Another summer, another impeccable interpretation of summer from the increasingly masterful and ever-more distinct Music from Memory. The auteur this time is Michal Turtle, a Croydon-born musician and producer who spent the heart of the 1980s making subtle, enlightened music.
After overtly piquing our expectations by unleashing his Are you Psychic? earlier this year (don’t know about you, but that ‘do bright lights bother you?’ whispered in a spooked-out domestic daze has stayed with me ever since), here comes MEM with a full retrospective of his 1980s tracks which really does sound fresh. Once again, we have an artist who had lived in relative obscurity: after a lovely but ultra-rare mini-album entitled Music from the Living Room, released by Shout (responsible for the first Shoc Corridor record, just to paint this picture) Turtle moved to Switzerland for ever after, producing and arranging a myriad artists while apparently neglecting his knack for penning his own impressive improvisational electronics.
A jazz sensibility and funky playfulness sustained by an almost electroacoustic attention to detail dart through a very personal, breezy proto-Balearic
Turtle blends a series of influences to achieve something like a futuristic chill-out: moments of jazz sensibility and loosely funky playfulness, sustained by an almost electroacoustic attention to the detail of sounds dart through a very personal, breezy proto-Balearic. The tracks featured here pour into one another in an airy, feathery fashion although Turtle moves around a fair bit in his construction of atmospheres. On the first record we’re introduced to a mindful exotica where slap-basses sustain glitzy, televisual synth lines (“Ball of Fire”), looped tribal voices and percussions simmer alongside watery soundscapes (“Village Voice”) and autobahn-meets-favela in sinister post-new age electronic apocalypses (“El Teb”). Things get more intense on the second LP of the retrospective: they get darker at times, heightened, and further away from any kind of genre or formula. Highlights are the softly neurotic “Phil #5” which sounds like at least three tracks at once (bubbling voices over strumming guitars, stabbed by a driving bass-synth, mourned by a never-ending silvery drum pattern) and the concave mirror-dancing provided by the relentless pitch-bending of “End of an Era”, a Turtle closer to the one we had previously met on both “Are you Psychic?” and “Astral Decoy”. The 8-minute title-track, “Phantoms of Dreamland” is probably the one you should listen to if nothing else: a voyage into downbeat modulations and doomsday meditations, a monologue of tinnily-delivered psycho-spiritual ending on the sentence “am I wrong?” feels like it might be dispensing some form of 4 AM truth.
Whatever Turtle was up to in his parents’ living room, he was in the throes of a great inspiration, and maybe of some kind of prophecy too, at least about the future of electronic music. And like other artists featured on the Amsterdam label throughout its brief but bright existence, the music on this double LP – while rather timeless – sounds ostensibly not of its own time. Similarly to collections we’ve previously reviewed here on Juno Plus, such as Vito Ricci’s I Was Crossing a Bridge or Napoleon Cherry’s Walk Alone, this is the retrospective of an outsider, of somebody rarefying a number of trends of his generation and distilling them into something else: a prophetic alchemy, perhaps? It’s music that glitters, flutters, does things its own way.