Fantasy Living is the debut of one Monte Burrows who may or may not be a veteran producer; you never know these days. Much remains uncertain about this persona, and the same can be said about the five movements that are added in two very short vignettes of approximately six minutes and 40 seconds on each side. If artists want to pour such amalgamations or segues into longform pieces, chances are that they find a home at Joe McKay‘s Los Angeles-based Spring Break Tapes label, and no surprise, this is exactly where the inaugural tape has been released in December 2014. Available to stream and purchase at Bandcamp as usual, Monte Burrows plays with the expectations of the crowd, only to then mob them up, adamantly so. As an Exotica fan, I find Monte Burrows’ chosen title Fantasy Living to be utterly vivacious, even flamboyant. Once the first sounds hit the ears, bewilderment ensues. This is not a technicolor tape with fuzzy faux-VHS artifacts transformed into aural flares, although the tracks do share a certain sentiment of muffled Mid Century Modern sounds, incidental field recordings and sampled string-infused records. Yet, these Space-Age artifacts are always embedded in presumably guitar-based drones which are rounded off by crackling pianos, iridescent glockenspiels… and a dark entity that cannot be shaken off. Hauntology and Dark Ambient are far away, but there is a certain grim wisp gyring around the reel, touching and influencing each of the five little tracks. Here is a closer analysis of dem choons and an outlook to the chances and risks Monte Burrows willfully takes when these promises – accidental or not – are undone.
Perennial percolations, nebulous nexuses, a mélange of mellow mica: although Side A clocks in at less than seven minutes, the two agglutinated compositions are cohesive entities, flow into each other despite a short pause between them, let their rhizomes become nutritious tubes of interlinkage. The tape opens with the caulked legato washes of 1430 (Detritus), a warmly simmering Drone track whose high temperature only derives from the textures themselves, probably stacked heterodyned guitar amethysts. While this array boosts and augments even the exogenous heat and crosses the threshold to the listening subject’s real reality, the tone sequences themselves are much more spectral and enigmatic. Prone to evoke uneasiness via prolonged analog wave jitters in tandem with caustically clattering semi-ligneous patterns, benignancy and portent are closely attached to each other, exchange their roles, become superimposed. Once a similarly alkaloidal punctilio of public service announcements, AM frequency cataracts, glacial Rhodes vestiges and ecclesiastic-pastoral string escapades is added to the pluvial moiré, one has already reached the second track Cretins Abound. Hued in sanguine-rubicund colors, one feels lost and pestered in lieu of loved and caressed. The sounds of projectors reach the innermost nucleus in a retrosternal way. The three-note bleep melody sounds uncanny and horrific, it stays with the listener after the song is over. Juxtaposed with this memorable hook is a dusty potassium zoetrope of crackles, hisses and whitewashed pink noise. A ghostly affair.
Side B keeps up the mild-mannered dichotomy, and once sequences of events or surfaces clash, they still don’t feel oxymoronic, let alone histrionic. The first critter Mangalitsa is a well-groomed mellifluous Drone piece whose polyfoil-aureate beams of light become diffracted due to the already well-known clatters and rattles which reside below the incandescent efflorescence. Here, however, the listener can indeed feel welcome – the growling lion at the end notwithstanding – since the textural amicability is coupled with luminous melodies. Lactic and viscoelastic, this is less of a cesspool than an argentine titration full of retrojected anhydrides. The next of kin is Sebastian’s Disquisition, a comparatively piercing piece thanks to its stylophone in the epicenter. Glockenspiels, chimes and sinister exhalations translate into the atmosphere of a foggy harbor where the only light source is an ignis fatuus. Listen to this by night, and you feel strangely touched. That this touch is almost tangible and may feature claws is a story for another night. The endpoint of the tape comes in the shape of The Inevitable & Tragic Demise Of The Sand Whale: the most versatile composition of the whole bunch features the superstructure of feathered field recordings, Gothic piano melodies grafted onto a bewildering oomph as well as interstitial moments of quasi-silence where the afterglow of the keys functions as a plasticizer that decomposes what little good mood is left. The stern earthquake at the end showcases that the listener has passed the threshold; you cannot spell faultline without using the word fault.
Obviously, no one is at fault when it comes to the intrinsic nucleus of Monte Burrows’ first tape. The five little sparklers cannot leave their attributes behind and are thus entrapped in their existence as mere sketches, but cautiously realized and iterated they are nonetheless. As I’ve hinted at in the opening paragraph, Fantasy Living – as a title! – breathes colorful vibes, life in the Tropics, palm trees at Miami Beach. It can’t be just me, no-one is unique after all, no matter how loud human rights campaigners and elementary school teachers cry out. As it turns out, Fantasy Living has a much darker edge, and while it cannot reign freely due to the manifold lavabos of lush lure, both sides of the tape serve as a thiazide. You are neither completely drowsy, nor devastatingly crushed by wildly flickering decor(tic)ations. Monte Burrows stresses the interim state, the twilight zone in lack of a better term. The almost sermonic timbre that graces the majority of side A is rightfully resurrected on side B as well, but coupled with apocryphal metalization. This is not a fluttering static noise carpet either. Fantasy Living is an experimental Drone work, no Glitch glob. Its photometry shares many sentiments with both genre alloys however, and it so happens that Monte Burrows builds things, beautiful things even, that are then altered. These alterations do not lead to destruction, for this is a life-affirming tape, not a nihilist’s protrusion. But amidst all the chirping birds, muffled voices and granular chimes resides the opposing force. Once you know this, you might as well enjoy the ambivalence. If you’re still not sure, take another look at the title. Read it out aloud. Emphasize a word of your choice. It tells you that Monte Burrows’ work is prospering.
Further listening and reading:
- You can stream and purchase Fantasy Living at Bandcamp.
- Spring Break Tapes is on the Twitterz, ja: @SBTAPES.
Ambient Review 404: Monte Burrows – Fantasy Living (2014). Originally published on Jan. 7, 2015 at AmbientExotica.com.