The Red Tape
Toronto-based drummer and synth aficionado Junior Pande aka Justin Peroff is keen on delivering moments rather than movements, and he proves it time and again on Joe McKay’s Spring Break Tapes label. Situated in Los Angeles, McKay offers an edition of 50 limited and hand-crafted tapes of Junior Pande’s latest release called The Red Tape, available to purchase and stream at Bandcamp. Attention: this is not just a red tape, but the red tape which is housed in a recycled cardboard o-card sleeve with individual photographs taken by Peroff himself. Following his previous triptych of Tape One, Two and Three, I presume that a new triad has just been initiated in February 2014 with The Red Tape. Harboring 13 (+/–1) vignettes on two sides over the course of almost 20 minutes, Peroff does not shy away from any genre and pours a stupefying mélange of Hip-Hop, Disco, Vaporwave, Synth Pop, even Hauntology into the square ring, otherwise known as a music cassette. Much seems to be sampled and taken from that place called “somewhere else,” but I sense that at least the beat patterns are created by the talented drummer of Broken Social Scene. I can fully understand that the interest of many a dedicated Ambient listener wanes once he or she realizes that the release does not feature fully fleshed-out pieces of the four minute range, but these cloudy thoughts notwithstanding, The Red Tape is simply too vivacious, flamboyant and warmhearted a dual cosmic/earthbound critter to not inspect its gestalt-changing appearance in-depth. Euphony and polyphony become one, the afterglow of even the smallest gem emits a verdured ignis exoticum. Heck, I could have put The Red Tape in the Exotica Review section, but it remains more Ambient-oid than exotic. Here is a meticulous look at The Red Tape aka Peroff’s 13.
The booklet shows Justin Peroff's photos and illustrations. Photo by Joe McKay.
Side A of The Red Tape literally kicks off its vertiginous paths with some admonitory Hip-Hop vibes hued in senescence; die-hard New Age ascetics must be strong for the time being, as the piercing oomph of the hi-hats and the Tartarean low frequency bursts drive the particularly staggering scenery which seems to schlep itself forward reluctantly due to the overall nostalgia. The delicately fogyish balm of the piano, however, is the counterpart, the gracious antimatter and efflorescent adjuvant to the incisive-argentine airflow. Off-key pentatonic strings round off the little vignette of approximately 90 seconds, leading to a crystal antrum par excellence. Junior Pande exchanges his beat skills for his equally well-known synth wizardry and erects looped fractals of stereo-panned cobalt-green nebulae complete with admixed chime coruscations. The enchanting diorama is asphyxiated overly soon, making it seem more of a figment than a fragment, but no worries, both the tape and digital version thereof continue to run on all cylinders, as it is time to inspect the streets.
So here we are, in the streets of a city. Oscillating between Vaporwave and 16-bit fighting games (wait, aren’t they the same?), Justin Peroff’s third segue grafts mucho macho and mellow bellow blotches as well as their legato counterparts to a maraca-accentuated beat machinery. Wondrously lo-Fi and showing just the right balance between ferocity, anticipation and cosmic beams, this third piece is abhorrently retrogressive – opalescently beautiful! Up next is the shopping mall, and now Vaporwave is embraced and beguiled full-force via heavily reverberated ligneous beat patterns and downwards-spiraling electric piano chords of the helicoid kind, with the following Oriental Exotica mirage showcasing plucked tambur lutes and goblet goblins. Simmering and sun-kissed, the lanthanide bath that follows in the sixth segment offers refreshment. A little drift into the fairy tale-augmented kind of madness is delivered in the seventh artifact which is given enough time to breathe and unfold. Kaleidoscopic, zoetropic, it meshes harps and nylon string guitars while ostracizing the beats. Wonder and awe, lilac uneasiness, transom circumference… open sesame, let me reach side B.
Side B does not offer more of the same. It can’t, for side A of The Red Tape is already shapeshifting like a supernal jellyfish, and so the other side launches with a superb take of histrionic Saturday morning cartoon Hauntology charged with wonky synth corkscrews that are as warped as they are elasticized. The falafel fusillade of wooden palpitation and vermeil catenae offer just the right synthesis of spook and cyberspace. Catchy as hell! The following scenery leads the listener to Hermosa Beach where hunks show their muscles in a Honky Tonk bar filled with (more) cowbell, cylonic chants, tramontane Disco strings and a hexagonal-pointillistic electric piano undercurrent which is so utterly melodious and cosmopolitan that the adjacent cityscape reaches into the capsule of insouciance. The third segue returns to a stronger Hip-Hop structure, showcasing a concatenation of clever reverb and echo filters that simulate bustling activities held together by quasi-Baroque violin protrusions. Whereas a metallic appendix serves as the fourth track and presents brazen clangs and alkaline steel romance, the fifth piece turns out to be a beat-driven tin can turmoil with medulla-emptying bass eruptions. Gone is the melodious superstructure, and this is also applicable in regard to the sixth – and final – vignette where a cyan cyber copse with sylvan pulses and dark matter rhizomes turns out to be the deeply soothing yet flustered-crepuscular seething cauldron (and Ambient apotheosis) of The Red Tape.
Junior Pande is both the boatswain and the beatswain on The Red Tape, and even though the aural color range does not exclusively mimic the sunset range of the spectrum, there is a lot to enjoy, even for the Ambient fan. What I like so incredibly much about the tape is the adamant cavalcade of heterogenous ingredients, making it a feast – and accessible artifact – of 13 little sparklers for everyone to enjoy. Hip-Hop is the primary elemental force of Junior Pande’s work, its importance cannot be denied. However, there are Ambient piths, nucleic Vaporwave traces and even Synth Pop interstices that make The Red Tape the polyrhythmic, ambi(val)ent and glittering thing it is. Surprisingly melodious and eminently beatific, the material is so short that it is bittersweet, a remark I recently used in my review of Sima Kim & Wouter Van Veldhoven’s Sketches (Umor Rex Records, 2014). I often wish for certain segues to run longer, in fact much longer so, even if this meant that their loop-based trait would be exposed and their callisthenic strata brought to light. Here we have the rare case of an artist making it his agenda to deliver short pieces that often seem to look like ruins, vestiges and remainders on the one hand… and pipe dreams, superimpositions and collages on the other. They all have in common that they are well-crafted, and since they are untitled, they leave much to the imagination. Maybe I even scored an accidental hit and came close to the artistic vision at certain points, but if this is not the case, all the better, for it does not need a faux-erudite reviewer to tell you this, but a listener who is as open to many different styles as The Red Tape is open to scrutiny. I sense that at least two additional colorful tapes will follow this one sooner or later. If they were to carry the same set of self-imposed rules and aesthetics, this would cause a scream of excitement: eureka! Or if you so desire: tally-ho!
Further listening and reading:
- You can purchase and stream The Red Tape at Bandcamp.
- Junior Pande and Spring Break Tapes’ tweets: @juniorpande & @SBTAPES.
Ambient Review 326: Junior Pande – The Red Tape (2014). Originally published on Mar. 19, 2014 at AmbientExotica.com.