California Sounds: New underground work from If I Die in Mississippi, Sam Gendel and Michael Seyer
If I Die in Mississippi, “Holographic Heartache” (Z Tapes/Bandcamp). A gem of a record issued available via Bandcamp and on the respected European cassette label Z Tapes, “Holographic Heartache” is by an L.A.-based artist named Jenny Mignon, who performs under the pseudonym If I Die in Mississippi.
Mignon’s a guitarist and sonic collage artist, and across 10 songs on “Holographic Heartache” she mixes strums, distortion, noise and tape experiments to create something both intimate and universal. On the Bandcamp website, she sells the album with the pitch, “i hope ur ready to be really sad,” but that’s not necessarily true.
On the contrary, If I Die in Mississippi makes inspired work that at various times suggests Pavement’s first single, “Slay Tracks,” and guitarist Christian Fennesz’s sublime instrumental washes. It moves from unstructured sonic experiments to more solid songs, with Mignon occasionally chiming in to sing or manipulate her voice. Each measure is sacred, whether filled with her adept guitar solo on “Meet Me in Mantauk Tattoo,” her pitch-shifted vocals on “Just Stay” or the CD-skipping tones of “Crushed Velvet Despondency.”
Sam Gendel, “Pass If Music” (Leaving). It’s hard to tell on first listen, but the L.A.-based Gendel made every sound on his new album using his alto saxophone. “Pass If Music” is hardly a solo jazz album, though. Rather, the musician harnesses his horn in service of ambient tones and experimental works that reside outside genre distinctions.
“East L.A. Haze Dream” floats like an amorphous cloud of vapor as Gendel layers gently blown notes with the occasional brief sax run. “Trudge” is a darkened mantra featuring lower-register hums and a minimal rhythm that marches with determination.
In notes, the artist writes that it and the other eight pieces were inspired by the motion picture “The Labyrinth & the Long Road,” for which Gendel contributed the score, and that makes sense. It’s an atmospheric work that evokes its own brand of drama.
Michael Seyer, “Bad Bonez” (self-released). The Gardena-based pop producer and singer recorded “Bad Bonez” in a bedroom studio, and you can kind of tell. It’s barely mastered and could use a little brightening.
But so what? It’s the songs that count, and Seyer fills his with the kind of sing-along hooks and melodies that render such complaints moot, and augments the production with effects and sonic playfulness, layering his drum patterns, guitar strums and washes of noise with intention.
Seyer, who will be performing at Coachella as the guitarist for the Long Beach artist who records as Bane’s World (Shane Blanchard), is part of an inspiring suburban scene that celebrates romance and introversion over testosterone and socializing. Like kindred spirits Bane’s World, Cuco, Jasper Bones and others, he’s not afraid to reveal his emotions.
Among the best here is “Weekend at Santa Cruz,” a love letter to the beach town that could have been written by the city’s Chamber of Commerce. For “I Feel Best When I’m Alone,” Seyer, who usually sings high in the register, pitches his voice down way low, so when he opens by saying, “Hey there baby,” he sounds like Barry White. Such playfulness and joyful creativity makes “Bad Bonez” a crucial listen.
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