Hobo Cubes & Jonathan James Carr – Split

A split cassette by Montréal’s Hobo Cubes (whose album A Singular Dream provides the artwork above) and Seattle’s Jonathan James Carr released on Constellation Tatsu.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am rarely one for psychedelia, and I have long had trouble handling the genre’s maximalism. It partly related to the origins of my turn to electroacoustic and experimental music in the first place – as both an exploration of music beyond that for popular consumption, and as a conscious rejection against said music, or more particularly, the hegemony of its production and distribution (don’t get me started on intellectual property rights reform…). Granted, those were heady days, and writing off the cultural content of whole peer groups doesn’t accomplish much besides making you the socially awkward one.

I am not, of course, attempting to conflate the music of these two to such a corporate environment – indeed, it is perhaps created with some of the same conscious opposition to expectation that I mentioned above. However, I will say that on a personal level I have always found minimalism (ie. music that takes itself far too seriously) something of a safe haven in streets (and posts (and apps)) full of marketing, noise and constantly mutating stimuli.

And the latter is just what one finds on this album: a barrage of different styles, tunings, sounds, devices, rhythms. Beneath it all, most importantly, a willingness to play. To use every silly preset on the keyboard until you find one that works, to chant ominously over cosmic synthesizer chords, to name your work ‘Stereo Voice Of The Tuned Dolphinizer’ (or your alias ‘Hobo Cubes’).

This is music that demands your attention every moment it unfolds, never settling, never repeating, consistently changing mood. Hobo Cubes’ side begins with beat and sample jousts not far removed from Hype Williams, but only briefly, before the atmosphere darkens into industrial tones. Carr begins with swirling polyphonies quickly breaking into expertly melded phasing and modulation experiments. I am unsure of how much improvisation is present in the two works, but it sounds very much off-the-cuff, and is all the stronger for it.

All that said, the split is not without its moments of grace either. On its own, the middle section of Carr’s side would be a bit soporific. When it follows his riotous intro, it comes as a gentle and well-deserved respite, before growing ominous and descending into insistent step-filtering self-destructing minor chords. With around 6:30 left in ‘The Vertigo Slip’, Francesco breaks out of delay-ridden beats into a Zoviet France- or Idea Fire Company-like chirping above swelling synth lines that makes even this old-fashioned modernist well up a bit.

This split is worth checking out, even (or perhaps especially) for the hardened minimalists among us. Energizing work that should drive a similar creativity in its audience. Get it at Constellation Tatsu.