Rambutan, ‘Inverted Summer’

Posted by on June 18, 2013

Rambutan-Inverted_Summer

Fabrica Records, 4/9/13

For those immersed in the more experimental corners of the cassette underground, upstate New Yorker Eric Hardiman is likely a familiar name by now. For several years, he has been an active participant in various group projects, among them the scorching guitar-based bliss-outs of Century Plants and the subterranean heavy psych blowouts of Burnt Hills. Since 2008, Hardiman has also run one of the more aptly named imprints around in Tape Drift, issuing forth a steady stream of limited run CD-R, tape, and vinyl releases of his own work and from other like-minded artists, including Derek Rogers, M. Geddes Gengras, Lee Noble, Sparkling Wide Pressure, and many others. For those that follow music on this level, you know that it is a network built upon mutual support, genuine camaraderie, and pure enthusiasm. If you have had any interaction with Tape Drift whatsoever, you also know that Hardiman is the veritable goodwill ambassador of this scene, exuding the best in what DIY music is and ought to be about.

If you are still on the sidelines, though, what you really want and need to know about Hardiman is the solo work that he has created. In and around the time of Tape Drift’s inception, Hardiman began recording under the name Rambutan, and he has since gone on to release no less than thirty-five titles on virtually every microlabel worth its salt. As Rambutan, he has explored a multitude of sounds and styles using guitar, bass, synth, and an arsenal of electronics and effects. His releases have featured everything from long-form feedback drones (see 2008’s Rusted Prayers Converge) to mutant techno variations (2010’s The Temple of Echo) to bursts of playful electronic shenanigans (2011’s Partial Wires). Oftentimes these elements are melded together within an individual release and, occasionally, within individual tracks. For this, Hardiman has created a truly unique body of work, with some of his releases being notable exemplars within the contemporary cassette underground or, hell, the field of abstract music at large.

While I hold his previous output in high regard, Inverted Summer is undoubtedly Hardiman’s most definitive and convincing work to date as Rambutan. Marking his first full-length vinyl outing, the eight tracks spread across Inverted Summer are as direct and succinct as Hardiman ever has been, retaining, however, a certain degree of emotional depth and complexity that has not been nearly as palpable on prior efforts. Though it is not clear if Inverted Summer holds some unifying theme, there is a sense of loneliness laced with a misty-eyed optimism imbued in these tracks, but embedded within some sort of imagined, futuristic landscape. “Time Garden,” for example, pairs aqueous electronic textures with the sort of solar bound, melodic uplift that peers like Panabrite have been known to travel, though I’m guessing that vintage synth gear is hardly involved in this journey. Likewise, “Frozen Flowers” features fuzzy, heavily processed guitar notes that burst out of layers of darting electronics and stately ambient textures.

What makes Inverted Summer so engaging is that even at the most outré or alien sounding moments, Hardiman is able to craft something that never comes off less than being completely heartfelt and human, regardless of whether he is using layers of piano (“Flying Through Glass”), bass (“Shallow Motion”), or pure electronics (“Floodlights”). Simply put, Inverted Summer is proof positive of Hardiman’s talents; it is the type of ‘next level’ release that is deserving of a wider audience well beyond the corners of the cassette underground that he has proven himself in time and time again.