Ducktails III: Arcade Dynamics Ducktails III: Arcade Dynamics


Ducktails DucktailsDucktails III: Arcade Dynamics

7.8 / 10


Mr. Matthew Mondanile, one of those Facebook friends who I admire but don’t know, has a great phrase: “Tapes are important because they are physical and real, not like CDs or download cards. If you throw a tape at somebody, you’ll hurt them. Tapes are strong.” Listening to this defence of the old formats is enough to get an idea of what he is cooking up in his strange folk project Ducktails: low fidelity called to unleash the nostalgia of, say, thirty-something years ago. He achieves this with an amazing ease, and, unlike the hypnagogic fashion that he so detests, without resorting any more than necessary to loops, filters, and various processes. His aim is to defend an acoustic, vocal classicism that only allows the indispensable touches of experimentation. “Ducktails III: Arcade Dynamics”, which, as the name says, is the third piece from Ducktails, validates this idea from the very sarcasm of the title, and arrives at just the right time to confirm Mondanile as a great value on the rise in flooded territory: that of free-folk that takes chillwave and new psychedelics as its guideposts to set its course.

For the situation, “Arcade Dynamics” is Ducktails’ great leap, and for the contents, it is his best album to date. This is so because Matthew gives it his all like never before when it comes to polishing the songs, pampering them as much as possible, and organising them into a unitary whole that does nothing more than enlarge them, if “enlarge” is the best word to refer to such a timid, humble project. This is where the homemade and domestic is best hidden by what is wild, where he sets aside a hypothetical stage fright and reduces the excessive air of spontaneity that he had given his albums so far. Deep down, the songs continue to wave like reeds on which an insect has landed, but they manage to transmit the feeling of resting on a softer mattress. How and why has this change occurred? It’s not hard to get an idea of the reasons if we look at a history of collaborations and recent works that have only excited Mondanile: a 7” as a revealing album advance in Olde English Spelling Bee, others that have sold out, a split with Dracula Lewis for No Fun Productions, another with Rangers for Not Not Fun –the label that put out his first album, which is also being re-released now, and more and more open fronts: The Parasails, Predator Vision or his neighbours from New Jersey, Real Estate. The sum of all of these occupations, especially the tours with the latter, has contributed to this opening of his vision that we are talking about. Recorded like his other albums, alone in his basement, several of these friends, and more, have collaborated on this album: the drum of Sam Franklin (from Fluffy Lumbers and the noisy Big Troubles, whom he also plays with at times), Jarvis Taveniere (Woods) and Dent May putting together their cottony voices in the service of the rural “Killin’ the Vibe,” and, most decisively, Rusty Santos (Panda Bear, Ariel Pink) handling the balsamic mastering and mixing.

All in all, in spite of the apparent change, we can still recognise the same old Matthew, with his short songs and the long ending (the ten minutes of “Porch Projector”, a title that says it all, reminds one of the style of “Dreams in a Mirror Field”, which closed the compilation “Backyard” from 2009), a Matthew who wants to be less ambient and more specific, to end up at the expense of a tropical microclimate in which his new repertoire flows with the calm power of a flamingo in a swamp. If today he doesn’t remind one as much of Ash Ra Tempel as he did in “Landscapes”, it is because he reminds one of his current whereabouts. “Arcade Dynamics” sounds like a cross between the music of Real Estate, Woods , and his guitar maestro, Julian Lynch; three names that, on the other hand, wouldn’t be what they are if our man hadn’t built them their path first. Fraternalism and well-being are feelings that flower effortlessly as you listen. Because everything in this paragon of earthy folk (from a veiled love for Seinfeld hidden behind “Art Vandelay” to the candour of “Little Window”, a window on finger-picking that Devendra Banhart doesn’t open anymore), leads us to conclude that we are not looking at just another bucolic album.

Cristian Rodríguez

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