(Curatorial Club; 2010)
By Kaylen Hann | 28 January 2011
While 2010 brought with it several opportunities to open my latched-tight heart to a number of people/prospects/ideas I wouldn’t normally (like Pitchfork Fest, for example), I still held tight to other burnt bridges I was happy, and even proud, to have set fire to. I relinquished an indulgent beef with vinyl, and as for the cassette tapes trend, I stayed the course. Vehemently. I do not hold any warm memories for those fuckers. They’re a pain in the ass for reasons pretty much everyone is familiar with. I’d support the growing pierced kittens movement before the cassette tapes. Skip ahead to this year.
While my heart hasn’t exactly thrown wide the door, I am inching ever-so-gingerly towards at least not ignoring that, yes, cassette tapes do exist. (This is how I functionally ignore, say, Bing and witch house.) And the sole reason for this hesitation is: I missed this really exquisite release from a band I’d instantly struck a monumental fancy for earlier in 2010.
“All Around and Away We Go” having been one of my top tracks from last year—not that those are listed anywhere besides some 4AM Facebook blast I’m sure I lost a few followers over—Twin Sister was instantly etched into my internal “best new music” list. While enjoying the band’s previously released EP and LP, it was only in early January that someone passed me an MP3 version of the Curatorial Club’s release Alternates.
No stranger to multi-headed beasts like Altered Zones, Curatorial Club’s merely an arm of the constantly branching Chocolate Bobka brand-tree. Alternates is a cassette tape literally, actually, packed with spectacular alternate renditions of tracks I’d already given a listen and tracks I’ve never heard elsewhere (“Jailbirds,” for instance), all of the featured tracks holding a vast amount of surprise and delight, respectively. No track on this collection is simply “tweaked” or is merely sporting a subtle change of ornamentation or pacing.
Far from being roughly executed, the A-side of the cassette features early, less-polished versions of tracks from Twin Sister’s Vampires with Dreaming Kids EP (2008): a furtively paced, chin-thrust-out, attitude-laden version of “Ginger (Jab),” where the most (or only) distinctive element the Long Island quintet preserves is the way their lead female vocalist, Andrea Estrella, pulls her pronunciations right out of Chingy’s “Right Thurr.” Then comes an extended, utterly re-tooled version of “Nectarine,” followed by “I Want a House Built Out of Old Wood,” which features all the water-and-wood synthesizers of a Braids track, as well as the haunting coos and warming sentiments you’d find tucked into that Mt. Eerie/Julie Doiron album.
The B-side holds the same array of samples and surprises. Besides obvious sample tracks that on their LP, Color Your Life (2010), make up whole songs and are accompanied by fully fleshed-out vocals, the band lends a whole new color and, sometimes, whole new faces to the songs. As drastic as even the occasional gender shifts of the first-person narrator: female vocalist Estella handing the reins of “New Suit” over to lead guitarist Eric Cardona, and Cardona gives the track a self-deprecating, wide-eyed stumble, granting the warm, almost adolescent lyrics (“I try to look my best for you”) a modest tint. Cardona again proves in the real kicker of this side, “White Bread,” that the guitar isn’t the only instrument this dude can wield. This intimate, raw version of “All Around and Away We Go” is shared vocally between Estrella and Cardona, whose execution of the breathy, warm “ha ha”s infuses the track with a potent, almost young-adult-indie-flick charm.
“Smoke” is not as I’d imagined—perhaps a whispering trail of vocals hanging over a Fiona Apple-inspired piano progression?—but features a lush beat and an even richer-toned stream of vocals from “Lady Daydream.” The remaining tracks are more taster-portion samples from other songs: the bubbling waters and small footsteps that crunch and splosh in snow, pulled from “Galaxy Plateau,” and ending with the synth-heavy dance track, appropriately titled “Synth Jamm” (LP version is “Phenomenons”), which is still a treat. Even stripped of Estella’s ultra-creamy vocals.
While I can find delight in the whimsy of these cheap and limited edition cassette projects, and appreciate their appeal, what with the cash driving straight to the artists, projects like these get my goat. One, because I don’t have anything to listen to cassettes on, even if I wanted to. And two, I would not want to. Which means waiting to pay for a release of an MP3 version. It gets me riled just thinking about it. But, it’s worth bringing to light: Alternates has officially, single-handedly given me great pause. This release has put one of my most steadfast druthers on the fence. If there is a chance you’re late to board the Twin Sister fan train, or haven’t given this particular release a go (cassette or otherwise), let me tell you: holy shit, do you have a hell of a nice listen ahead of you.