Album Review: sandcastles. – tantrums



Damn. Who broke Bakari Lebby‘s heart so bad? His electronic project, sandcastles.‘ new album, tantrums, is clearly his heart’s crime scene, bloody with evidence. Unfortunately, we lack CSI’s David Caruso‘s dad-friendly wit, stoically putting on sunglasses after saying something like “Looks like this heart’s beat,” so we’re left to piece it together on our own. I want names. The first track, dating, implies the source of these woes. Was it “Chelsey” from shark week, “Amanda” from spectra or was it Tiffani Thiessen‘s repeated email rejections to his marriage proposals (starting with the words Dear Kelly)? Or maybe it was the scene that broke his heart, or his goals (with lyrics like “I never thought I’d be someone so I stopped trying”)? Of course, in some cases, he’s the one doing the heart breaking, such as his refusal to settle down in special. But, ultimately, I think the culprit here becomes apparent by the time you finish the album- wherein the source of this self-deprecation is found in his aversion to mirrors in closure, or the self-haranguing lucille ball, where he really takes the mickey out of himself. Perhaps the culprit is closer to home; maybe he breaks his own heart?

By all means, those who have never felt intense dissatisfaction with oneself, gohead, throw that first stone. At its root, this album seems to be an ode to a moment I’ve known as the bottom of an empty box of Moose Tracks or an empty bottle of Moosehead when you discover you are your own worst enemy, and most brilliant saboteur.

Psycho-analysis aside, dig the album’s production- it’s air-tight, despite the composition being less rigid and more of a scattered landscape, that capably establishes a disjointed mood littered with spacey synth pads and submerged wiry tones. The percussion ticks back and forth from ear to ear, with rhythms that don’t strictly adhere to convention, sometimes sounding like a world-weary robot’s last dance before powering down for the last time. Of course, there are songs that are more straight-laced and offer a more driving, sometimes even a bit jungly, beat, with a sonic presence that bounds along like a late night city bus, but even these aren’t without their break-down moments suddenly lost in the ether.

Though Bakari is responsible for writing, producing, and mixing the album, he isn’t completely on his own, as Adam Shlon, the name behind local analog electronic artist PORNOJUMPSTART, lends his mastering ability, and it is a solid matching, despite their discrepancies in regards to name capitalization. Also, the beautiful woodwind crooning of Desirée Richardson is present every now and then, harmonizing on various songs. Personally, I think Desirée was underutilized, as her pipes on that synth landscape could really jive with the sad ghost feels. Perhaps in future releases, we could hear more Des, further bringing out a female point of attack that could more dynamically oppose the world of Bakari’s confessional soliloquy.

One thing that Bakari often impresses me with is his adeptness at marketing his various projects. He grinds, he hits the streets, and he knows the ins and outs of getting his work noticed. The tantrums package, coming in digital flavor, CD flavor, and cassette flavor, is aesthetically tight and polished, and the album pop art is eye catching as hell.

Sandcastles is a departure of personality from Bakari’s earlier rap group Sweet Vans, as the kinds of things he shrugged off with a snide or obscene remark alongside Ginger Snap he now seems to really take to heart. This vulnerability transmuted through frank electronic delivery, defined by Bakari rather alliteratively as “soda city sadcore” is a suitable venue for him to explore more confrontational work without any barriers of satire or irony. In this way, I am interested to see where his heart plans to take him next, whether it be further down into the abyss, or perhaps, in a more reservedly hopeful direction. Of course, as a buddy, I really just wanna give the guy a big ol’ bear hug.

Either way, check out the release show this Friday, alongside local surfwax bombardiers Dead Surf and Hectorina, a touring high-concept-spacerock-opera-balls-out-extravaganza, (907 Texas St, 8:00, there’s gonna be gotdamn hamburgers being served on a hamburger shaped burgerbar get real). Also, scope his new music video, it’s like being tipsy at a party with really cute people.

-Pedro LDV

PS. Bakraken, seriously man, I know a girl that would be perfect for you. Trust me, next sandcastles album will be rainbow unicorn dream pop after I introduce you two. : )

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