Preset Music (Constellation Tatsu; CS/DL)
Preset Music was recorded in Berlin by OCA, a duo comprised of Yo van Lenz and Florian T M Zeisig, and it’s one of the fresh Summer batch from Oakland’s tape imprint, Constellation Tatsu. From the very first note of HeavenCent you are straddling a 70’s new wave loopy electronica beach vibe, crystalline and bright – with a retro edge. Think downtempo French band Air, distilled down to its ambient essence. They use a vocal sample that adds to the naive sense of wonderment. The synths are stretched just so. Nylon uses a repeated strumming jingle and layered minor percussion effects that have an upbeat, yet forlorn and shy appeal. It’s a little harmony with its head held below the clouds and into the sand.
The title of the album would seem to give the two a certain artistic license to create something cheeky, poking fun at commercial sounds, venues, etc. And by all means it does, but it takes a few extra steps and cautions along the way. On Astro Pong a stripped down set of synthy channels are woven together from game-like soundtracks and something emulating a Fairlight. I can certainly appreciate the way this tape just slightly escapes genre-fication.
Their updated, wry take on the delusional Philip Glass-ian repetitive loop on MalibuNite is a fun ride. The melody is sprite and quite colorful in tone, almost sounds visual if that can be imagined. The track has a bouncy dimension, sounds as though it’s recorded in a large, round space. Then comes FallnAngel which is a tinge darker, but in its wake comes off as filler and intermediate, not much impact, though the vibes (the instrument, not the feels) are nice. It’s the lengthiest piece at over twelve minutes, and if this were a live set it might be likely where they would be performing a costume change while session players took over the stage to warm the audience.
As a debut this shows promise in terms of their youthful, diverse approach, and though shape-shifting the conceptual order of some of the tracks may benefit, it’s got an exciting, experimental hippy feel that allows for a sordid, more edgy approach. Harmo Rain is a dense short that has a hiss filter that creates a half-wall of drone, again the theme is darker, but here there is an edge of suspense and curiosity. This type of short form vignette really works in the context of OCA’s overall sound. The final cut, East Pond, sounds pulled from a soundtrack, something indicative of “after the tragedy” in scope. It’s coolly distant, undulating in harmony and a bit dreamy. This feels as though it was lifted from an entirely other recording, standalone, floating in space – but somehow works dramatically as the tail-end of this otherwise free and light abstract set.