Ducktails, Ducktails III: Arcade Dynamics

Lee Smith

By Lee Smith

on 01.14.11 in Reviews

The last entry for 2010 on Ducktails' website announces, with touchingly unbridled glee, "I finally moved out of my parents house [sic]" — presumably the site of conception for much of Matthew Mondanile's fizzing hyp-pop over the last three or so years. How much of Ducktails III: Arcade Dynamics, his latest full length under the moniker, was rehearsed and recorded in the family home is uncertain. But there's no mistaking a distinct tonal shift from the crackling loops and ramshackle echoing of his debut Landscapes toward a brighter, fuller, less self-consciously woozy sound, one that bears closer resemblance to his work with Real Estate than it does with the increasingly ubiquitous glo-fi vibes of Washed Out, Ariel Pink, et al.

A tonal shift toward a brighter, fuller, less self-consciously woozy sound

Opener "In The Swing" is a good case in point, stating its admittedly gentle intentions with shimmering major-key guitar jangles and subtly phased melodies, drifting amenably into the more pronounced but equally lackadaisical strum of "Hamilton Road." "Sprinter" and "The Razor's Edge" layer up the lo-fi quirks a little more, with the latter's glint of sci-fi minimalism shifting the album's perspective towards foggier, moodier climes, and Panda Bear offers a vocal contribution on "Killin The Vibe," where his unmistakable modal harmonies forging the album's most direct pleasures. Meanwhile, the papery drum machine wisps of "Arcade Shift" briefly hark back to Ducktails' earlier, fuzzier outings, as cascading synths whistle earnestly through ancient, bitcrushed drum machines.

The closing third of Arcade Dynamics acts more as a somnolent epilogue than a grand conclusion, with the nursery comforts of "Don't Make Plans," the effortless stoner-pop appeal of "Art Vandelay," and the Mountains-like ambient guitar fragments of "Porch Projector" quietly insinuating Mondanile's modest ambitions. Like other refugees from last year's chillwave glut, Ducktails has moved out of the safety zone — both musically and literally — and into his own bright new world. On the evidence of Arcade Dynamics, his developing sonic maturity will be just as special as his sweet adolescent charms.