1.7.21 by Ryan Masteller
Yet again, for the second or third time [Ed.: It’s way more than that], Strategic Tape Reserve drops a release that takes our concept of a musical form and upends it so we can’t even recognize how we relate to it, or even who we are. This is not a bad thing – on the contrary, I don’t think there’s a label that’s challenged my conceptions of genre and style the way STR has over the past couple years. The Cologne-based label just keeps knocking high concept after high concept out of the park, well over the center field wall and into the thoroughfare that passes the stadium on its way to the beltway, and from there out into suburbia and probably your home. Of course this metaphor only works if what is knocked out of the park is a tape, and where it lands is directly in your car stereo. Let’s go with that for now.
Here it’s Ergo Phizmiz’s turn – yeah, that’s his name, and he’s apparently insanely prolific – and “Elmyr” features a classic STR Photoshop job of the most innocuous-looking bearded, bespectacled, and be-fedora’d nerd standing seven stories tall in the middle of an apartment complex swimming pool, keyboard in hand, grinning like he’s your dad at a Halloween party. The whole vibe is Eastern European market bootleg, and it really looks the part. It does NOT, in any way, suggest what the music is going to be like, but once you hear the music itself, it also isn’t crazy at all. Phizmiz obviously loves music, loves pop music, loves electronic music, and it’s clear before anything even happens that the Spice Girls and Vengaboys are going to play at least a spiritual role. They do more than that, but before they do (and while they do it), “Elmyr” becomes the living embodiment of imaginary Beck funk demos. Now THIS should not be a surprise – the j-card, after all, is emblazoned with subtitles and other bursts, like “Super Pop Music (Non-Stop)” and “16 Tracks / Don’t Be Lax.”
Dude’s having fun. NOT making fun.
Wobbly discofied hip-hop workouts run smack into pop album cutting-room-floor detritus, as Rick James somehow coexists in the same shared universe with Geri Halliwell (who is sampled! And deified?) and Thomas Dolby. I guess they all (sort of) exist in our current universe, but this is a different universe. So while this disco/hop/experi/pop tidal wave (75 minutes of music counts as a tidal wave) rushes over your mind, Phizmiz injects the whole thing with ACTUAL Spice Girls tunes, basically doing “Wannabe” in its entirety in “Music for Wannabes” and reprising the concept in “The Tea Is Silent.” He’s clearly fascinated with them (gosh, I was too back in the day – I, the indie rock poster boy, had a poster of them on my wall, and it was only sort of ironic), and it bizarrely works. I was not as invested in Vengaboys (read: not at all), so I had to research what songs they did. Turns out their dance pop hits “We Like to Party” and “We’re Going to Ibiza” (I stopped my research there) show up in “The Overhead Lines (Going to Ibiza)” and “Venga Airways Gets Back to Work Post Pandemic,” the latter of which is amazingly tense as it closes out the tape.
I can’t pick a favorite here.
What I can do is get you moving – “Elmyr” only exists in an edition of 40, so do yourself a favor and get the LAST ONE listed on the Bandcamp page! You don’t want to have to wait to troll Discogs, do you?