Last heard from Canadian pop-experimenters Tetrix with their 14th release in September 2016…today we have a new item called Cassette Romance (NO LABEL) packaged in a cover made of black felt with a silkscreen design…it looks like a Walkman cassette player, a device which I have to assume is now a nostalgia or retro item and as such is wholly unknown to millennials with their ipods, mobile phones, and streaming tracks…unless it’s really true that “cassettes are making a comeback”.
Tetrix continue their back-to-basics song-form approach with this 5-track EP. Seems they got their hands on an accordion this time, perhaps left to them in a will or found in a charity shop…yet another “retro” item largely unknown to most laptop musicians and usually heard in these pages played by avant-garde musicians who wish to “deconstruct” that humble squeezebox, such as Jonas Kocher or Richard Sanderson. Tetrix not only play it like it’s supposed to be played, but demonstrate remarkable dexterity, and use its warm and hearty tones as the basis for most of these tunes and songs.
The title track in particular is the most, well, romantic of the batch, and the singers get back in touch with their buried Italian bel canto roots for some old-fashioned crooning that wouldn’t have felt out of place on any Mom’n’Pop LP record of the 1950s…you too can feel as though you’re being serenaded at your balcony by an unprepossessing bunch of blokes after one too many bottles of Labatt Blue. On top of these rich processed accordion drones, Tetrix also add filters and treatments to enrich the sound, and plonk in “twisted electronic beats” from their dusty Casio keyboards and such, and occasionally modernise the whole deal with clumsy attempts at rapping and other pop moves; ‘Ask Me in the Morning’ stands a chance of being mistaken for a Whitney Houston power ballad at 50 paces, while ‘Home’ and ‘Dust Bowl’ are spiced up with faintly-detectable C&W flavours, especially in the drawling singing. Ironically, when they attempt an actual pop song, John Lennon’s ‘Dear Prudence’, it comes out less parodic and more like the kind of distorted and wry electro-pop they do so well.
“The package and the music are a singular expression,” writes Connor in the enclosed letter, hoping I appreciate holding an object hand-created by the musicians themselves, who put it together in their Calgary studio. “The visual and auditory manifestation of a moment in our lives”. From 24th October 2017.