Cupp Cave – ‘Retina Waves’ (Ramp Recordings)

Retina Waves is Cupp Cave’s first LP since 2008’s Garbage Pail Beats. Ramp Recordings are the latest purveyors of his sound, and considering the contents of the album it’s an apt place to be. The largely syncopated rhythms of his past are not to be found here, the tracks instead carried strongly by a 4×4 template, providing a solid backbone for the atmospheric elements to take centre-stage.

A gratifying hiss and crackle accompanies you throughout the album, one of the many constants of Retina Waves. The aesthetic is tightly maintained, the forceful ambience creating a very human, organic sound, warm and approachable for the most part. The album concerns itself with slow-moving house for the most part, all beamed through a washed out, shoe-gazing lens.

Sounds stutter intermittently, ‘Bed Slap’ is stopped dead in its tracks at one point; Retina Waves constantly reminds you of the composer behind it. While the tracks feel connected aesthetically, the atmosphere on top is constantly shifting. The opening numbers are good-natured, the likes of ‘Bed Slap’ and ‘Gimlach’ providing satisfying, inoffensive content. Through ‘Kids A Loner’, François Boulanger creates deep waves of slightly melancholic nostalgia, drawing to a close the softer, more wistful portion of the album. ‘Mouth Rip’ takes things up a notch, the house leanings much more prevalent from hereon in. It’s an infectious beat, an aspect that isn’t in short supply throughout the album.

‘She Smells Like Sun Rays’ represents the apex of this shift in tone, and Cupp Cave at his most frantic. The hook represents a solid foundation for the distorted, detached vocals to wash over the track, and it’s pulled together effortlessly by the muffled kick. ‘Tigepath’ is increasingly hypnotic, as the clarity achieved by the offbeat guitar and forceful rhythm slowly ebbs away with the introduction of dense vocal layers. Cupp Cave never lets his tracks outstay their welcome, keeping the atmosphere fresh and unpredictable, a crucial aspect to the success of the album as a whole.

For all the positivity, Boulanger reminds us he can go darker. ‘Waver’ turns the template on it’s head, with a colder, static machine-like hook, the twinkling melodies now unsettling, the reverb-soaked vocals now saddening, but no less captivating. ‘White Out’ does what much of the album threatens to at points, and that is to dissolve into it’s own atmosphere. Retina Waves is a beautiful, unassuming album, entirely non-committal, Cupp Cave crafting a sound that seeps into your mood and mindset.

Seb Merhej

Retina Waves will be released via Ramp Recordings on April 9th.

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