Dirty Beaches is a solo project from Alex Zhang Hungtai, who currently lives in Montreal, after moving from Hawaii via Taiwan, and like Ducktails, it's a hyper-personal singular vision. If there's one thing about the home recording movement it's that it's allowed musicians like this to play along with themselves essentially, to direct everything exactly how they imagined it. There's no reason for a backup band to reinterpret your sound...well of course live you always have to figure something out....
The possible downside of this kind of easily accessible control is it becomes an easy strategy to record badly, blow out the levels, make the whole thing completely unintelligible, because that seems to be the thing to do. The point is, the best things happen when it's clear an artist is pursuing exactly their particular brand of eccentricities.
Dirty Beaches is a case of someone having such a laser focused unique sound, it just wouldn't have happened if it was divided between 4 players influences.
Take the A-Side, Golden Desert Sun; there's a warped electric guitar drone running throughout, almost sounding like taking a bow to the string and getting those long scratchy, metallic notes. When the vocals start it's literally a lost experimental Doors track, a deep Morrison vocal where the lyric melody winds around the monotonous and is sort of a weird chant. There's a sort of horse hoof slapping ground rhythm out of a woodblock sound. I don't know if it's because it's referencing this hippy, drug, zoned out flavor of that late '60s pop psyche period but he's really captures this Desert idea. The fact that it's one million degrees every day in NYC is just making this hazy sound even more oppressive. I can't even see the oasis. Walking for hours and hours, the water ran out and I'm really about to give up.
A massively distorted 'solo' crackles in towards the end of the piece, and it's a perfect twist to the
serious menacing angle the track is taking. Something just crashed the party.
Night drive on the B-Side fades into a far off cheap synth sound over a stock drum machine. Some larger sounding electronics work their way in, but the layers of horn samples that delay in towards the end take this to a really mysterious and lonely place. Like the sleeve art, it's an old film still and amateur snapshots of vacations...personal and generic at the same time.
Also check out Conan's interview with Dirty Beaches from Nothing Bad Mag. The film influence is more direct than I thought, and his references to Wong Kar-Wai are perfect, it's that warped one step removed idea of 50's bikers...different generation, different culture, it's filtered down into a romanticized reflection of the original, but that's what makes it it's own sound again.
This one is going to be import only from these guys, so check the usual US distro's who should definitely have this.
Dirty Beaches even has another single with Zoo Music which is available of course from Italian Beach Babes...so maybe both of these is worth taking the chance ordering direct.
I appreciate what Conan's doing, getting these singles over to the UK for fans there, but now he's doing to the states what he hated about trying to get Blank Dogs singles!....oh the irony. When will this feud end?
My love hate relationship with the post office extends to the services overseas I think.
"Part cassette culture Elvis, part Alan Vega alienator, this guy’s doing for rockabilly what Ariel Pink did for funk-pop nostalgia" Nothing Bad Magazine
"Like looking into the infinity mirror at a packed night club from some old technicolor movie while good looking people from some other uknown lands dance around you. Strange stuff that feels right in its strangeness." Night People