Burning Plastic Blues Band – Peculiar Refractions in the Fullness of Time
11.7.22 by Matty McPherson
Unifactor’s Fall 2022 Batch arrived quietly in the night with a graphic redesign emphasizing a special blend of rudimentary geometry that suggest electronic sleights and dimensions. As ever, Unifactor remains a majestic stop n’ shop for the latest in “the noises people make out in the midwest area writ large”. The network of alum that sprout out from Jason Gercyz’ label always know to use their Unifactor release wisely as a liminal zone to hash out a newfound MO or let loose with jam logic outside their own canons. Noah Depew is sort of label alum–having designed j-cards for the spring 2020 batch right as COVID hit into high gears. He’s done bips and baps of solo tapes amongst time in solo configurations. But, this is his time to prove his one man show, The Burning Plastic Blues Band. Even if a noisenik like Noah Dephew may not be a household name, the passion is tenacious and is a radical act of serious leisure He culls together a incandescent vision on Peculiar Refractions in the Fullness of Time with a new slight thematic endeavor towards electronic noise and irradiant synthesizer wonders that feel homespun.
Now with a name like that and a title “Peculiar Refractions in the Fullness of Time” (amongst the track title “Boomer’s Discotheque”) you’re probably wondering, is this guy opening for 2k22 Stereolab? Sadly, no (the other lads are a talented crew though). His release though is an absolute colossal one guy setup: 80s Korg synth, couple nice gtrs, Eurorack, 5U custom modular system. Lotta ideas in those bad boys that I imagine the groop could salute. For in the hands of Dephew, he makes some absolutely warped, almost-pop acid-logic jams. Side A is the rapturous, if not wonky, side. Refracted’s mass of synthesizer arpeggios, galactic bass, and swizzling ephemera introduce us to Dephew’s knack for pacing. Looping swirly baselines and synthesizer twirls coalesce and interlock on each other jamming out. Yet, that brief aura of exhilaration and transcendence slyly suggests that he isn’t content staying in one position; motion must be activated. When it fades back in, Splinter Cycle opens with a beguiling arpeggio bleep-down and rollicking movement, that begins to de-emphasize the bleep-down in lieu of wonky alien-green bass goo. Those kinds of eerie sounds follow on the anti-lounge of Compulsion, as well as Acceptance; the latter piece in particular finds a generous helping of unnerved haptic flickers being cooed into gargantuan bliss via synthesizer patch layering and near-voice digital harmonics until its just a bubble bath.
Side B is the “jammier” side, a sort of 4-part suite. Although calling it that still detracts from the austerity of its ambient tones and uneasy feelings that arise. You might wonder what such an environment entitled “Boomer’s Discotheque” entails, as its crystalline yet oh so icy-synths recall ammonia sterilized sanatoriums more than ancient dance-floors preserved like fossils in amber. It vaguely begs a question of 20th century social spaces and why they hold such a reverence even as the energy flashes and libido have all but left. When it fades out, it wildly shifts towards the slow and steady tropical synth arpeggios of Shattered Crystal 77, a jam of spidery webs and connect-the-dots rigidity. Eventually though, for two minutes Dephew hits a blissed plateau with the mineral water stillness of Blue Delusion. Closing with Avenue of Peace, Dephew mends the most spacious and ample of this open zone sound design. As weightless as the piece may starts, as soon as he dials into his univox, he unleashes a droney and vivid guitar solo. At first, it skips across the speakers, before lashing and sashaying about like a moment of weightless radiance–nothing in Unifactor catalog has quite sounded this blissed since the 2019 High Aura’d tape. A well warranted panorama of Dephew’s talents, and a bonafide high point for the label’s curation
I spent a solid month with this tape only because I really could not quite untangle the words I wanted to say here. Peculiar Refractions’ cyclical logic, itself the result of that Stereolab-name drop worthy sound design and technology, just happens to fulfill a rather particular realm of deep listening ambience that has been missing in the tape underground this year; the kind not of lost futures, but of possible musics. Perhaps you might think so as well.
UF052 is available as a Limited Edition cassette and as part of the Unifactor Batch #17 Bundle at the Unifactor Bandcamp Page