Music Reviews

Artist: Tristan Welch (@)
Title: Washington D.C.
Format: Tape
Label: self-released
This is a shrinkwrapped cardboard sleeve cassingle with a transparent-red cassette inside that has professionally printed labeling on the shell. The package sent to Chain D.L.K. includes a copy of the Bandcamp description explaining what is recorded on the tape and the artist's statement, a vinyl sticker, a 5"x7" glossy photo print of what appears to be a tree covered in Christmas lights, and a download code. The Bandcamp copy explains that it is a "self-released cassette of minimalist heavy ambient movements. Drones for peace." I'm assuming "drones for peace" is a play on words, since the title of the cassette itself, "Washington D.C.", refers partly to the fact the side A's drone is in the key of D, and side B's is in C. Key of D and C, Washington D.C. Drones for war, drones for peace. The recordings themselves would be comfortable as a soundtrack for something in the neighborhood of a David Lynch film, but Tristan seems intent on leading listeners in a more political direction, attempting to apply features to this otherwise basically featureless music. There is almost nothing here. The recordings are of a decent quality, it's not a difficult or intense listen. Even other reviews he has posted on his Bandcamp refer to it as a nice chill-out-forget-your-troubles tape, so when he gives the listener specific examples of images to conjure while listening, it comes off as extremely forced: "The atmosphere of a failing rail system. The disappointment of gentrified neighborhoods. The insecurity behind a lost statehood. The headquarters behind mindless drone strikes." This heavy-handed approach at giving meaning and depth to these sounds comes off as kind of desperate and hollow. Propping up kind of vanilla ambient pieces with vanilla social commentary is bad enough, but he sealed the deal with the lackluster packaging. The artwork on the o-card is three stars with two lines of a musical staff beneath them, with two notes (I'm guessing our friends D and C) hanging from the staff. Because of Tristan's leading text, I'm assuming the stars are ballpark references to the United States stars and stripes, or military decorations. I understand minimalism, and could maybe just let this slightly clunky imagery slide, but the absolutely atrocious font choice for the text on the spine explains plainly that moving graphic design was never a consideration here, or at least could never be achieved by this artist. Despite the shallowness of the sounds, artwork and artist's statement, there's an alarming amount of attention (and money) given to the total package here...the professionally printed sleeve and cassette, the shrink wrap, the vinyl sticker, even the additional effort of bothering with the Bandcamp download code, but none of this warrants the overpromotion. The ambient drones are pleasant, but "pleasant" clearly wasn't Tristan's intent as much as "deep". But there is no depth here, and I really hope that Tristan's next effort delivers more substance.

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