Cassette Corner: Stars Are Insane/Monogamy Split

Stars Are Insane/Monogamy - Split Cassette
(Rok Lok Records 2013)
A noisy split tape that's full of surprises; marks a turning point in the Stars are Insane Discography.

It’s kind of odd that Long Island resident Mike Andriani, who releases bedroom-recorded noise rock under the name Stars are Insane, would choose to put out two split EPs in the span of a month, but after scrutiny of each of them, it seems apparent that this was a very logical move. His last output, the December installment of Rok Lok Records’ 2012 cassingle club, was a major outlier compared to the rest of his discography. Most noticeably, it was comprised entirely of ambient instrumentals, but more importantly, it marked a major sonic change in Andriani’s instrumentation. Though there are lyric-less tracks on just about every Stars are Insane release, these felt more like stand-alone songs rather than outtakes and experiments. The fuzziness of his guitar tone evoked the faint grittiness and bright shimmer of the ocean rather than the sludge and scattered pollution one might find sitting at the bottom of a lake.

His two late-2013 EPs separate that recently adopted style from his older, and arguably more accessible alt-folk material. His cassette split with Monogamy, which I’ll be dissecting tonight, focuses more on the former, while his lathe-cut record release with Morgue Toad prominently features his more traditional-sounding material. His first track to appear on the Monogamy split is “When We Saw Mountains”. It opens with a majestic, new age-y keyboard loop that’s quite worthy of the track title. Short lashes of crunchy electric guitar act like timpani drumrolls would in a symphony. The keyboard takes a backseat in the following track, “Cars Pass Me By”. Once again, the track is adept at illustrating its title. A subtle drone in the background creates a grim darkness that set the mood of a lonely, late night drive. The track actually makes me feel more like I’m in the backseat, because its repetition promotes passive listening. I lie back on the chilly headrest and watch as the cars (represented by delayed guitar notes) woosh by, blurred through the rain-soaked back window.

In stark contrast to the A-side, the opening track of Monogamy’s half of the split is fueled by industrial aggression; its drums are booming and metallic and screeching mechanical sounds skitter high above. Though it’s tough to dig through the song’s steely surface, when you do you’ll find that there’s a hidden shoegaze gem buried below the noise. Its melody is simple but effective, and is very much in tune with Shivering Window’s less-is-more mentality. “Remain Lingering” hits the listener with another surprise, opening with pleasant solo piano that leads into velvety saxophone. Paired with D Alfred Lyons’ odd vocal delivery, it sounds a lot like Modest Mouse’s “Think Long”. As a final testament to Monogamy’s unpredictability, a short hardcore/powerviolence cut concludes his side of the split.