Cassettes Won’t Listen | Small-Time Machine (s/r)

cd_cassettes.jpgWith a sound less fresh than its predecessors, Cassettes Won’t Listen still manages a fun, enjoyable disc.







Cassettes Won’t Listen is the brainchild of producer-remixer-musician Jason Drake. Drake’s previous work remained strictly digital, as he released three EPs and a barrage of remixes through the internet in ’06 and ’07. Small Time Machine is Drake’s first full-length effort and also marks his first physical release.

With a sound less fresh than its predecessors, CWL still manages a fun, enjoyable disc. Abandoning more traditional stringed instruments for synthesizers and drum machines, CWL sounds like the offspring of more established groups like The Album Leaf, or The Notwist. Drake’s youthful voice descends in layers over pulsing electronic beats. Combinations of digital and acoustic instruments coalesce interestingly throughout the album and especially on songs like "The Broadcast," which starts with gently plucked acoustic guitars but eventually swarms with manipulated distortion and heavy bass.

Drake’s refreshing voice is both charismatic and tiresome. He starts strong with album-opener "Metronomes," where his deftly slick rhymes flow with an infectious optimism, but further on his vocals become less nuanced. On songs like "Two Kids," his fragile delivery is amplified by numerous overdubs, displaying his limited range and monotonous delivery.

What’s most impressive about CWL are the complex layers involved in every track. Everything works together, building to a fantastically catchy end. Counter-melodies cruise through dense instrumentation as Drake’s voice calls out, doggy-paddling in a sea of finely tuned timbres.

The production quality is almost impressive enough to overshadow the irritatingly simple lyrics. If the lyrics were half as sophisticated as the production, this would be an absolutely brilliant piece of work. But as it stands, Drake seems to limit his songwriting to the romantically naïve. The subject of a majority of the songs can be distilled to a high-school romance.

Cassettes Won’t Listen’s Small Time Machine is immediately accessible, but wanes after a while. Its catchy melodies and impressive production are flashy, but the disc’s lack of depth left me wanting something more substantial. B | Glen Elkins

RIYL: Pinback, The Postal Service, The Notwist, The Album Leaf

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