(Copyright © 2018 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of Use )
Ducktails (2009), 7/10
Landscapes (2009), 6/10
III - Arcade Dynamics (2011), 5/10
The Flower Lane (2013), 5/10
St Catherine (2015), 4/10
Jersey Devil (2017), 4/10
Watercolors (2019), 4/10

Ducktails, the project of Real Estate's guitarist Matthew Mondanile launched when he was still a student and resurrected after leaving the band, crafted the lo-fi home-made trance-rock of Ducktails (Not Not Fun, 2009), closely related to the chillwave movement that was just about to start. Beach Point Pleasant, an Eric Clapton-esque "wah-wah" guitar improvisation over looped fluttering electronics, and the similarly free-form Friends coin a humble style of simple emotions delivered with simple means. However, the tribal Caribbean dance Pizza Time, the drunk singalong Dancing with the One You Love that rambles on with childish instrumental accompaniment, the breezy Daily Vacation, that couples Duane Eddy-esque twang and honky-tonking rhythm, and Gem, with its synthetic hippy melody, war-dance tom-toms and dissonant sitar-like drones, display the wild creativity of acid-folk and garage-rock, as if the Holy Modal Rounders Incredible String Band were jamming together. An obvious influence is the repetitive approach of minimalist composers of the 1960s: Horizon merges African primitivism and Terry Riley-ian repetition; and the eleven-minute Surf's Up sound like Terry Riley's Persian Surgery Dervishes recorded in LaMonte Young's "Dream House", although after less than three minutes it gets hijacked by industrial and cosmic noises.

Mondanile's next step was the poppier Landscapes (Olde English Spelling Bee, 2009). Next to Brian Eno-esque synth-pop ditties such as On the Boardwalk and to Terry Riley-ian sonatas such as Deck Observatory and Seagull's Flight, the album indulges in more melodic songs such as Roses, with Welcome Home recalling the slow, soft rock of the 1970s and Wishes sounding like an Eagles-ian country-rock elegy. Only the demented singalong of Spring and the mumbled murky Oh Magnolia Tree evoke the acid-folk atmosphere of the first album.

III - Arcade Dynamics (Woodsist, 2011) abandoned the deviant lo-fi approach of the chillwave and veered towards more orthodox pop muzak (the Hawaiian Killin' The Vibe, the catchy ethereal Art Vandelay). The album is rescued only by the ten-minute guitar improvisation Porch Projector, which sounds like a sleepy John Fahey performing in a crowded square during a county fair.

Backyard (Release The Bats, 2009) collects early recordings.

Relocating to Los Angeles, Mondanile crafted the much more professional The Flower Lane (Domino, 2013) with the help of Daniel Lopatin (Oneohtrix Point Never), Madeline Follin (Cults), Jessa Farkas (Future Shuttle), Ian Drennan (Big Troubles), and bassist Joel Ford. Other than the gentle psychedelic folk-rock with chiming guitars of Ivy Coloured House and a deviant cover of Peter Gutteridge's Planet Phrom, the songs obey the dogma of smooth pop-jazz of the 1970s, notably Under Cover, embellished with a saxophone solo, and The Flower Lane, a ballad driven by an electric piano in the vein of Steely Dan.

The move towards the mainstream continued on the uniformly boring St Catherine (Domino, 2015), Jersey Devil (New Images, 2017) and Watercolors (New Images, 2019).

Hard Rock Cafe Chernoby (2019) is a compilation of leftovers.

(Copyright © 2016 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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