Back in 1998, my first band, a snotty punk group named the Catatonics, had come to an end and I had begun making bizarre experimental and noise music in a band with 8 friends that we named Whimsical Fetus. In High School, I was making huge strides to grab more and more outsider music, weird sounds, and other music that pushed the boundaries of sound in general. From tracking down records announced in short run zines to making out-of-town trips to decent record stores and grabbing anything that had an interesting cover, I busted my ass to discover, digest, and dissect everything that the music world, past and current, had to give me.
Sometimes, however, things just fall in your lap. An aging hippie friend of my mother’s came to visit her for a few weeks over the summer. He was adamant about his ability to just “lay back and watch the grass grow” and during his stay with us, I more than once saw him literally doing this with all of the awe of a child. He told me that he used to make music on cassettes for a number of years and that he had heard I played.
He handed me a cassette tape of two recordings from 1994. Recordings that probably had never left the dirty sack that carried most of his belongings from the moment it was transferred over from whatever cheap 4-track it had been recorded on. He asked me if I wanted to listen to it, but insisted that it was his only copy, so I needed to be extra careful with it.
I was and, to do him a favor, I also transferred the audio of the cassette over to the computer, cleaned it up some, and burned it onto a CDR so he could pop it into the crusty disc man he usually had tucked into his poncho. A few days later and he was hoofing it again to go and camp in woods until another old friend would let him stay in their home for a few days.
I never saw the hippie dude again and in the times I remember to ask my mom about him, she usually has no clue where he is or if he still is at all. A true rambling, traveling man, living off the land.
Though I didn’t say it at the time, I kept a burned copy of the albums for myself. This, “Spacetrip” is the first of two recordings from 1994 and, though a hippie down to the dirt caked feet, long pot stained hair, and strong stench of patchouli and musk, the actually music on his tapes were pretty far removed aesthetically.
Cheap keyboards and drum machines mixed with airy, childlike vocals and observations that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Tinklers’ album, if they were more new wave influenced.
With the current interest in cassette culture, weirdo pop, and cheap, lo-fi recordings making their way through the “hip underground”, I figured it was time to give Mental Rat his moment to shine.