FM DUST ARCHIVES: Wiild Raspberries- E.Z.

Justin Shay may be the most peaceful person I’ve ever met. It’s no wonder this guy is a massage therapist… he seems to bring a peaceful, gentle humor to almost any situation. Even when he and I were in stiff, ruthless competition in an A Cappella Dub battle, he seemed calm and supportive. EVEN when I won said battle by technicality (his contributions were better, don’t let anyone tell you different). That takes class.

I was excited when Justin and his wife Tara announced that they were going to have a baby, for two reasons:

1)      I was confident that they would make great parents; and

2)      I was sure that that baby was going to be in a band with Justin before she was out of diapers.

You see, Justin was one of the principal members of the We’re Twins Records enterprise, a great Ann Arbor record label (most active in the ‘00s) whose dedication to homemade, primitive exploration could at times make K Records sound more like Columbia. This position led Justin to release everything from a cassette of him squeezing meditatively on a Shruti Box to an album of simple, lo-fi electropop under his own name (She Said It Looks Like Spring). As The New Sound of My Bossa Nova, Shay made a series of CDRs which explored different homespun ways of updating the titular genre, with a rotating cast that regularly included We’re Twins co-founder Jason Adam Voss, as well as most of the We’re Twins extended family (I even turn up on a couple tracks somewhere, although I don’t recall turning in particularly strong performances).

All of these projects exuded a certain energy that one might call “childlike”, but it was Justin’s unforgettable (and, sadly, unreleased) collaboration with a young boy named Henry that most portended things to come. Henry was a little boy that Justin had met while substitute teaching, apparently normal except in his habit of making up strange, stream-of-consciousness songs while at play. Justin, not one to disregard youthful potential, brought a tape recorder next time he worked in that classroom and captured some of Henry’s high points, as well as joining him on a few tracks. It’s a hidden classic of its kind, on par with Human Skab in the “kids being weird” genre (although altogether more gentle and sweet-natured than all that).

With these precedents set, it was no surprise when Justin informed me that, yes, he had started “jamming” with his daughter Astrid Echo Shay not too long after her grand entrance (exit?). The collaboration, dubbed Wiild Raspberries, is father-daughter bonding, Shay-style: Justin and Astrid trade off on dub-damaged vocal cooing and loops which, though often dissonant and mostly arrhythmic, still feel very gentle and safe, the sound of the human voice stretched taffy-like into a pastel-toned dream. The result brings to mind Raymond Scott’s Soothing Sounds For Baby series, but I’m not sure why, as it doesn’t sound anything like those records. Perhaps this is because it is the next practical step in the work started by Scott of bringing infant comfort into the technological age?

I can’t think of a band more perfect than Wiild Raspberries to exemplify the FM DUST aesthetic. Justin and Astrid made challenging sounds for non-challenging reasons (fun, play, bonding), at home, with no designs on “expanding their audience” or capitalizing on the novelty of the concept. Wiild Raspberries made the lovely sounds heard on E.Z. simply because making nice sounds is fun.

Dustin Krcatovich is a cartoonist, writer, designer, founder of FM DUST, and a collector of certain curios and ephemera (with a focus on 20th century "junk culture"). His writing and illustration work appears frequently in The Quietus, Tiny Mix Tapes, and Esquire's Culture Blog. He is also a former editor and contributor to Secret Zen Garden,Saagara's illustrated mindfulness/wellness blog for young people. He currently resides in Portland, OR.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>