To me, the melding of analog and electronic music production is fascinating. There are so many ways of producing music today, and so many things that technology has made as easy as the click of a button. The possibilities of manipulating real instruments and pushing them through electronic devices are sheer endless. One very interesting example is the math rock project called Mochitsuki, which makes great use of tape manipulation techniques and glitch effects in conjunction with jangly guitars. Their album Dummy Plug recently caught my eye on our review list. Now, you might ask yourself how glitching guitars adds to the musical experience. Well, let me explain.
Let me start by saying that we find ourselves on the harsher, convulsing side of math rock; think more Don Caballero and less Chon. With that being said, we’ll have a look at the first song called “Dupes”. “Dupes” basically starts without any introduction, throwing weird, stuttering licks at the listener, accompanied by very dry-sounding, programmed drums. The little glitches that soon follow mixed with the constant stuttering and the seemingly shaking eq of the instruments creates this feeling of having more than a guitar, a bass, and some drums. It’s like brass stabs materializing backwards into existing, unsure where to fit in harmonically. This feeling of dimensionally torn instrumentation is solidified when the solo kicks in and the pitch of the guitar constantly ebbs and flows in and out of tune, with artifacts distorting the sound even further. This solo plays until the end of the very brief track, and after hearing it I was in awe. I wanted more of this crazy yet fun construction that had to either be the most spontaneous creation of music I’ve heard or the most detailed post-production anyone has ever given a record. No in between.
The next track, “Hard Stops Collider”, made me realize just how grating and punishing some of the drum sounds are due to their dry, almost overcompressed nature. When the bass drum kicks in, it’s like having your first morning coffee – this is a wake up call. While I think this track is a good continuation of “Dupes”, it shows just how much one can do to distort the sound of a recording through digital enhancements. It’s like having three robots playing and somehow you spilled a different soda over each, and now you can observe if coke or pepsi erodes their circuits faster. The sheer speed of the stuttering effects gives me motion sickness (in a good way). Tape manipulation was yesterday folks; we’re warping reality now!
The last song I want to talk about to fully encapsulate how this album sounds is “Box Breathing”. You see, “Box Breathing” is a very different track, as it is a lot more atmospheric and mellow than the prior songs. Here, the drums are basically a constant mash of textures repeating over and over again. On top of this textured chaos, the guitar harmonizes beautifully by constantly looping small phrases and stretching these to create lower octaves, time dilations, and little rhythmic intermissions. It’s quite fascinating hearing this track come together like a mosaic that only exists for as long as you observe it.
So what more is there to say about Dummy Plug? I mean yes, the production is somewhat amateur-ish, but it is clean enough and (in this context) quite charming. There is a certain raw, uncut style to the whole thing, which makes it even more authentic. If you like math rock and you always wanted to hear what it sounds like if Nick Reinhart was sucked into a computer, then be sure to check out Mochitsuki.