Mango Differential / Duck Group
Split Tape






Ah, the colors: purple and red and yellow. It’s like the cloudy mumbling of Rickie Lee Jones on The Orb’s Little Fluffy Clouds, but here I refer to the front artwork of an intriguing split tape, released on Big Ear Tapes in an edition of 25 tapes and unlimited digital incarnations thereof that can be ordered and fully streamed at Bandcamp. Side A is delivered by a group called Mango Differential who deliver the track Aeonium Genesis, and while this is their first track, the people behind this project are synth experts, cyber aficionados and followers of a good patch and stem: Wisconsin’s Steve Targo also known as Riot Meadows, further known as Inner Travels decides to meet Oregon’s Hunter P. Thompson aka Opaline. Side B, meanwhile, is delivered by the mysterious Duck Group who describe themselves as “2 neanderthals diving to the bottom of the pond and rummaging about for sustenance,” and granted, this is an astute description of their floral sacrifice Bitter Blossom. Not much is known about Duck Group at the time of this writing, so it is not entirely clear to me whether they are skilled veterans or shiny new fellows, but whatever the case may be, they know how to deliver a guitarscape with processed filters, bangs and whistles while still retaining a stern soothingness. I know a tad more about Mango Differential: Steve Targo’s music is about the depiction of cyberspace lands, Glitchfests and virtual protrusions, and while it always retains a melodious core and synth washes aplenty, the presented track on this split tape is different. Hunter P. Thompson, likewise, erects monolithic concrete jungles in technicolor and tends to allow an airflow or two of Vaporwave vesicles, so it is interesting to see how this vivacious and no less bedazzling interplay will unfold on their side of the tape. So without further ado, let’s enjoy some mangos and ducks.


Say the band name and the track title out loud in the same sentence, and wondrous bewilderment ensues: the fruity aftertaste of Mango Differential becomes awash with mysteries and beams of light once the track title Aeonium Genesis follows. These extrinsic factors notwithstanding, the endemics of Targo’s and Thompson’s collaboration tend to oscillate toward chromatically botanical realms… viewed through a diffractive fir-green filter. Three layers are allowed to float in the startup phase. There is a rising three-note reticulation of playfully dark caverns, followed by a grafted cannelure of flickering light, with the third layer comprising of a truthfully blotchy-crystalline synth pad convulsion which dances and twirls like sunbeams on an ocean wave. Once this introductory phase is firmly in place, Mango Differential increase both the clandestinely pastoral synth choir flavor on the one hand, and a glimpse – it really is just that – of feigned Sicily guitar placentas on the other. The duo’s conservatory is further ameliorated by cosmic coils, adjacent bleeps and the occasionally elasticized low frequency flume. The secret of the track and its lofty interstices is the simultaneity of 16-bit RPG timbres with the camouflaged attempt to inject earthbound bonds of the Folk kind. The result, however, is truly electronic, strikingly soothing and epiphanic. Best of all: this is only an accidental New Age capsule, if at all, for the enigmatic tone sequences are neither crestfallen nor all too esoteric, let alone hyper-immersive. They rather guide the listener, letting light in while augmenting the amount of Candela. The pointillistic blebs and mucoid droplets help in this regard, making Aeonium Genesis a delightful mystery that is open to scrutiny and benign from the first to the very last second.


It might seem superfluous to impose the same trick on the reader yet again, but still, let us taste the quirky cohesion a second time by saying the moniker and track title out loud: Duck Group presents a Bitter Blossom. If this were a children’s fill-in-the-gap book, I would wager that the beloved child has put the wrong words into the equally wrong gaps of a sentence, but anyway, a positive hilarity ensues… one which is brought to a halt once the nine and a half minutes of Bitter Blossom diffuse and spread their odor. In contrast to Mango Differential’s take, the secretive Duck Group creates a progressive, shapeshifting track that keeps the faith in terms of its textures, but pieces them together anew in various ways. The track showcases its two distinct sinews right from the beginning, as this piece could be called an Industrial Space-Age artifact. Industrialism is brazen, metallic, based on clangs, but it isn’t as bad on this track. The earthquakes, rockfall fallacies and quandaries are superbly blurred and watched from a distance. The witches’ brew seethes, bubbles and expands, guitar-based licks resemble fighter planes up in the air, with the balmier guitar foils resembling seaplane tenders. Shuttling between droning structures, flimsy fusillades and ebullient catenae, these Industrial parts are merged with said Space-Age aortas. Do not expect dark matter pads and scintillating polar lights, the effect is much more reduced and gingerly, bolstering the lanthanoid-spermatocystic formations with warped twangs, frequency-bent phases of decay and a mélange of rotatory stuttering. Bitter Blossom is mercilessly aquatic, its psychotic effects are watched through a dive bell; said effects are amplified as the arrangement comes closer to the endpoint, with malfunctioning heating circulating pumps embracing a braiding of patchy blobs and veneered driblets before a blurred backdrop. Duck Group keep the balance and do never succumb to scything noises or harsh arpeggios. In the end, their track remains aerose and trippy, but does not shy away from including accidental tone sequences and faux melodies.


This split release on Big Ear Tapes is an earthen affair, it has to be said. Instead of galactic journeys and intimidating turbulences, Mango Differential and Duck Group travel inwards, the former group via a feeble ecclesiasticism, the latter by spawning the innermost thoughts or, er, organs and placing them in a metallic cocktail that is definitely not as inaccessible, remote or labyrinthine as the harder edges might let you think. Mango Differential’s Aeonium Genesis is not noteworthy for the specific style of its two producers. The opposite is the case: the things that aren’t there make it possible for the mellower substances to shine in the limelight. I am a fan of clever synth movements and protuberances of fugacity which penetrate an arrangement and cause it to shift and tumble, and both Riot Meadows’ and Opaline’s music is supercharged with these retro vignettes channeled through contemporary times (and tides), but these things are all amiss in Aeonium Genesis. This is a streamlined effort that encapsulates the overtones and aesthetic ranges of both artists but silkens the jagged prongs and leaves a pith of allure. My comparison to ecclesiasticism does not manifest itself out of the blue. The peacefulness of this New Age/Folk hybrid is breathtaking, begging the question whether a new release by Mango Differential will turn up some time soon, and if so, what the stylistic particularities will be. Duck Group’s Bitter Blossom is an equally non-supernal and strangely sylphlike affair, but the cryptic duo realizes the tranquility via different means in a curious hybrid form. Industrial and Space-Age are the primary forces here, both of these alloys, however, are toned down and transmuted. This works to the song’s advantage: instead of shedloads of asbestus, knives and dirt, Bitter Blossom is more of a healthy cocktail with a shapeshifting gestalt of guitar-based echoes, reverberations and drone dioramas. It is hard to describe, since the placidity and sanctuary is caused by otherwise incisive clangs and smoking-hot cauldron catapults, but the filter that is applied, the huge amounts of blurriness and bokeh bubbles make the affair enjoyable and digestible. An intriguingly straightforward split tape with its serpentines and convoluted passageways still intact.


Further listening:


Ambient Review 330: Mango Differential / Duck Group – Split Tape (2014). Originally published on Apr. 2, 2014 at