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Minmae - Microcassette Quatrains

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Artist: Minmae

Album: Microcassette Quatrains

Label: Blue Sanct

Review date: Nov. 24, 2003

In 1998, San Diego resident Sean Brooks decided to borrow a 4-track from a neighborhood friend and record an album. Adopting the alias Minmae (after his favorite character from Japanese animation, Robotech) and armed with only his trusty Squire Jagmaster, an old digital delay pedal, and a cheap drum machine, he did just that. The resulting collection of fuzz-heavy, distortion clad tunes sounded, at times, like Flying Saucer Attack’s wildest drone-haze hymnals and, at others, the earliest works of bedroom wanderers Smog and Sebadoh. Sean’s sleepy, slumbering voice could be heard just emerging from the chaotic sprawl that lay beneath it, which in turn would then grow to envelop their master’s words in the sonic shroud. The occasional sample (are those really the car horns from Madness’ “Driving In My Car” I can hear?) and introduction of radio static filled the precious little space remaining. These primitive recordings were subsequently picked up by the people at BlueSanct, who then issued them as a cassette-only release.

But more than four years later, someone at Blue Sanct obviously felt the time was right for these musings to reach a new and potentially wider audience. With the addition of two bonus tracks, taken from a prior recording, Microcassette Quatrains is born again on CD. What is interesting about this reissue (I’m guessing it is a reissue and not some perverse marketing ploy), apart from the music itself, is the retention of those technical hiccups beget when transferring tape to compact disc. For instance, during the opening of “Perpetual Shift Introduction”, the guitar drone disintegrates and fades during a tape dropout, but is left in place as document of the process of transference, much in the same way, albeit in miniature, as the exploration of deterioration as legitimate music force in the work of New York based musician and composer William Basinski.

Like the discovery of an early band demo or a long lost tape recording of a bunch of childhood friends playing let’s pretend radio, which were so much an integral part of many people’s growing up (it can’t have been just me and my brother can it?), Microcassette Quatrains makes for an interesting but patchy curio, containing parts that will have you squirming with embarrassment, but others that will bring a little warmth to the heart.

By Spencer Grady

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