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!