I was thrilled to get this latest Unicorn Hard-On tape. This is the solo project of Val Martino, who has also done time in groups like the Laundryroom Squelchers and Gang Wizard and has a collaborative record with Leslie Keffer coming out in the future.
Unicorn Hard-On largely uses these devices called Electribes, which I believe were originally intended for making techno music. Here they are put to much better use, making sounds and music which is technically “electronic” but sounds and feels much more organic. We’ve got 2 long tracks on this tape, one per side. Side A is called “secret snarls” and starts off with a slow-motion, off-kilter beat and some unidentifiable buzzes and hums. Eventually a mid-tempo funk beat sneaks up on us and the ominous buzzing becomes background to some bird-call-like lead synth sounds. This is the part of the show where the audience would start nodding in unison, then maybe tapping their toes, loosening up little by little.
Side B starts out with some serious Dr. Who sounds with a heavy pulse-beat lurking in the background. Based on the slow-build style of side A, the side B track title (“all into it”) and that lurking beat, I though for sure this was going to spontaneously drop into some heavy, rave-style dance jams but it never quite did. Instead the echoey synthesizer sounds just keep heading further and further out into deep space. I’m sure at a loud, live show this would also compel people to start grooving in rhythm but on tape here it seems to play out more as a head-trip than a body-mover. The sounds of video games, laser battles, and alien swamp creatures calling to each other continually morph throughout the track.
This comes in a nicely tactile fabric wrap with some yarn, fur, and an attached title card. Very cool.