Test Test Test
While I’m not a huge collector of music, I have accumulated what amounts to several small collections. One one shelf, sits the vinyl records that I’ve managed to hang on to since I was a kid. On another shelf sits second-hand records that I picked up for a buck or two. Most of these are records that I wanted when I was much younger, but didn’t have the cash to make the purchase. These records have dog-eared jackets, scratches and imperfections aplenty. I referent to these as “rescues.”
My favorite of these micro collections, however, is the shelf that is home to music projects that I have a personal connection to. There is an original pressing of Shoes’ Present Tense the recent Hey! It’s The Pandoras, and Dw Dunphy’s latest, a cassette rerelease on his 2015 album, Test, Test, Test. These folks that I call friends are a talented bunch, and their creations not only entertain me, they inspire me.
So, in all honesty, I have to be upfront and begin with a caveat that isn’t really a caveat. Dw Dunphy is a friend of mine, and someone who I definitely consider to be in an exclusive club that I refer to as “The Good Guys Of Pop.” Dw is the kind of guy who spends more of his time and energy promoting the music of others, rather than his own. He is the creator of the Co-op Communique compilations, my Lost Hits Of The 80’s co-conspirator, a brilliant graphic artist, and an underdog-backer of the highest order.
Now, for the music…
Dunphy’s Test, Test, Test is an instrumental work, which often reminds me of the most atmospheric works of Pink Floyd, but more visual in nature. Even though I often listen to it while I’m doing other things, pictures and movies always begin to form in my head. It’s almost as if the music is trying to get me to see, or to understand, something that I’m too busy to notice. I’m really intrigued by that.
The opener, That Never Works, is a buoyant shoe-gazer, and what amounts to a musical oxymoron. It flits between Pachelbel and U2, and back again. Nifty. Track two, Shootout At The Spaghetti Factory (or, Do Breadsticks Come With That, Hombre?) wins “The Best Song Title Ever” Award.
Tsuburaya, with its hypnotic drum groove and droning keys, feels as if it’s straight out of a monster movie score, while Polymorph, which might also be Tsuburaya II, creeps along with various ’80’s inflections. Dunphy plays chorused Andy Summers guitar arpeggios throughout, giving this bookend with an optimistic feeling.
Two Empty Rooms is a nine-minute string opus, worthy of any Hollywood soundtrack. What seemingly begins as atmosphere, turns into an English symphony at the six-minute mark, bringing to mind sweeping Jane Austen countryside vistas.
This cassette version of Test Test Test adds one bonus track, Built On The Bones, from the 2013 release, The Radial Night. It almost serves as an acoustic-guitar laden intermission, before side two begins with the brief Hacienda, a folky piece accentuated with Dunphy’s superb harmony vocals, stacked-up high.
I can’t put my finger on the exact reason, but Mr. Burning Suit reminds me of a couple of Tears For Fears singles, Elemental and Raoul and the Kings of Spain. Merging progressive and pop elements, it’s probably my favorite track of the lot.
Blue Wire Green Wire removes the listen to the Far East, or is it Ireland? With its soft keys and barely-there percussion, it really is ripe for dreamy interpretation. I suspect every minds’ eye will produce something completely unique.
Closing the cassette is The Radial Night, which serves as the perfect musical bed for contemplating the entire journey the listener has just been on.
By Dan Pavelich