This tape was an adventure to figure out, one of the more irritating-and-then-kind-of-cool conceptual commentaries on old-new forms of communication. I’ll explain: the tape came labeled with plenty of information, but it was all in Morse code. The only recognizable images were a walrus playing a saxophone – which a Google search revealed to be sourced from one of many popular YouTube videos, too funny! – and a label logo that I didn’t recognize. So you have this contrast between one of the oldest forms of wireless communication (Morse code) and one of the newest (the Internet, YouTube, etc), both of which are speaking in codes and acting as gatekeepers, concealing and distorting information from those who want or need it.
I was daunted by translating the code, and stonewalled by unsuccessful Googling (“walrus saxophone cassette,” “Morse code walrus sax tape,” &c.). I started to sweat, knowing I was being tracked and profiled by the Internet the whole time. Advertisers would think I was obsessively trying to learn about this walrus and his act, or perhaps about hidden messages encoded in famous Beatles songs. Or maybe something more sinister! You never know what things can be used for these days, as this tape shows. Repurposing the past is the norm, now in our deeply postmodern age perhaps something unavoidable. I decided to simply listen to the tape, and throw up my hands about the Morse code in the review, maybe even post it as an orphan.
Then my friend Evan suggested that there was “probably an app for that,” or maybe a website. And so I went online and just typed the friggin’ thing in. Take that, Morse code, you antiquated half-tongue. No match for Java. After some minutes spent adjusting for the rudimentary translation, I found that the album belonged to the quixotic Montreal label Los Discos Enfantasmes, whose logo I vow to recognize hereforth. The band is the enigmatic (if I remember right?) Quebecois trio Kantnagano, the title translating to “resigning oneself to the silence of outer space,” although still listening insistently as the label suggests. So, mystery solved, and it’s still not even the hottest part of the day.
Oh, right, the music. Well, it’s maybe what you’d expect – very minimal, fragmented, sometimes seems to be taking the piss but perhaps just not always super confident. Certainly it seems to comment only vaguely on its fraught conceptual duality, which may lead one to conclude that the band and/or label was just being difficult. The first side is made up entirely of a slow upward tone sweep that stays high for the duration, almost like TV static and occasional faint oscillations. The B-side has a scattered beginning, but eventually settles into a keyboard drone, giving way to a vintage-concrète collage of vocal sounds. Eno-esque MIDI loops drive quirky grooves, and more synth passages continue to an anticlimatic cutoff ending.
I found this annoying, but I guess the randomness, the search, the frustratingly empty content and all that, is actually keeping with the concept I initially interpreted – searching for meaning and fulfillment where there is none. Which makes me actually like this tape, but more like the idea of the tape or what the tape says, as opposed to the music on it.