w. baer ~ de dust2

de dust2 is perfectly suited for the cassette format.  The tracks are in different styles, but linked together like a mix tape, solidifying the theme of memory.  Any fans immersed in cassette culture will always feel something was lost first in the transition to mix CDs and then to the Spotify playlist.  But those who remember will enjoy this tape, recognizing in its contrasts the shadows of shifting emotion.  As a person fumbles with a recorder in “am I awake,” we remember our own fumblings, our desire to get the tape right.  Even mainstreamers may have fun spotting the samples, from Faith Evans to Paramore.

At first, it’s all emotion, as the tape begins with strings, an echoed voice, a melancholic tone.  The past is always with us, tinged with regret.  We know w. baer won’t stay here forever, but “ascension” makes a perfect overture, accumulating emotional weight as it grows in volume.  The repetition of the closing sample is akin to a respirator, a metaphor for being unable to move on.

The deep beats and crisp mastering of “waking up in sweat” catch the listener off guard, but only the first time around.  There’s no mistaking the power of the word “today” as it bounces off the speakers and around the room, the irony being that the very next track begins with vinyl static.  Save for the creepy demon voice (appropriate given the title), “fall skeleton” is reminiscent of Aim’s “Cold Water Music” ~ and then we remember that even that album contained a Halloween sample.  Back and forth the timbres will go, from trip hop to ambient and back again, reflecting the inner turmoil of the artist.  Romantic snippets surface over and over: wait around, desire.  The tape’s high point arrives in “i was wrong,” a bittersweet, repeated admission over hard, stark beats.  The tight pause in the center is the pinnacle of the entire set.

Pitch shifting makes Faith Evans sound male as she sings, “never thought you’d be as special” (from “Love Like This”) on the closing track.  But while the original song is an expression of enduring love, baer’s seems a paean to collapse.  Coupled with a walk-out statement and an earlier quote (“what if there were another way?”), the track underlines the way rumination and regret spin like a record or a repeating tape, long after decisions have been made and bridges burned.  But in time, because we’re pretty obsessive about our music, we firmly believe that w. baer will look back and say, at least I got a damn fine mix tape out of it.  (Richard Allen)

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