Cassette Corner: Altar Eagle - "Nightrunners"

Altar Eagle - Nightrunners (Cassette Re-Issue)

(2013 Crash Symbols)

It's only the very beginning of 2013, yet there's already a new tape for me to get excited about. A re-issue of their album released in September (Digitalis Records), Altar Eagle's Nightrunners is now available in the all too nostalgic, not to mention portable and collectible, cassette format. That's not the only good news, though, as this tape also includes a b-side of remixes! If you missed your chance to snag the vinyl version of Nightrunners, now's your chance to jump on the Altar Eagle bandwagon.

In Nightrunners, The Tulsa-based duo take a similar dream pop approach to that of their sophomore LP, Mechanical Gardens, with dark, eerie soundscapes counterbalanced by Eden Hemming Rose's calm, youthful vocals. Although similar to the sound of Grimes, I'd like to think that the "little girl lost in a strange world" feel of Altar Eagle is more inspired by 80's goth collective This Mortal Coil than anyone. Not to say there aren't moments of comfortable beauty. The opening seconds of track 1, "Carousel Ocean", are particularly placid; glassy synths evaporating into the sparse atmosphere. Suddenly, a driving beat drops from the sky followed by waves of sparkling beauty and finally, a Prince-esque freakout of assorted old-school sound effects. Though the upbeat outlier of the album, "Carousel Ocean" is certainly its most accessible pop song.

From "Digital Gold Future" on, Nightrunners grows progressively more sinister. The tracks also take on a greater density, each muddy, pulsating layer of synthesized noise attempting to drown out any semblance of melody or rhythm. Each song emerges from this ocean of noise caked in dirt, yet somehow more beautiful than before. While I've seen many bands suffer from sensory overload, (Animal Collective's latest effort comes to mind) Altar Eagle's tracks gradually improve with each working part added.

While I'm not the world's biggest remix fan, the ones on the b-side are actually pretty good. While each artist  featured ventures into spaced-out, uncharted territories with their respective track, they stay true to the spirit of Altar Eagle: complex, murky pop songs. The best selections from the remix collections are the Cosmic Sounds rework of "Runaways", reminding me of "Corvette Cassette" by Slow Magic, and the dreamy sedative Discoverer remix of "No Spring 'Til Summer". Fans of Beach House and Crystal Castles, this tape is a must have.

Sit back, relax, and enjoy the vibes below!