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Mark Tester – El Sereno Melodies

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I learned a Norwegian word recently. It’s koselig (pronounced “koos-uh-lee”). The closest English translation is “cozy” but it signifies more than just that. If you asked a Norwegian what memories, images or feelings they associate with koselig, they would probably tell you about being in a warm cabin in the freezing winter, singing songs around a fire, sipping hot cocoa in their favorite rocking chair, sharing stories with old friends. If we translated this to the world of audio, it goes without saying that analog– not digital– would be koselig.

I was reminded of this word in listening to Mark Tester’s El Sereno Melodies. These are 22 tiny, lo-fi sketches recorded on tape and each one summons that warm, dreamy, homey feeling the Norwegians talk about. Tester invokes childhood through sounds that resemble xylophones and music boxes, buzzing insects and fumbling robots. Throughout the course of these sonic experiments, he skillfully avoids the pitfalls of preciousness and tweeness.

The album is only available to order in cassette form (something you can do on the Bandcamp page). This makes sense for reasons I can’t fully describe, reasons that go beyond the fact that cassette was the original recording medium. It’s too low-key, too unobtrusive for vinyl. And CD would be way too impersonal. El Sereno Melodies taps into tape’s inherent koselig-ness– I guess that’s why.

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