Dayve Hawk is the type of artist who frustrates collectors and completists. The one-man synthpop sculptor known as Memory Tapes releases incredible amounts of music, much of it for free online in the form of demos, remixes, vault-clearing collections and even Halloween-inspired mixes. This fluid creative approach also benefits Hawk’s official releases, which tend to sound like well-sequenced mixtapes rather than regular albums. That hasn’t changed with Grace/Confusion, Memory Tapes’ third proper full-length: The album’s six songs effortlessly segue between soft rock, plaintive R&B, prog-funk, proto-synthpop, eerie new wave and even clashing industrial rock.
But Grace/Confusion distinguishes itself in Memory Tapes’ catalog because of its sophisticated arrangements, which deftly merge dense musical ideas and wild mood swings. “Thru The Field,” on which Hawk sounds uncannily like Of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes, boasts humming keyboards and abstract crowd noise before adding layers of Depeche Mode-style accents, a flurry of strident guitars and a mournful instrumental coda. And “Sheila” stitches together brief swatches of sound – Fleetwood Mac-esque pastoral folk, debauched disco, lonely solo piano and zippered funk, among others – to create a surprisingly cohesive narrative tinged with increasing amounts of regret and loneliness. In the wrong hands, such complexity would become disjointed chaos – but with Hawk at the helm, Grace/Confusion successfully finds its internal logic.