Wreck and Reference have left me bamboozled, wrongfooted by their self-applied ‘electronic doom’ tag and generally unsure of what to make of them.
Two guys from Sacramento, Wreck And Reference have made Black Cassette available across several different formats over the course of 2011, originally via self-promotion, and now with the help of a couple of labels who’ve pressed it up onto shiny discs of vinyl and….uhh…plastic and tinfoil.
So, exactly what is it that has left me so befuddled?
Well, their schtick is that they don’t use guitars, relying instead on the drums of Ignat Frege and the multi-instrumental skills and vocals of Felix Skinner, channelled through a sampler/controller set-up, to pump out self-confessed ‘electronic doom tinged with no wave’, okay?
See, this is where my puzzlement lies: by and large the sound made here isn’t exactly ‘doomy’ – perhaps in the loosest terms applied to, say, the ‘doomy’ feel of some post-punk music, teetering on the edge of ‘goth’ – not in the sense of ‘doom’ as a form of music, notable exceptions being the last half of ‘Surrendering’, with it’s almost cinematic sampling of what sounds like a flute, chopped and stretched to form a melancholy overture, arcing over a surging morass of what sure as hell sounds like guitars to me, something that can also be heard in the seriously epic doom of ‘Desire, Ether’ – Doom on an epic scale, for the most part, replete with harmonised twin guitars…albeit noisily rendered ones below a layer of murk. Aside, however from those moments, the rest of Black Cassette falls squarely into the ‘No Wave’ camp, being as it is, a great deal of directionless hissing lo-fi murk, driven by exemplary drumming and topped off with a slightly arch vocal performance of a distinctly ‘David Tibet-ish’ hue.
Don’t get me wrong, Black Cassette isn’t TERRIBLE, its just that it feels unfocussed and as far as sound quality goes, well, it does Wreck And Reference no favours. Tracks like closing number ‘A Lament’ would seriously benefit from some clarity and beef in the production department as it is clear that beneath the lo-fi patina there IS something of worth trying to make itself heard….which leads us to the other major issue – I don’t know exactly who or what Wreck And Reference are, or are trying to be.
They’ve been given the tag of ‘electronic doom’, which is vastly misleading really, and other write-ups have mentioned aspects of pop and melody in their sound that I just don’t hear – with the exception of the afore-mentioned closing track – so, what exactly ARE they trying to be?
Now, I’m not attempting to straighjacket them within a specific genre, but on the basis of Black Cassette they sound too nebulous and unformed to really even have an identity. I’m all for eclecticism, but that isn’t even a tag that could be applied here – Wreck And Reference sound like something with potential, buried beneath a wall of nothingness. Occasional cracks let that potential spill out, but there just aren’t enough of ’em. It’s my hope that they treat Black Cassette as nothing more than a basic demo and put some serious work and thought into their overall sound before releasing anything else…but then, y’know, that’s just one man’s opinion.
There IS potential here, they just need to let it out of the straightjacketing murk.
Scribed by: Paul Robertson