A couple of summers ago — 2009, to be exact — several bedroom musicians arrived at approximately the same sound. Their music seemed as though it was recorded on melted cassingles. The critical watchwords were “Day-Glo,” “spectral,” and “nostalgic,” though lovers and haters alike quickly labeled the genre chillwave. Some of these artists already fit into a tight social network. But while Toro Y Moi and Washed Out issued their viral MP3s from the South, Dayve Hawk made his opaque synth-pop from New Jersey in relative isolation. He called his project Memory Tapes.
Chillwave has already moved on, even while some of the genre's most vehement detractors have not. One of this year's interesting subplots is the return of the artists both blessed and cursed by their association with the tag. Toro Y Moi put out his second album last winter, while Washed Out followed this summer. Last week Hawk returned with Player Piano, a set of songs more musically bold and lyrically pronounced than his earlier, gauzier tracks. All three albums are still touched by the zombiefied hand of pop's past. But Hawk is emerging as perhaps the most sonically astute of the pack. On Player Piano, his layers of synths and noise never fail to add up to a kind of story told in timbres.
I exchanged emails with Hawk this week in anticipation of his visit to San Francisco. Memory Tapes plays Slim's tonight.
I understand you don't like to do these kinds of things — interviews, publicity, and the like — so I appreciate your indulgence here. How have you been occupying yourself offstage while on tour?
Touring is pretty mind-numbing. When I'm not playing we're usually driving, trying to sleep, or trying to eat. Life becomes about basic needs.