Naps - Happy All The Time Forever Always
(Bridgetown Records 2016)
Save for a basement show, the Apple Store's playlist full of Plasticine chillwave or an unobtrusive stock tune layered beneath a dish detergent commercial, it's rare to interact with music in a way that doesn't envelop its listener in a tight, impenetrable plane of isolation. A car radio's speaker system creates a literal wall of sound on wheels that trembles at the force of its own bass pulse - a good pair of earbuds constricts its wearer's sense of sound to the inside of their head, as if each rubber-tipped bulb were plugged directly into consciousness itself. As important as physical space is to the active listening experience, it is a dimension of sound not visited as often as it should be, perhaps only considered when sending a lead guitar riff into the left speaker to widen the mix of a jangle-pop song.
That's what makes Naps' new tape on Bridgetown Records so disorienting, so alien, despite the whispery minimalism of the compositions it houses. Glassy synth tones jump from bud to bud like little bolts of static shock tumbling through a laundry bin full of socks. Asthmatic peals of distortion are the distant grunts of a dial-up modem waking from sleep. Happy All The Time Forever Always feels like a trek through a wasteland inhabited only by obsolete consumer electronics, the sound of their whirring gears and tinny dial tones filling the desert air like the twittering of birds or the cries of nearby Pokemon. This cozy sense of digital desolation is actually quite reminiscent of Aphex Twin's and Squarepusher's contributions to the Marie Antoinette soundtrack - a meditiative throwback to IDM ambience, slap-chopped and scattered through all 360 degrees of one's field of hearing. Naps' music is understated, yet adventurous and exciting - it's a bubble of retro electronic dreaminess that is both translucent and impassable.