Hawkeyes – [Cassette]

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

In some cases, it's just impossible to appreciate something until you hear it. Such a claim may seem dubious, but it's true – and the proof is contained on Hawkeyes' new cassette, Poison Slows You Down.

Yes, you read that right – it's a cassette. Recently, hipsters have been trying to convince the world that, for the value of their economical nature alone (they're virtually indestructible), cassettes are the most pitifully underrated format in human history. To be fair, the recent promotion of cassettes has definitely been ambitious too; Dinosaur Jr. released a box set on cassette and sold it on tour, and several indie labels (including Lost Sound, Zap, Scotch Tapes and Prairie Fire – to name a few) have emerged to cater to the perceived demand for cassette releases, typified by the advent of Cassette Store Day on September 7, 2013. Somewhere, this must all be terribly exciting, but the truth is that the kitsch and hipster factors are what really sells cassettes in the new millennium; they really don't sound good and never have, and technology has in no way improved the medium.

With all that editorial now on the record, it stands to reason that readers can guess where this review is headed, but Hawkeyes have managed to do the unthinkable with the release of Poison Slows You Down: they've managed to incorporate the obvious shortcomings of cassette media  and actually use them to enhance the overall listening experience. The imperfections in the audio caused by flaws in the tape actually help to enhance the experience because, somehow, they suit the rugged tenor of the music.

Praise like that might seem like a glowing endorsement (it's intended to be), but listeners may wonder how deserved it actually is when they press play and “The Howling Damned” opens up. It will likely be difficult for listeners to get around the myriad pops and wobbles that the sound boasts as a byproduct of the imperfections in the medium but, as the muddy, ominous guitars and methodically-paced drums really begin to settle in, listeners who were unsure at first (and justifiably so) will be hooked. The grainy, almost two-dimensional sounds will encase listeners, and they'll feel as though they're just held, unable to do anything other than observe the music. Not only that but, because there are no vocals, there won't seem like there's any way out; listeners will be held captive whether they like it or not.

That first feeling of containment set up by “The Howling Damned” will absolutely be unnerving for listeners at first, but when they finally realize the size of the sound they're being hit with, no listener will be able to help feeling bowled over. The size of the drums and guitars (which sound like J. Mascis on a serious stoner rock trip) can only be described as monolithic and, when imperfections in this writer's review copy caused the song to seem as though it was clipping or breaking up, it seemed as though the sheer volume contained on the tape could cause the player to explode; the experience was just incredible and, as “The Howling Damned” gave way to “Their Lust Grows With Their Size,” the ambient, phase-shifted guitars play like the perfect kind of breather before the band sets to abusing listeners again with a similar kind of assault.

With such a strong showing on Side A in hand, that Hawkeyes are actually able to top themselves on the flip side of the cassette is impressive, but not really surprising. With the ice broken, Hawkeyes just keeps wowing listeners as “This Floor Is Snakes” amps up the band's low end and just hammers listeners with sheets of heavy grit (again) complimented by the grime of the recorded medium before really leaving on a most magical note for “March Of The Elephants.” For the last track on the four-song programme, Hawkeyes stirs up a truly psychedelic vortex of sonorous guitar which proves to be as vibrant as it is deep and forboding, and cross-wires every emotional reaction to it as a result; some listeners will say it's dark but elating while others will contend that it's the brightest, most despicable pedal steel-colored eight-minute exercise they've ever been subjected to. Either way though, anyone who listens to it will want to hear it again.

But Poison Slows You Down worth digging out an old tape player to listen? Well, the music that Hawkeyes makes successfully overcomes the obstacles that the medium is shackled with, but the promise of it is more obvious with the digital download card included with every cassette. It's possible to skip the physical and just buy it online too; which is probably the more gratifying, if also less novel, way to go.



Poison Slows You Down
is out now. Buy it here , directly from the band.

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