying the name.
What I find important here- as everyone should really, and as I should with every cassette as well- is the music found within. This starts with a ringing, a rattling of whirrs which turns into tones. It gets slowed down in this crawling pace and then something such as the Nine Inch Nails' song "Something I Can Never Have" comes through which is ultimately just spelling despair. This feeling seems appropriate since the name implies drowning, but then there are some uplifting ahhhhs before audio clips come out. There is that one Rush note of drone before it just becomes much more overall peaceful and relaxing. i like to think of this as the accepting of one's fate. Perhaps your leg is caught and you know there is no chance of you reaching the surface so you've stopped struggling and decided to make peace with the fact that your time is about up and you've had a good run. Side A ends with piano type tones mixed inside the sound of waves crashing which is closer to the ocean than the radio waves in the cassette title, so you have to at this point imagine the scene has gone from being under the ocean to being above it, a sort of fade out into the endless sea.
Side B opens with a somewhat "Phantom of the Opera" feel and given that this is about being underwater and that the first side painted a clear picture for me, all I can imagine is not so much that this is about that particular Phantom per se but more of a story of someone who was killed, left for dead and, well, didn't die. So when I thought initially on the first side that the victim was drowning accidentally now I see it more as being an act of murder as they somehow did not die (or are coming back as a ghost sort of idea) and are coming back for their revenge. It's everything from The Crow to Kill Bill to... Well, you get the idea. Through synth guitar tones there is some mild distortion and this just creates a scene where you know it is about to go down. Side B consists of two tracks and the first ends with pianos while the second also begins with them. There is an overall feel of destruction at the end here, on the last track. It's Nine Inch Nails again, but not in the way we heard earlier. It's beeps, frequency changes and spoken words. It is the sound of someone unleashing their wrath and this story coming full circle.
I fully realize that given the title of this cassette I should have some pictures in my mind about this being someone lost and what remains of them. Perhaps the first side is Person A dying and Side B is Person B dealing with it. Perhaps I've just watched too many revenge flicks. But that's what I like most about this cassette-- it leaves that room for interpretation. It isn't straight up "Okay, this is what's happening here", but rather you could tell this story a few different ways. It's layered and it's complex, not just in the music but in the story it tells. More often than not I hear something and when it comes alive in my mind that sort of movie it creates for me becomes how I see it and, well, what is seen cannot be unseen. This is the first time that I've actually heard a cassette where I feel like the story isn't set in stone like the others but could be more like a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book and that's pretty terrific.