It’s the grade-school notebook you find rummaging through your dresser drawers, riddled with absent-minded doodles and penciled tessellations that meander across its wide-ruled pages. Mostly improvised and scrawled onto 4-track tape, Orange Cake Mix’s At the Record Shop is a gallery of charming song sketches, terse and skeletal, that revel in their own raw spontaneity. Recorded at the turn of the millennium, Jim Rao’s lo-fi transmissions sound neither dated nor overly hip – they instead lie in a snug middle ground between Sentridoh’s percussive folk strummers and the emogaze of Teen Suicide – the tape¬†is chock-full of tinny lead guitars that melt atop warm vocal harmonies. Imagine the fusion of a higher-fi Barlow and a twangier Mac Demarco: Orange Cake Mix is timeless, unobtrusive and perfect for zoning out to in the late evening.
Fuzz-soaked space rock drones like “Movement of Light” and the woozy “Space I’m In” are the tape’s best first impressions, but lately I’ve been returning to the handful of new-agey synth-scapes that litter the record. “Theme From Certron” crackles with retro sci-fi fuzz, sending aqueous tones out into a reverb abyss while “Casio Drone” swirls with Atari sound effects like a Van Gogh night sky. Acting as the glue that holds At The Record Shop¬†together, these atmospheric meditations give the listener room to breathe admist the smattering of fractured ideas. It’s a beautiful mess that’s a joy to traverse.
The cassette edition of the album comes in a sturdy cardboard sleeve, hand-painted polka dots gracing its cover. You can grab your copy here!
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