Tara Clerkin – Hello
Stolen Body Records – 12 May 2017
While everyone else was outside celebrating the anniversary of the “Summer of Love,” Tara Clerkin was inside making a record that sounds like it. Clerkin brings to mind a recycled Monterey Pop b-side on her new album Hello. Deeply steeped in lo-fi counterculture, Hello appeals to the analog audiophile or the music lover with a sixth sense for the production experimentation that embodied recordings of the psychedelic era. If this album were a time of day, it would be 3am—held together by hazy audio effects that echo and murmur like chatter in an empty concert hall. When Clerkin’s record spins, that lo-fi resonance comes to life.
Laden with morsels of artful audio engineering, Hello is like a brush with a bygone era. At times choppy and uneven, experimentally layered vocal and instrumental sound effects set the stage for a collaborative creation that will compel your inner-artist to make something (or make something happen). In a genre where the risk of overproduction is high, Clerkin cranks the reverb and says “who cares?” Her spirit was poured into this week-long recording project, and she left the studio with an abstract and imperfect creation that appeals to the connoisseur of audiovisual ephemera.
If you crave an album of avant-garde sounds straight out of a late-night jam session with Yoko Ono, this is a good place to start. Clerkin’s off-kilter minimalist melodies are half Velvet Underground and half Grizzly Bear. Through the crackles and pops of dead tape, a creative, colourful, and nostalgic voice emerges. Clerkin is an expert at what she does, and she does it with the devotion of a soul most at home in an analog studio in the basement of an old house.
From the scattered sing-song vocals of “John” to the lonely but optimistic guitar and woodwind duet in “Full of Fright,” Hello yields an amateurish charm that is best accented by an omnipresent ethereal muse played by Tara herself. Embedded in otherwise minimal tunes are signs of her presence: a sound bite of a chattering crowd in “Zadar” or a half-awake hum in “Sleepy Town.” It almost seems as if she is coming forth to wake us from our dream, to simply say “hello.”