Dedekind Cut – Tahoe (Kranky, 2018)


When I go out for walks in the forest, sometimes I find myself stopping randomly in the middle of the path for a few moments; not to take a break but just to pause and be quiet and still in the world. With nothing but the trees and wind and water around me, I relish the momentary stillness, mind draining of thought and concern, losing myself in the space.

That sensation of stoppage, or at least the desire for it, is Tahoe. The need for quiescence and crystallisation, of slowing the pace of life and returning to familiar, homely, simple places is at the root of the record, but it’s a double edged sword. On the one hand, it’s this relatability that makes the album interesting and magical, and yet what also makes it frustrating listening when it can’t find what it seeks.

Opening couplet of “Equity”, “The Crossing Guard” tread fairly lightly, largely built from soft swells of looping synth, distant shiftings haunt in their noir simplicity. Their restraint and tranquility seems boundless, or would be if it weren’t for the audible clicks and ticks at the termination of each sequenced loop in “The Crossing Guard”, demarcating the dry repetition of hum-drum days ticking by before it transmutes into buzzing discordance. There’s flux, change, variation that feels both darkly dreaded yet also relished.

Late arrival “Spiral” sees those looped passages collapse more deeply, rolling in disharmonious and woozy migrations that feel tilted and disaffected, damaged. It spins down, growing in height and increasing abrasive erasure as it does so, losing its grip on emotion as it reaches out in desperate need. It shifts abruptly into the early drama of “Hollow Earth”, churning drones and Gregorian chanting dying to scouring walls of calamitous drone, overwriting this reverence and care in obliterating indifference. Connectivity and resonance are lost to smeared homogeneity here, and it’s probably the best track of the record as a result.

It, like all the pieces here, fall frustratingly in polar opposition with mid-album horror “MMXIX”, an uproarious and convoluted series of musical sketches with considerable Oneohtrix Point Never worship in its initial MIDI arpeggiations and female vocal sampling. This fades away into uncomfortable and unnecessary strangeness, passing through tribal and organic moments featuring throat-singing and pan-pipe billowing, amidst its crooning animal sounds and squelchy synth happenings. It’s a fever dream and completely out of place. Precursor “Tahoe” even seems to invite this somewhat in its strained reminiscence and stringed pinings, tinnitus ringing notably in one ear with nagging wakefulness and irritating pointedness.

It’s this inconsistency, especially stylistically, that makes Tahoe (and arguably Warmsley’s other records as well) so frustrating and yet so enjoyable to listen to. Every bend is filled with a new vista, at once both familiar and different, yearning and seeking for places both remembered and unknown to exit the darkling misery of urbanity. Tahoe is desirous to escape, get away to these nostalgic and peaceful places where the world’s hurts and troubles are far removed, and yet it is faced with the difficulty in accessing nature and the lie of nostalgia: it feels this hurt and discomfort physically.

This needs patience, but for fear of losing my own stillness and sense of peace, I almost don’t want to lend it that.