Mormon Toasterhead - Memory / Monument
(Rok Lok 2014)
Ben Klawans' prolific output under the pseudonym Mormon Toasterhead has been marked by nothing if not its atomospheric minimalism. His lyrics are vague and surrealist, often unsettling against sparse instrumentation, suspended in reverb like canned fruit in its own syrup. Unlike a lot of lo-fi music being released these days, it's not so much nostalgic as it is introspective. Klawans' music puts me in a droney, meditative state that feels transcendent and often spooky. It would only make sense to me that he'd dabble in ambient music. Monument / Memory is the second Toasterhead tape release to be composed entirely of instrumentals, and it's perhaps his most engaging work to date.
"Happy day...happy day...happy day, sweet...heart" drones the sampled voice that opens Memory, the first of the two cassettes that make up this double album. It rests in the "uncanny valley" between sounding either sounding robotic or human, reminding me of the sort of voice that might narrate the Sesame Street books on tape I listened to growing up, cheerful, soothing, but ultimately lifeless. It's accompanied by pentatonic, harp-like keyboard, wrapped in a misty drone, squeaky like a kettle that has come to boil. Much of the music on this half of the release is fragile and charming, with the tinny beauty of a music box's chime, or the score to a Pokemon title released on Game Boy Advance. A few weightier exceptions do exist, though. "White Rose" is a swirling piece of textureless ambience, watery synth pulses that could soundtrack the jellyfish room of an aquarium.
Monument opens in a more somber state with "Summer Rainstorm and I Lost My Toy Soldier". It's a bleak piece for solo piano, which sort of reminds me of the piano score that capped of the series finale Hey Arnold!. It's sad, chilling, and simple, fulfilling the Rok Lok Records formula perfectly. As I've stated many times before, Rok Lok does an impeccable job of keeping a uniform aesthetic throughout their release catalog, and Memory / Monument fits right in among ambient masterpieces like the Stars are Insane/Monogamy split or Love Letter's Gentle Memories. Also, the double album's packaging is beautiful, especially Monument's side, mimicking a retro wallpaper pattern. Mormon Toasterhead's new release will help enhance whatever emotion you're feeling at the time, and will stick with you long after the tape pops out of the deck.