06 September 2005

[DISCOGRAPHY] Remembering Today

Remembering Today
(P-Vine, 2005) PCD-23706 (Japan)
(Mush, 2005) MH-242
Format: LP, CD & Digital

1. I'm Way Too High
2. Bleached Platinum
3. They'll Make A Video Game Out Of Killing People Like You
4. Entre Chien Et Loup
5. In Tandem
6. Summer On Cassette
7. Auto Rickshaw
8. Lake
9. Wishing On Airplanes
10. Suicide
11. Mouth
12. Insect Headphones
13. Non Art

Artwork by Doug Bowden


Remembering Today collects tracks recorded during the gap between Caural's 2001-2003 releases for Chocolate Industries and his relocation to New York. Originally from Chicago, Caural debuted in 2001 with the full-length, Initial Experiments In 3-D. He then joined the respected Chocolate Industries label, appeared on the compilation Urban Renewal Program, produced standout EPs in 2001 and 2003, and released his critical breakthrough full-length, Stars On My Ceiling in 2002. After moving to New York, he began work on a new album scheduled for release in late 2006. Remembering Today is both a companion piece to his earlier work and a link to his upcoming material. A series of snapshots from the life of an ever-evolving talent, it is the perfect set for Caural to both reintroduce himself to old listeners and court new in preparation for his next steps as an artist.


Whether Caural's Zachary Mastoon is busy making drunk pedestrians laugh at four in the morning, turning down CBS's Good Morning America for an interview after becomming the poster boy for a narrowly avoided plane crash, doing animation voiceovers, or fronts his Myspace music page not a new "photo" but an ultra-realistic painted portrait crafted by a severely talented Brooklyn artist, there is this fantastic pervasive sense, in both his music and his life, of "Huh? How?" It's all freakin' there in tracks like "Summer on Cassette" and "In Tandem" and Suicide." This is electronic music that breathes with life, and gorgeous, drunk melody. It's fucked up hip-hop that makes you think and bob and trip on your cat. "Auto Rickshaw" is genius and WTF at the same time. There are only a few names that have justified the existence of electronic music to me, and Caural is one of them.
-Chris Eichenseer

Signal to Noise
How do you spell happiness? B-E-A-T. I'm a sucker for a tight groove. We're not talking 200bpm dance music, but rather solid downtempo boom baps that activate the spring in the back of your neck - the rhythm of misty rain, heartbeats and good sex. Remembering Today is full of just this type of goodness. Caural employs simple, well programmed beats, but he lovingly tucks them in an intricate quilt of glitchy electronic noise, warbly turntable samples and crisp jazz piano licks. His style of production could be compared to the quieter, more stripped-down aspects of artists such as Four Tet, Prefuse 73 and Boards of Canada, but his work is not derivative. He's able to effectively breathe new life into musical concepts that would normally seem cliché. For example, in "They'll Make a Video Game Out of Killing People Like You," he uses old-school video game sounds to create a section of melody. This has been done time and again, but he's able to pull it off by blending these sounds seamlessly with jazz riffs and ambient fuzz, effectively turning something that could be cold-hearted and synthetic on its head and giving it heart. There are a few purely ambient tracks on this disc as well. "Suicide" goes back and forth between droning, filtered fuzziness and a stark, haunting melody that seems to come from a toy piano. In the vein of Massive Attack's "Mezzanine," this music is simple enough to be sexy and complex enough to linger around long after that sweaty, satisfied cigarette.

A collection of unreleased material recorded after 2002's full-length Stars on My Ceiling (Chocolate Industries), Remembering Today provides a glimpse into the tonal meiosis of Chicago-bred, New York-based producer Zachary Mastoon (a.k.a. Caural). Caural's latest is an anthology of fuzzy memories though not fuzzy logic-these 13 session outtakes are both nebulous and distinctly contemplative. The bleary, corner-of-the-eye pirouette of these shambolic, sepia-toned memoirs places Caural as a kitsch-free contemporary of LA anachronist Daedelus, while the record's dovetailing, soft-focus snaps are akin to those of Prefuse 73. But Caural's willowy, huddled, dream-pop/mope-hop exudes its own signature sway, as refracted rustles and wispy melodies flicker atop blunted stutter. Remembering Today's stereotropic vignettes taper off more than resolve, but there's cumulative warmth in the embossed ridges and static-strewn hollows of Caural's pastel-dappled haze.
- Tony Ware

Musique concrete and instrumental hip-hop collide on Zachary Mastoon's second full-length outing as Caural. A beautiful, near haunting mix of snips, click s and otherworldly cut 'n' paste tricks are sure to put you to sleep—in the best way possible

Caural is short for Chicago's Artful Underdog Resists Abstract Labeling. Okay, I made that up. Caural is the stagename for multi-talented musician Zachary Mastoon whose off-kilter beats, found samples, and moody synths often find him compared to Four Tet, Prefuse 73, and Daedelus. Flattering company as far as I'm concerned, but not necessarily satisfying as a description. He's got a sound all his own and each track packs its own little surprises if you listen carefully.

Aiding & Abetting
Fabulous cut-and-paste (electronic style, of course) combined with stellar beatwork. I know, I've said as much about Caural in the past, but this album puts a fine shine on past glories. Yes, digging an album like this does require some ability in the area of abstract thought. Goes without saying. But come on. There are so many interesting ideas meandering in and out of focus here, how can anyone get bored? Stupid question, I know. Philistines rule the world. Whatever. Those who jam to the likes of Prefuse 73 probably already know Caural well. Perhaps the rest of the world ought to get better acquainted. Just so damned...pretty, I guess. In an occasionally dissonant, sometimes in-your-face kinda way. I suppose this isn't the easiest album to like, but it's real easy to love.

Let's get them out of the way early; Prefuse, Daedelus, Four Tet and Caribou... Caural (aka Zachary Mastoon) could legitimately be compared to any of the above without contravening a single EU directive concerning artistic similes, but whilst his music certainly shares textures with these peers, Mastoon has carved out enough of a niche to more than demand your attention. Raised in Chicago, Mastoon has recorded for Chocolate Industries and Consumers Research, with new LP Remembering Today culled from material originally committed to tape between 2003 and 2005.

Building on the foundations established by his 2002 debut Stars On My Ceiling, Remembering Today is an aural bridge that glances back to his past whilst keeping a stomp on to future destinations. Opening with "I'm Way Too High," Caural delivers an all too short prologue of sweaty breaks and digital pins+needles, before plunging the listener into the intricately twinkle-hop of "Bleached Platinum." Disjointed in a Steve Reid kind of way, "Bleached Platinum" is the sound of Scott Herron enjoying a sunny afternoon down the open-air pool; a beatific atmosphere that is belligerently shattered on the granite hyperactivity of "Insect Headphones." Elsewhere, "Suicide" is instrumental solipsism at it's most poignant, "Auto Rickshaw" resembles a coherent Magnetophone, whilst "Month" indulges in swirling soundscapes of muted elegance.

Perhaps you placed this experimental/ambient artist in Paris--because American music isn't supposed to sound this cool. Titling songs in French only adds to the geographic illusion. These shifty time signatures, glowing tones, and smoky textures are the product of Chicago's hippest son, in New York City

Having studied jazz guitar and improvisation (with Anthony Braxton at Wesleyan University), Indonesian gamelan, Southeast Asian music, and experimental electronic music at New York University, Zachary Mastoon draws from a rich background for his Caural project. Those influences surface subtly amid the blunted breaks and bleepy haze of Remembering Today, a collection of unreleased material recorded after his 2002 full-length Stars on My Ceiling. Though his leftfield hip-hop naturally aligns him with Prefuse 73, Daedelus, and company, Caural's material distinguishes itself with its rich sound. He sweetens a sleepy synth-funk groove with a glockenspiel melody and a warm bass prod on "Entre Chien Et Loud," for example, and Mastoon is equally comfortable injecting jazz references into one song ("Bleached Platinum") as he is Casio noises elsewhere ("They'll Make A Video Game Out of Killing People Like You"). Proving that this material can be experimental without being off-putting, classical string pizzicati rubs shoulders with a smeary groove, bell accents, and underwater piano on "Auto Rickshaw." The disc gravitates towards quieter territory with the leisurely lurch of "Suicide" and beatific dreaminess of "Mouth," but the staccato hyperactivity of "Insect Headphones" abruptly re-adjusts the mood with its distinctive gamelan bell strikes and thrumming pulsations. While Remembering Today offers much to appreciate, perhaps its best moment arises with "Summer on Cassette" whose grooving stutter-strut pulse, piano sprinkles, and vocal snippets Prefuse himself would be proud of.

In a world of million-dollar advertising budgets for "garage" bands, slickly marketed teen idols, and expensive producers who can make a blonde bimbo's singing voice passable faster than you can say "Holy ProTools, Batman!", electronic music remains the great leveller. Sure, having money and fame helps, but it's perfectly possible to make a record that sounds just as professional and sophisticated as a megastar using consumer grade equipment in the privacy of your own bedroom. Which is exactly what Zachary Mastoon, AKA Caural, has done with "Remembering Today".

Most of this stuff has a real DIY-vibe to it, yet it's still as polished and sharp as anything you'd expect from one of the greats of the genre. Mastoon has quite professionally spliced together a hybrid of glitch, hip-hop, and IDM that shows that he has no shortage of ideas, even if his sound does get a little too abstract and busy at times. If he's mastered anything though, Mastoon is the master of the beat, and he loads this album up full of good ones. Much like Massive Attack, the music is for the most part very simple, relying only on the beat and perhaps some snippets of melody here and there to give it bones. Unlike Massive Attack though, rather than making fully formed songs out of these ingredients, everything sounds as if it's been cut up and rearranged in no particular order.

Opening track I'm Way Too High, for instance, uses occasional bursts of harsh, dissonant, trilled noise to open the album with a punch. They'll Make A Video Game Out Of Killing People Like You takes the gimmicky of using 8-bit video game like samples in it, but for once this actually works pretty well, making the track something a bit more solid than a mere novelty effort. On the other hand, there's nearly completely ambient tracks like Entre Chien Et Loup, which glides along accompanied by a gentle chiming pulse and what sounds like almost random bass licks.

This album is not going to propel Caural to stratospheric superstardom, it's far too abstract and occasionally alienating to achieve that. Much like the cover art, it's occasionally too busy as well, cramming more ideas into a track than there is room for. But the rest of the time, this is a pretty impressive effort, that showcases Mastoon's considerable musical strengths while staying away from trying to do too much. Definitely worth a listen for fans of glitch and ambient IDM.

Orlando Weekly
Somewhere in the speedy tape-reel crackles and ambient buzz melodies of Remembering Today actually lies a cohesive album. These recordings represent the period after producer/performer Zachary Mastoon completed work on the 2002 Caural album, Stars on My Ceiling. Less a cohesive album than a collection of miscellaneous session highlights, Remembering Today works as a flowing compilation of understated, sample-heavy beats, slowly expanding melancholia and stretches of organic/electronic shoegaze psych. Mastoon's multiple routes are dizzying at times, but moments like the ones that make up "Lake" and its short subsequent track are worthy of deep, focused study. "Lake"'s whirling radio static and tape chirps give way to unfortunately brief, fluttering string section pulses in "Wishing on Airplanes," which are both worlds different from the busy, delirious drum loop that underscores opener "I'm Way Too High."

Other Music
Best known for his 2002 breakthrough Stars on My Ceiling, Caural's (aka Zachary Mastoon) fusion of electronic, hip-hop and Eastern sounds has earned him a place next to Four Tet, Caribou (formerly Manitoba) and Prefuse 73, while his productions are still very much his own unique style. Remembering Today is an excellent overview of the music from this Chicago native (who now lives in New York City and is currently working on a new full-length), featuring unreleased material recorded between 2003 and 2005

Properly Chilled
Caural gives us a dousing of experimental electro hop. Beats are glitching but not full-throttle IDM glitch. Video game keyboard sounds pop out new melodies and stereophonic mixing brings it all together. Imagine Orbital using their fantastic multi-layering style without the dance beats. Picture (insert abstract hip-hop artist here) dropping dope beats in and out of the mix, and with that image in your head put on songs like "They'll Make A Video Game Out Of Killing People Like You" (Possibly one of the best in your face intelligent put downs) and you'll hear Caural at his best. "Insect Headphones" is a wonderful track with buzzing noise sweeping from ear to ear and a wonderfully calming soundscape develops as the song grows in dimension. Again, Mush brings us another out-there but accessible release that should hit home with the indie/college rock crowd filling the need for beats, retro references and aural experimentation.
-Dedric Moore

Tiny Mix Tapes
Is Caural not a legend yet? Well, I guess this is only his second album. Perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself a little. Remembering Today is Chicago-bred bedroom producer Zachary Mastoon collecting session highlights recorded around the time his well-received Chocolate Industries debut was released and his subsequent move to the Big Apple. As such, this is an almost breathtakingly coherent release that, to my mind, sounds greatly improved over Star On My Ceiling. If not stylistically disparaging, Mastoon's unique brand of ambient, surreal, otherworldly glitch has certainly hit its stride in mature fashion. The first two tracks after the grinding, "Do Not Fire!" (Madvillain)-like, warbly Nokia-sampling opening track "I'm Way Too High" employ similar lazy, hollow-sounding beats that I just find tasty, though the mood for both cuts is quite different.

"Bleached Platinum" puts Caural's extensive worldwide musical education to work, as he richly strums out some contemplative chords with pieces of an unreleased Transmission track, while "They'll Make A Video Game Out Of Killing People Like You" makes the beat more in-yer-face as seen under a menagerie of 8-bit sounds. By that point, you should have a pretty good idea what Today is all about, and damn if you wouldn't be lucky to get more of the same. People who meditate know trip-hop, so quit thinking (yes, that's a joke) and just buy it already, will ya'? Finally, a day worth remembering.
-Filmore Mescalito Holmes

Urban Pollution
Self-described "electronic based record label" Mush Records has been pulling off something of a coup as late, first spiriting Daedelus out from under the nose of Plug Research and getting him to commit to tape his best album yet (March 2005 release Exquisite Corpse), and now releasing this shimmering creation from former Chocolate Industries artist Caural. Subscribing less to the hip-hop aesthetic of his earlier days, the sound on Remembering Today is more a mélange of sticky beats and clangs, balmy hums, buzzes, and fragmentary melodic dialogues, all wrapped up in the warmth of a friendly personal interaction.

With feet planted equally in the realms of IDM and abstract jazz, and fingers in the pies of hip-hop, world, and experimental musics, Caural treads with a lighter step than many of his producer peers. The result is an experience akin to having the artist speaking directly to you through the music, not in any pompous or didactic way, but as if each listener were on the same level as him. He just wants to have a normal conversation, tell you about what he loves, what his passions and projects are, who he's been listening to. This kind of informality is seldom found in the works of "electronic" musicians, and might seem a bit of an impropriety to listeners accustomed to the more clinical moods of acts like Matmos, Aphex Twin, or Boards of Canada, all of whom are handy reference points for Remembering Today. Instead of coming directly at you with dry clicks and cuts, this record invites you to sit down and enjoy its forays into the eclectic contemporary music world.

Opener, "I'm Way Too High," belying its title, chaperones the listener through a tasting of the vintages that lie ahead, its scrambled keyboard loop providing continuity atop a mix of sounds before morphing into the orchestral-warm-up beginning of "Bleached Platinum." This, in turn, gives way to the jazzy, stuttering meat of the song as naturally as leaves turning in fall. The song then breaks itself down, deconstructing its own elements, preparing the way for the next in a pattern that is to be repeated throughout Remembering Today. A pair of gurgling water-droplet, pizzicato string breaks in "Auto Rickshaw" anticipates the placid rise of "Lake." The gentle knocks and swells of "Suicide" fade into the ethereal wisp of ambient tone that begins "Mouth," before a haunting vocal line slides in, bringing with it a faint tambourine rhythm.

The basic elements of the album, its beats, melodies, and moods, are stable only in the most transitory of ways, but their slipperiness is somehow necessary to the complexities underlying its organization. Remembering Today is assembled as a totality, with each step being a logical progression from the one before; the songs, for the most part, hold up on their own, but they gain an extra, and necessary, level of meaning within the context of the whole. Few artists even attempt this kind of organic coherence; Caural succeeds, marrying a level of intimacy on par with label-mate Daedelus to an ear for sustained development of which Nobekazu Takemura would be proud. After spending time with Remembering Today, it's hard not to be eagerly anticipating the next project, already in the works, from Caural and Mush Records.