“You have to hear this on vinyl,” Nicholas Szczepanik insisted when he told us about his latest album, and so we were delighted when Isounderscore sent us a copy. We love the look, the smell, the weight; but most of all, we love the fullness. As close as a TV dinner may get to home-cooked, it is still a TV dinner; and compression is still compression.
Szczepanik has been extremely prolific over the past few years. His Ante Algo Azul series was followed recently by Please Stop Loving Me and We Make Life Sad. He’s refining his sound, perhaps searching for a specific zone to call his own. My personal favorite will probably always be “When I’m No Longer Afraid of You” from Dear Dad, which rose to a volume and viscosity far past what anyone might have expected; but there are hints of it here whenever the drones begin to rise and swirl. Midway through the first side, the gentle ambient waves begin to bubble like agitated water on a stove. Already there is evidence that Szczepanik has re-engaged a prior love for long, slow development. The tiny unpredictable pops of the vinyl may or may not be intended; more accurately, the pops may be intended, but not their placement. These become more evident as the sound field thins, a testimony to the validity of the vinyl format. Again, the listener yearns for louder sounds – rise, rise, rise – and so they do. Those who know how to read grooves are aware of the shift even before it occurs.
Side B begins low and quiet again – a reset, like playing Chutes and Ladders and hitting the big slide on the top row. Is this the truth of transience, that all things pass, only to begin again in a different form? If so, nothing is ever lost; it’s all a question of interchangeable matter. While this side is less effective due to its unidirectional flow, it produces a feeling of intense calm. Because this too shall pass, one might give thanks for the momentary suspension of anxiety; a respite may not be an oasis, but it is still a gift. (Richard Allen)