A Panasonic S0324 AM/FM Stereo Cassette Boombox. This utilitarian model opts for big speakers and a thick mid-range. It’s a no frills affair that drains D cell batteries like nobody's business. Its shiny greyish-brown plastic case seems to mark the end of the durable models meant for use outdoors and the rise of the more compact “bedroom” models that came to dominate the consumer market in the '90s. There's also some faded sharpie on the bottom that says “Harry.” All that said, it has a nice, warm sound to it.
Ohio’s Byron Ferrari has been making music under the name Casino Gardens for almost a year now, having previously been known as Young Heat and possibly some other schoolyard nicknames as a child that I am not privy to. He released an album with Beer on the Rug last year that was fuzzy and warm in a nice way. Fantasies in Cools Palace is his first release on Chicago’s Lillerne Tapes. The cassette also includes a code to download a digital copy.
A first listen to Fantasies in Cools Palace calls to mind the lo-fi heydey of a whole 2 years ago, but as arrays of crunchy guitar jangle, filmy digital synths warble, and unintelligible vocals drift by, it becomes clear that is its own animal. It seems that the pretext of making a pop album has been thrown out the window here, along with verses, choruses, and armies of effects pedals. The result is a complex sort of audio collage, with the tracks making abrupt, coherent changes in direction that make it a bit unclear where one begins and another stops. Clocking in at 24 minutes, this is a bite-sized odyssey that you can listen to two and a half times in a row before you realize you are repeating songs.
How it sounds:
Listening to this on a boom box makes the illusion that you’re listening to someone flipping through an AM band populated only by especially quirky college radio stations nearly complete. The tape hiss would help even out some of the rough edges of the more lo-fi sections, but there aren’t really any to be had. The album is too smartly recorded and oddly but sensibly mixed for that. You could probably cook or clean to this music, if you were up for it.
The full package:
Super saturated guitars, pyramids, and pixelated clouds dominate the case’s art, while an elongated angel hangs out with the track list. There’s also a poem in there, but I won’t ruin all the surprises for you.
“Pool Side Drive/Squeevil's Theme for the Casino Tiki Shop” kicks off with a sunny groove that’s soon displaced by uber-catchy riffing that takes on noisey twists as it goes on.
Fantasies in Cools Palace is now available on Lillerne Tapes.