Aught (stylized “/\\Aught” or simply “/\\”) has been quietly releasing tapes since the middle of this year and has certainly done a good job of forging a consistent aesthetic across 4 tape releases so far. The transparent tapes and their clear ziplock packaging reveal nothing but the artist and release number, and the information provided online offers little more in terms of substantial background. Indeed the clear cassette and packaging draws most of its attention to the magnetic tape itself as if to say, “it’s about the music stupid.” Alright, fine, I’ll talk about the music.
Aught 04 seems to be by ACI_EDITS. I say seems to be, because I can find scant information about this artist. Throwing on the tape, you begin to see a pattern in the 5 tracks that make up this small but intriguing cassette. Each track is made up of more or less the same elements: short, simple loops of drums, synths and the occasional vocal sample, undulating in and out, lethargically competing for attention. Parts get squashed and accentuated seemingly without a larger structure. They are not so much songs as sketches or exercises with little development in any given track; they simply fade in at the beginning and fade out at the end. The simplicity and minimalism is alluring. There is just enough going on to draw you in and encourage you to pick everything apart in this strange, déjà-vu-familiar, uncanny music. Paradoxically, it feels like an enigma, but reveals itself to you willingly. This all is helped by a slightly lo-fi feel with just enough noise on every track. The first track’s beat is laid down by almost Caribbean-sounding drums, and a short but grooving bass line loop. Up top are a couple of brief, marginally intelligible vocal samples and an echoing synth stab or two. Track 2 follows a similar pattern with shuffling snares in the drums, and a more ambient low end. Track 3 is the brightest on the tape, foregoing the full low end of all the other tracks. The rhythm on this one is interesting with half-time, very noisy, midrange thumps driving it forward, while metallic sounding snares spice it up. It almost sounds like steel drums provide the “melody” (if you can even call it that). Track 4 breaks the mold a little bit. It’s the longest, starkest and most definitive statement of the release. Bass drums, hand claps and what very well may have once been a snare drum make up the most fleshed out beat on the tape. The rest is quiet but important noise that gives texture and fleshes out everything out to a needed fullness. A hypnotic, low-level ebb and flow sounds like a not-so-far away ocean, or perhaps the passing-by of cars over wet asphalt above ground or far below. The fifth and final track changes things slightly once again. What sounds like a track that could of fit comfortably on the tape in and of itself comes through with the most decisively lo-fi sound on the release. It sounds like a cell-phone recording out of a skeevy club in a basement somewhere. It’s the sound of a drunken haze; you can almost hear the tired feel shuffling, smell the stale alcohol and sweat, and see indistinct bodies move with end-of-the-night reluctance. It’s the cavernous sound of a near-empty club where the stragglers and DJ have been left to their lonely charade until everyone finally clears out. Certainly the most intriguing track. The final two tracks are my personal favorites, but I can’t decide if that is because the opening three are needed to build up to them. Perhaps the release is best taken as a whole.
As is obviously the intention, this tape leaves me with more questions than answers. Is this club music? Not really, but it’s indebted to club music. Okay, is this dance music? Certainly, but I can’t see myself putting this on at a party. Whatever it’s for, it worth a listen, coming out of out of left field and staying there but with a frankness and honesty I find lacking in a lot of other oblique tape releases of various genres. The cassette itself is pretty nice, but remember, it’s about the music stupid. You can find the tape or the digital files at Aught’s bandcamp here.