Davye Hawk has recorded under a variety of names, including Memory Cassette and Weird Tapes, in addition to having fronted Philadelphia indie rock band Hail Social. Yet he settled on Memory Tapes for his first proper album (or mini album, depending on how you want to look at it). It’s a name that makes sense in the context of the music-on Seek Magic he crafts a shimmering new wave sound that recalls long forgotten ’80s mixtapes, the cassettes with homemade covers that my brothers would leave behind after journeying off to college, each side packed with classics by New Order or The Cure. Yet Hawk blends vintage new wave sheen with some modern dance music updates, the intimate, crackly feel leaving many to include Hawk as part of the newly minted “glo-fi” movement. For as intimate and dreamy as these songs are, however, Hawk creates something far more stunning and universal than mere microgenre tomfoolery.
Seek Magic comprises eight gorgeously crafted melodies that veer between ethereal and urgent, danceable when they want to be, but always drifting among daydreams. Hawk builds up a watery blend of shoegazer guitars on the aptly titled “Swimming Field,” prior to unleashing the outstanding single “Bicycle,” which is alternately hypnotic and propulsive. Synths dance and twirl around a buzzing bassline, while Hawk’s own distant, reverb-heavy voice floats like a specter haunting this discotheque. “Green Knight” layers bongo beats and an eerie piano melody, transitioning later to a rhythmic breakdown of basketball court samples. Seven minutes of the funky and fun “Stop Talking” could easily stretch on for even longer without wearing out their welcome, particularly when the song escalates into a deep neon funk. Similarly, “Graphics” piles up hyperactive synths, while “Plain Material” changes course into a woozy guitar pop number that ranks among the album’s catchiest and most bittersweet tunes.
None of the tapes I discovered in the home-dubbed treasure trove I found at 12 or 13 sounded exactly like Seek Magic, but the album nonetheless captures a similar aesthetic. There’s a warmly nostalgic feel to these songs, but there’s something quite advanced and sophisticated as well. Davye Hawk may very well decide to keep his recording moniker in flux, but as Memory Tapes he’s made something truly wonderful.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.