April Magazine

If the Ceiling Were a Kite, Vol. 1

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If the Ceiling Were a Kite, Vol. 1 Review

by Tim Sendra

Taking cues from the softer side of the Velvet Underground, the gentle dirges of slowcore, and the innocent shamble of vintage indie pop, the Bay Area collective April Magazine released a clutch of recordings between 2018 and 2020 that were unknown to all but the most dedicated followers of home-cooked lo-fi pop. Thankfully, people don't have to miss out anymore because Tough Love has gathered up the best of their recordings from that busy two-year time span on the 2021 collection If the Ceiling Were a Kite: Vol. 1. The band record in a bedroom on four-track cassette, trading fidelity for immediacy and seemingly going with the "first take, best take" philosophy. As the tape rolls through a crackling haze of dust and fuzz, the guitars barely keep in tune, the drums lie back to the point where they are nearly audible, and the vocals chase after pitch like a puppy after a tennis ball. These are all good things, unless one is a stickler for professionalism and doesn't care about raw emotions and unvarnished expression. The band deliver both of those as they toggle between rambling, midtempo pop songs and glacial slowcore ballads. At times they sound like the Pastels playing the Codeine songbook into a handheld tape player; other times it sounds like Duster taking a warbly crack at C-86 pop. Either way, it is a thrilling prospect for fans who like their genres mixed and matched in interesting ways. On the poppy side, "Shirley Don't" is a lonely little tune that features Katiana Mashikian crooning sweetly while the band jangles unsteadily behind her, "Parade" lilts sweetly like Mazzy Star at their first rehearsal, and the melancholy ballad "Snow" stacks up nicely next to the Shop Assistants' classic "Somewhere in China," only with a very smeared melody. The slowcore faction is represented nicely by the stately "Pink Hair," a gentle ramble that slowly drowns in overloaded guitar, and the ghostly "Uptown," which buries the vocals deeper than Al Capone's vault. In between those poles are tracks that touch on droning shoegaze ("If the Ceiling Were a Kite"), avant-garde noise ("After Pachelbel"), and moody, mostly instrumental diversions that sound like the Velvets warming up backstage ("Daffodils"). Nothing here is overthought or overplayed, it's transmitted right out of the bandmembers' brains and hearts, right onto tape for anyone brave enough to peer through the tape hiss and sonic gunk to discover the beauty within. Not since the glory days of early-'90s lo-fi has a band so firmly grasped the whole point of the style, and the way April Magazine incorporate indie pop and slowcore into that aesthetic turns the whole thing into a magical endeavor.

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