Basement Tropic is Squanto‘s latest and last release. Cut from hours of live, home-made recordings, it’s a scrapbook of scribbled loops, collected musical curiosities and surreal, unbalanced melodies that appear to be under the influence. Looped layers squirm their way into the machinery of the music, which is perilously close to rebelling. Ripped out of ‘worn out tapes from yard sales’, they loop uneasily, churning up the insides of the music like a bad stomach virus in a predictable and yet unpredictable way – predictable in its rhythm and its repetition, but unpredictable in its journey.
The music constantly morphs. The voices inside are steeply bent out of pitch, resembling those of cartoon characters. It’s like entering a funhouse that you’re not quite sure on. You lose your bearings and suddenly you’re running from one dead end to another. The consistency of the tempo provides a way in, and it’s the only real thing you can hold onto.
Basement Tropic has a slightly warped – yet wonderful – view of reality. Some of the samples sound like they’ve come straight out of a nightmare, the sound of a midnight carnival gone horribly wrong. Some of these loops could probably be found in Pennywise’s iTunes library. Some may find the loops disconcerting, but others will lap it up and treat it as a real thrill. It’s divisive, just like the latest and greatest roller coaster. It’s a helter skelter of a ride where pleasure bleeds into pain. There are times when the record actually sounds like it’s in pain, squelching and screeching as it continues to age and labor under the weight of its own looping rhythm.
A little bit of conversation is the only sign of a human presence, but even this is temporary. A thick, gurgling voice emerges out of the swamp, foaming at the mouth with its slab of squelchy mud, and it loops alongside a twisted melody. The melody gets caught on the rough fabric of the loop, and it’s never allowed to get going. The last track, “Jaffa (take 1)” is another trip to the musical asylum, and the rhythmic pistons repeatedly grind to a stop. The music feels like it’s caged, looping in an infinite rhythm behind its prison cell. New melodies lead to new rhythms, and they’re beautifully twisted in their trapped repetition. The music is sick. A hundred broken bones clatter around in its body, but it still manages to stay on track. And as the voices get louder and ever more persistent, they cut into the deep throb of the bass, breaking free of the steely chains that once held them back. Squanto isn’t coming back anytime soon, but he’s going out in style. (James Catchpole)