Tim Thornton (4) – Teenage Tiger: Four Track Recordings 1997-2000

5.31.22 by Matty McPherson

I feel as if I’ve been on a weird time travel odyssey the last while here. I can’t quite explain it, but just know the music seems to be a sort of variable at play here. I think this happens to us as a species more often than we know to articulate.

Anyways, we turn our attention to Mr. Tim Thornton (4), the local at the vinyl plant as well as the caretaker of Suite 309. When I’m on the local street corner or online formus slinging tapes, I’m always YAPPIN to people that they “have to get 101 Notes on Jazz; it’s so good!” Truth is, Thornton’s Suite 309 is an institution. In between Tim’s own releases (Tiger Village, TItanic II, various samplepedias) is offering one helluva platform for “electronic that goes hard” in various formats. In 2021 we got Silver Soul and Headache Bait, two releases with which words genuinely escape me in expressing the MAGNITUDE of what these pros are doing. To Sophiaaaahjkl;890 and hyphyskazerbox, your tapes are personal triumphs; I deeply love those undersung releases.

Today’s focus though is not on a return to 2021, but a return to the end of the millennium. Teenage Tiger: Four Track Recordings 1997-2000 is quite the welcoming and heartwarming release from Thornton; a genesis that lays out everything on the table. Tapes don’t just come with that Jcard presenting a fat stack of 4-track tapes and whatnot; we got a fatstack of liner notes and personal observations from Tim himself! And if there’s one thing that can be expected about those notes, it is that they are damn precise. You will likely learn: where and how Tim acquired a Fostex XR-5, what year he heard Aphex Twin, how he went to Florida, and what DVDs he liked in the year 2000. This is all important stuff for the Tabs Out 2027 Trivia Showdown, so PAY ATTENTION!

I have a huge heart for these kinds of rudimentary experiments–there’s an energy and ethos of exploration that works its way through Tim’s recordings even to the present day. By 1999 he was mostly using a “fostex xr-5 four track, boss ddr-660 drum machine, dod dfx91 delay/sampler, digitech rp3 pedalboard, toy keyboards, and rock instruments” to just fuck around with and make his own odysseys. By 2000, it was a strategy that was procuring Meen Man, a piece of samplepedia crossed with hogwashy drum n’ bass and (basically) 4-bit 240p action sounds. The sound of an MTV summer crossed with a potent amount of Code Red. Of course, most of Tim’s material here doesn’t reflect 2000. The endearingly haphazard Tires (1998) skirts and tumbles without a proper dance attached to it. It is one of many tracks perpetually on the fritz. 

In a way, I’m reminded of Bellectronic, the fascinating Techno footnote STR unearthed last year, mostly because both tapes are the products of one person engaging with a facet of mass culture in their own private way. With Tim’s recordings though, you sense someone who keeps finding NEW things as a teenager to fuck around with; songs are journals and timecapsules. He buys a matrix DVD and starts playing with his favorite quotes. He needs to submit something for the band teacher and basically puts a couple of ideas in a blender just to fuck with the fella (Audition Tape (1997)). He takes apart Elevators and basically makes a piece of illbient, DJ Braille (2000), that could’ve accidentally been slotted next to Techno Animal. It doesn’t matter that any of this is beginner’s luck. I’m just genuinely moved by the fact that with a nascent internet, Tim was just honing in on his own processes and modes in a way that felt more regional, landlocked, and curious. If there was a generational ancillary to Tim Thornton, it might have been one of those youtube MLG poopsters from the early to mid-2010s. Sometimes Four Track Recordings radiates THAT kind of magic energy I miss so dearly.

What is undeniably lingering over a lot of this release in some way is Richard D. James. One day, Tim is greeted by The Aphex Twin on the TV and hears a stereophonic drum sound he wants to troll with, affording him a track that’s basically just PS1 boss music, W (1998). From here on out you can basically run a calculation to figure out how much Aphex he could afford to buy or acquire sans import prices and what he really wanted to ape or gouge from. I seriously had thought part of Siol (1999) was egging Isopropanol’s Roland synthesizers, until Tim revealed his usage of the Rebirth RB-338 Roland emulator. God, what an open and welcoming trickster.

Edition of 60 home-dubbed tapes with silver shells and silver backed norelco cases available at the Suite 309 Bandcamp Page