American producer Eddie Ruscha has an impeccable underground pedigree, having spent most of his decade-plus career self-releasing hand produced cassettes under the Secret Circuit pseudonym. In recent years he’s embraced the digital age, self-releasing a handful of album-length collections of analogue doodles, hard-to-pigeonhole soundscapes and vaguely Balearic cuts that seemingly tumble from the speakers. There was also a series of collaborative releases with Thomas Bullock under the Laughing Light of Plenty alias.
Throughout this time, he’s remained in the shadows, choosing to present himself as something of an enigma; a producer who’s more interested in creating aural myths than taking the plaudits that are increasingly coming his way. Over the past six months, these plaudits have been plentiful. On the back of releases for Tim Sweeney’s Beats In Space imprint and Prins Thomas’ equally noble Internasjonal Speciale label, he’s become hot property – if, of course, anyone who makes “tropical psychedelic” music can truly be hot property in the classic sense.
Both of those releases were arguably among his strongest work to date, though were hardly typical of his usual sound. The Beats In Space release, “Nebula Sphinx”, was tough, driving and nuggety – robotic analogue disco for the paranoid generation. “Jungle Dogs, Jungle Bones”, the Internasjonal Speciale 12”, was surprisingly jolly – a 12-minute epic that included everything but the kitchen sink. In different ways, both releases hit home, proving Ruscha to be a producer capable of great things in a wide variety of styles.
Given these successes, it’s unsurprising to find that Emotional Response have decided to hand him his first “proper” physical album release. Tropical Psychedelics isn’t an album in the true sense; really, it’s a compilation, featuring as it does material previously releases in ultra-limited quantities on cassette. It does, however, hang together brilliantly as an album and offers a thrilling glimpse into Ruscha’s vivid and vivacious aural world.
All his sonic trademarks are present, from the droning electronics and wide-eyed ambience of “Angel Eyes” and the feverish, guitar-laden rhythms of “Afrorobitics”, to the blissful piano figures and twisted analogue sounds of “Psouvenirs”, and the intense psychedelia of “Roll”. Rischa is at his imperious best when melding sounds and styles, neatly sidestepping conformity. It’s notable that the standout cuts here, such as the electro-dub rhythms and glistening African jive guitars of “Knocking On Wood”, or the baggy, sun-kissed laziness of vocal cut “Walking On Water”, inhabit some middle ground between tropical Balearica, hazy electronica and subdued dreamwave nostalgia.
In truth, it’s this wide-eyed sense of adventure and attention to detail that makes Ruscha’s music so invigorating. There’s enough cheapness in the equipment and fuzziness in the sound to impress the nerds, but musically it’s far more bright and breezy than that. Sure, there are darker moods – check the Windusrf-meets-Chris Carter vibes of “Winding Up On The Floor” for proof – but for the most part Tropical Psychedelics is a fluorescent, sun-baked treat.
A1. White Wish
A3. Winded Up On The Floor
A4. Moon Life
A5. Angel’s Eyes
B1. Knocking On Wood
B3. Walkin’ On The Water
B5. Piano Waltz
B6. Foggy Twilights