Paper Dollhouse - Cassettes - MoonDome

Paper Dollhouse of MoonDome Records

The whole package. Picture by Ilius

Paper Dollhouse bridges living room melancholy and nighttime euphoria in her 2016 stream of excellent tape releases inspiring our nocturnal geographies (listen now)

There is a certain subversion in the way music reflects nightlife. Ever since the release of VVm’s The Death of Rave, haunting and beautiful explorations of megalomaniacal dancefloor emptiness and the unhomely, bleak nature of club spaces, rave references and melancholia began to emerge as a counter-statement to the decadent nature of nightlife. It seems that post-rave comedowns, tiring journeys home, grim nocturnal club spaces and twilit empty dancerooms became the new moments of interest, replacing euphoric, numinous peaks of rave (or perhaps becoming them?). As Mark Fischer put it in his writings on Burial: “abandoned spaces once carnivalized by Raves” are now in “depopulated dereliction”. However, where Burial was more concerned with wounded urban landscapes and decadent post-rave social strata, there are also other more surreal and self-observing trails the modern mind wanders at night.

Recently there have been many who approached these internal spaces from different angles. Earlier this year, for example, Konx Om Pax’s Caramel merged light nostalgia with multiple rave references throughout the span of this excellent record. And one of the most intriguing works in this vein was Sophia Loizou’s Singulacra - an airy and picturesque affair conjoining a new age flow with occasional creeping spectres from half-remembered parties. An album reminiscent of Lee Gamble’s Diversions if it was re-experienced through an ecstatic and vibrant, iridescent lens.

Paper Dollhouse (aka Astrud Seehounder) has her own way of relating to these atmospheres. Astrud comes from an experimental/folk background and might be familiar to some due to her association with such labels as Folklore Tapes and Night School. Her deep background in folk experimentalism and association with hauntological themes was transferred into her recent four tape releases. Whereas Astrud’s Folklore Tapes release drifted along the forgotten fringes of Devon folklore, this year’s output reminds the solemn corners of East London, which were extensively referenced in Luke J. Murray’s short essay accompanying the Cellophane L: Selected Dreams 2010 - 2013 (Volume 1) release. Yet what remains is the same psychogeographical urge to wander, embrace and reflect the environment - the traces of hidden British topographies that have been so extensively celebrated by Ghost Box, Folklore Tapes, Hacker Farm, Demdike Stare and others. Quite a large number of people involved with these entities have a background in techno/jungle music, hence a pattern of futuristic roots mixing with rediscovered folk treasures.

Paper Dollhouse’s recent tape releases have captured these aforementioned strange post-euphoric experiences by merging elegant and gothy takes on dance music and shadowy pop experimentalism. They retain a dose of folkish sensibilities and undercurrents of more esoteric layers of modern day romanticism. In her most recent release - Nightside A: Selected Dreams 2012 - 2014 (Volume 2) - Astrud plays around with blissful hypnotic contemplations and ethereal techno cuts. The collection includes her work spanning from 2012 to 2014 and sounds like a gothic IDM/techno/dream pop soundtrack for a twilit room. This is a versatile record full of ghostly tracks that occasionally balances between sinisterly Lynchian moods (such as „Gremlins”) and playfully elegant, borderline bubblegum moments, such as „Helium Balloon”. “Chicago” feels like the apparition of a forgotten vocal house track, and “Coney Island Ice Cream Techno” dives into the depths of washed out industrial techno. The ambient tracks of the collection retain a dynamic spine and sometimes reminiscent of a candy-flossed Tangerine Dream, such as on „Eno”.

Previous Paper Dollhouse tapes this year share similar moods, realized through the use of different forms. Cellophane L: Selected Dreams 2010 - 2013 (Volume 1) was compiled of tracks that hinted at Aeonflower and had ideas to be elaborated in the latter LP. It was a brighter affair that included some of the most beautiful pieces by Astrud. As if an imaginary collaboration between Harold Budd and Nico or Cosey Fanni Tutti, it’s washes of synth-driven ambient pop crystalised the essence of Astrud’s charm.

It was, however, Empty Rave that had more of a connection to Nightside A. They share the same nocturnal attitude, intertwined with lively sci-fi references - “Playdoh” sounds like a new age rendition of Aphex Twin’s “On” and “Pudding Rain” could pass for a stargazing session after an intense night out. The claustrophobic pulsations of “Sparrow” shift into the sunshine-soaked sad drones of the title track. The rave might be empty because all of its participants are probably out in their own private worlds. These sketches provide an introspective experience, where careless explorations of neon-lit London or Berlin streets with their estranged wanderers go in parallel with an inner search; a bridge between the euphoria of nightlife and the melancholy of a silent living room.

With her excellent run of tapes and two full-lengths, Astrud confidently occupies her own niche. What differentiates her music from that of her peers are warm textures, chilling softness and dusky transparency. There is comfort in its otherworldly beauty, which at the same time feels so concrete that it might just be gleaned in everyday objects, should they be lit by a certain shade of light - the looming contours of a forgotten Victorian warehouse or a lonely highway curve, disappearing into the vivid horizon of a megalopolis.


Cellophane L: Selected Dreams 2010 - 2013 (Volume 1)

A1 Bell
A3 car park edit
A4 Steel Reverb Final
A6 circular
B2 ob
B3 piano updated
B4 space 2
B5 Emeralds
B6 short echo

Nightside A: Selected Dreams 2012 - 2014 (Volume 2)

A1 Raindrops
A2 Unicorn
A3 Crayons
A4 Eno
A5 Helium Balloon
A6 Mermaid Song
B1 Soviet
B2 Chicago
B3 Guitar Effect Space
B4 Gremlins
B5 Coney Island Ice Cream Techno
B6 Chimes
B7 Edward

About Author

Paulius Ilevicius is a Secret Thirteen journalist, editor and occasional DJ focusing on more dreamy and melancholic soundscapes. Born in post-industrial town of Pavevezys, currently he lives and works in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Leave A Reply