Spring Break Tapes does something a little different on its latest release, which chronicles urban blight in the San Bernardino area. Peter Kris (German Army) wandered through bleak neighborhoods and barren outposts, collecting images to chronicle the decay of once-proud structures and communities. 100 of these images now grace the cassettes, each exclusive to the recipient, while a smart selection is replicated in the accompanying 24-page zine. We see molding chairs, collapsing walls, peeling paint, piles of trash and a piece of porcelain that looks like a scream; but also palm trees, an open road, an inviting stretch of sea.
The contrast underlines the gap between hope and reality, as once upon a time everything pictured here was new. Promises were made – or at least implied – that immigrant workers would find a piece of the American dream. Instead, packed into already overflowing communities, they became part of the American nightmare: on the dole, with few opportunities waiting, watching their cities crumble around them.
The two tracks – 23 minutes in total – shimmer like summer highways, releasing mirages like unfulfilled dreams. Kris’ languid guitar rolls over the humid desert in waves, accompanied by the feedback and light electronics, like mosquitoes and bees. Beneath the clouds of static and loops of melody lie memories of an old idealized West, especially when the slow surf guitar picks a mournful tune. We shall live near the water. We shall live off the land. Halfway into Side A, the melodies converge, as if gearing for one last push. But then even that hope recedes, replaced by the sad acceptance of settling. This is just the way it is. We will get used to it.
More of an indictment and an elegy than a call for change, Rim of the World nevertheless contains the seeds of transition. Perhaps the greatest sadness of the release is that this area seems already to be lost, fading into the annals of time. But other areas can still be turned around by replacing empty promises with potent policies. As we say a silent prayer for what was and what could have been, perhaps we will be led to draw our own lines in our local sand. (Richard Allen)