Published Mar 17, 2017Cassettes from the New Millennium is an apt name for Harley Small's debut album.
The Vancouver producer has worked with local indie bands like Peach Pit and the Tourist Company, but he embraces chaotic, 21st century sensory overload as he strikes out on his own. Many of his tracks bury themes of consumerism and desire under intricately textured noise pop. It's an album concerned with learning what to want, but its lack of focus suggests Small has yet to find a definitive answer.
Small frequently splits the difference between producer and songwriter. He manages to reconcile these roles on opener "ZAD," which welds tinny leads and domineering, claustrophobic snare beats to a paranoid pop structure. His more uncompromising work yields the best results. "Sleep Debt" pairs an industrial beat with drifting synth sighs, while the album's two sound collages capture the kitschy ephemera of Broadcast's work with the Focus Group.
However, forays into the conventional are less successful. The folk rock on "Today's Plans" feels out of place among the album's clamour, while other songs lack specificity. There are no outright duds here, but on "Individual Kings," interesting stylistic flourishes like mournful violins fall victim to boilerplate pop elements like funk-lite guitars.
Cassettes from the New Millennium is a promising introduction, but it lacks unity and individuality. Small has yet to carve out a niche for himself, but his potential makes him well worth watching. (Independent)