Warm Climate “Camouflage on the River Wretched”
In the 21st century, the cassette tape feels like the most archaic and out-dated media for recorded music, even though it only reached popularity in the not-so-distant 1980s. The resurgence of vinyl in DJ booths and hipster’s bedrooms has breathed new life into that older form, leaving the cassette to fade into history. However, this disappearing form has been given a life line by a handful of artists who see its value, particularly for the difficulty an audio tape poses to the listener who wants to choose a single track.
A sure-fire sign that the cassette is not dead is the fact that NPR made a “Best Cassettes of 2010” list. Seventh on the list is the latest release of Warm Climate, the Los Angeles-based project of Seth Kasselman, titled Camouflage on the River Wretched from Stunned Records.
Listening to Camouflage, one can understand what the cassette offers to Kasselman’s music: this music requires patience and, for many people, several listens to unravel the complex and experimental sound that barely calls attention as it crosses the ambiguous border from one song to another. The cassette, as a form, is the most binding in its demand to be listened to all the way through and Warm Climate’s album is best when experienced in its entirety.
The music itself is boundless: evoking the slow-paced screams over percussion of early Modest Mouse on one track (“Blue Metro”), and the bleak, stretched out soundscapes of underground industrial on the next (“More Wretched”). There are even moments that echo the polka-paced sing-alongs of the Beatles at their most psychedelic.
The album builds up to (and then comes down from) the nine-minutes-plus fourth track, titled “Trespassing.” “Trespassing,” like the album itself, takes time to open up, working through an array of bass lines and echo-chamber clanks and an unleashing of Kasselman’s high, sinister voice. All this builds up to the voice of a woman reciting a poem over the instrumentals which seem to have reached a semi-sustained order, recalling the jazz-backed recitations of beat poetry. The woman tells a mysterious, not-quite-logical tale of a journey through the urban underground, and finishes by repeating the daunting line “Winter is closing in.” The second half of the album descends even deeper, concerning itself less with song-writing than with music-making and an exploration of sound.