A Walk Through Label 1080p’s Blissful Haze

Selections from the 1080p catalogue
“I wish I had a clear aesthetic in mind when I first started, but I think it was important to just get it going and see how it went from there.” —Richard McFarlane

I grew up in the Midwest, in the country. In the late 1980s and early ‘90s, people threw raves in the surrounding farmland; in the summer, I’d have my windows open and wake up in the middle of the night to the sounds of Detroit techno and Chicago house coming off cornfields.

Vancouver tape label 1080p takes me back to that time, back to the blurred nostalgia and blissful haze. The label name is a sly joke, referencing a former co-worker of label head Richard McFarlane’s, who was obsessed with digital resolution. The music isn’t exactly lo-fi, but there’s a gauzy, surreal quality to it, recalling the space funk of the early ‘90s liquid house group Dream 2 Science, and the globalist “fourth world” sound of Brian Eno’s EG label. McFarlane has dropped a new release every two weeks for the last few years, which makes 1080p remarkably prolific. The quality is consistent; the music is always forward-thinking and wistful. Powered by McFarlane’s refined tastes, the label is full of sonically kaleidoscopic albums that feel both familiar and far away. He’s a voracious consumer, gliding through different sounds and aesthetics.

The label also thrives on strong visuals and album art that are equally baffling and murky. Crude black and white scrawls of hoops and balls sit alongside grotesque 3D animated tableaus and pitch-perfect new-age design. “It definitely developed over time naturally,” McFarlane says. “I wish I had a clear aesthetic in mind when I first started, but I think it was important to just get it going and see how it went from there.”

1080p mostly distributes its physical releases via cassette (some of the newer 12 inch” releases have vinyl pressing in partnership with Rub a Dub), usually a medium now associated with low quality DIY dubs. 1080p tapes sound smooth and crisp (McFarlane uses a church cassette press in the Midwest). Below is a selection of memorable 1080p tracks.

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Little Tybee’s Label-Free Approach to Creativity

Little Tybee

Little Tybee. Photo by Amanda Wicks
“We don’t want a record deal.” —Brock Scott of Little Tybee

Little Tybee makes feel-good music that’s marvelously complex. Those two qualifiers may seem contradictory, but Little Tybee— Brock Scott (vocals/acoustic guitar), Josh Martin (eight-string guitar), Nirvana Kelly (violin), Chris Case (keys), Ryan McDonald (bass), and Pat Brooks (drums)—occupy a rare space. The group writes songs that boast intricate arrangements and highbrow technicality, but still emanate a warm, rich feeling. It’s symphonic jam music made to accompany a sunny porch and a pitcher of lemonade. Martin begins “Languid,” from their latest, self-titled album, by tapping his 8-string guitar, creating a fluid melody that Kelly builds on with her violin. What begins slightly mournful takes a massive leap into brighter territory just after the one-minute mark, when the rest of the band joins and the tempo quickens.

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Red Pill’s “Instinctive Drowning” Takes a Visceral Look at Depression

Red Pill
Red Pill. Photo by Ron Jude
“I want my friends to be happy, my generation to be happy.”—Red Pill

Like comedian Louis C.K., who he samples in his 2015 song “Rum & Coke,” lyricist Red Pill is fond of cracking sharp jokes about his own desperate existence. “I’m sick of looking at that coffee table, covered in these past dues,” he raps, “and writing about that coffee table covered in those past dues.” He’s describing his apartment, in the middle of a supposedly safe neighborhood, where his girlfriend still got carjacked. His own twinkling production adds a lush romanticism, softening the blows.

“Gin & Tonic,” from his new album Instinctive Drowning, is a spiritual sequel to “Rum & Coke.” Both are similar in scope, but on “Gin & Tonic,” Red Pill—born Christopher Orrick—realizes that even he’s tired of complaining. “All I want is to be happy in this life I got,” he sings on the hook.

“I think it’s more powerful in a way,” Orrick tells us. “It’s just two different ways of approaching the same topic. But I wanted to try to change my perspective on it and dig a little deeper. Get rid of the humor. Stripping it really down to what it is.”

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Album of the Day: M.O.T.H., “Westside Industrial”

M.O.T.H.’s Westside Industrial is experimental in style and concept; the album imagines a world where culture becomes a commodity, and art is suffering from a serious identity crisis. A tale old as time, really, and like the best science fiction, it feels eerily familiar, a reflection of cities (including composer Matthew Finch’s current home of Brooklyn) reshaped by financial matters and fantasy.

Finch’s uncomfortably numb narrative is told through two main characters—nameless, faceless visions of “him” and “her” trying to come to grips with a crumbling middle class and a society that sees nothing wrong with branding everyone’s belief system. Or, as Finch writes in the album’s theatrical liner notes, “I moved out here, to this mecca, because I believed in a story about this culture; because I believed in a myth about opportunity. I had no idea what I was participating in; I had no idea that I was an identity product of the elite knowledge workers of the middle class and acting as a symbol … promoting the culture and lifestyle of bourgeois materialism.”

Which is really a roundabout way of saying what we all think when a luxe condo building bursts out of concrete, promising a boho lifestyle to all its lessees. As for what that sounds like, Finch doesn’t spell anything out. He stretches the Westside Industrial storyline across three long instrumentals that alternate between stormy ambient sequences, woofer-wrecking bass lines, and meditative drone tones.

Remember that High-Rise adaptation no one saw last year? This is what would have happened if The Haxan Cloak was hired to do the score, which was tweaked slightly by the studio—just enough to show a few signs of hope, which glimmer until M.O.T.H.’s next LP, at least.

—Andrew Parks

The Merch Table: August 2016

Merch Table - August 2016
Every month, The Merch Table brings you the best and most bonkers merch you can find on Bandcamp. We commend bands and labels who get a little creative and think outside the tote bag. Whether it’s a fashion accessory, a piece of art, or something entirely unique, The Merch Table will showcase inventive, original—and, occasionally, downright strange—stuff that you might want to get your hands on. But, sorry: the electroluminescent animal mask is sold out.

1. Jef Elise Barbara Lapel Pin

Jef Elise Barbara Lapel Pin

Jef Elise Barbara is an R&B singer based in Montreal.  The perfectly coiffed Barbara is captured for eternity by artist Christina Baudin in this enamel pin. Whether worn on the lapel of your silk shirt at the disco or affixed to your cavans record collecting bag (see below), this pin is a must-have for the last days of disco, whenever they may be. No extra shipping in your order with the Sexe Machin / Sex Machine 7″ out on Fixture Records.

Also available from Jef Elise Barbara: Limited edition vinyl 7″.

2. Teranga 7″ Record Bag

Teranga 7″ Record Bag

The ultimate accessory for the tenacious crate digger. While out searching for singles, sling this gorgeous canvas russack over your shoulder and tote your treasures in style. Leave plastic bags and damaged corners to less experienced record collectors. This Senegalese label does stunning reissues of jazz, dance and a unique brand of psychedelia, all popular in the late 1970s.

Also available from Teranga: Deluxe gatefold LP from Royal Band de Thiès

3. il culo di Mario Cowbell

il culo di Mario Cowbell

There’s always room for more cowbell and this rambunctious Italian psych pop outfit have taken matters into their own hands. Add this cowbell to your drum kit or just have it around the house for emergencies. I’ve heard it makes an excellent door stop as well.

Also available from il culo di Mario: Dripping logo t-shirt.

4. Lobster Theremin Beer Koozie

Lobster Theremin Beer Koozie

Spark conversation around this musical crustacean and keep your beer cold at the same time.  Lobster Theremin, a London-based electronic label, has put out some of the year’s best intelligent house music; see Ross from Friends and S Olbricht.

Also available from Lobster Theremin: Lobster logo sweatshirt, Lobster logo packing tape and Lobster Theremin FC football jersey.

5. No Joy Alien Charms

No Joy Alien Charms

An alien charm that changes color from your favorite Canadian psychedelic punk band, what could be better than that? Made from a heat-sensitive material (like a mood ring), these plastic extraterrestrials will warm up or cool down as you do while being blasted with the sounds of No Joy.

Also available from No Joy: Alien t-shirt.

-Ally-Jane Grossan

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