Out of Brooklyn, New York, Dilian contributes to the International Winners record label. His tracks, album covers, and website have a connection to the art world as well as the world of music. It is no surprise then that he chose to release his TBH mixtape on cassette, accompanied by a book that reflects his music, made by Adriana Lara, a Mexican artist who also works out of New York. You can buy the mixtape as an mp3 download, but the novelty of listening to it through the magnetic strip of a cassette tape seems more in tune with 80s sound of the mixtape.
TBH lets off with Young BMX, somewhere between atmospheric 80s techno and an orchestral tuning session. A teasing funk bass dances below random chimes and whistles. Half a minute into the track the playful timbres are superseded by a waving synth line that rises with the accompaniment of rattles and more chimes; the programmed funk bass still hovering below the surface. After a dozen or so bars, there’s a taste of the psychedelic with a ghost-like guitar riff, piano keys and airy reverbs. At the end of the track the waving synth returns us to where the track began: somewhere in rock- techno outer-space.
The rhythm and synth of Young BMX is carried into the second track, Quasi Medium World. The chimes and rattles are also brought along, highlighted by bleeps and computerised nodes. Heavy reverbs and patient snare drums spread themselves out along the track to create an ominous progression. As soon as you think a continuous beat is made, Dilian pulls it away from you and retreats back into an industrial, atmospheric clamour of seething rises and cut up synths.
All of a sudden, in track three, Cao Cao Walk (I and II), there’s a splatter of recognisable house stabs, clocks and typewriters. Dilian decided to throw every sample he could find into this one and let them battle it out between them; a Korean or East Asian female voice acting as referee over the track. Eventually what resembles a rhythm forms halfway through, but it quickly descends back into a maze of samples. Toward the end there’s a taste of a Chinese string instruments within the rising and cutting of synths and deep reverbs.
Just as all hope of dancing is forgotten, track four, Equator Ride, brings in a recognisable beat and tempo. The zingy bass and 80’s synths have a tone borrowed from Japan’s Tin Drum album. A few minutes in, the 80s pop collides with the atmospheric, under a crazy repeating flute line and some drones. The second half of the track has an air of Chicago to the drum line.
Track five, JZ Penny, speeds things up. Radio and vocal cuts build and spin off into a staggered rhythm of kicks and cowbells. The progression of the synth line builds and decays above the staggered drumbeat until around the two-minute mark. Then we’re back in the 80s and a sea of fighting bleeps, cowbells and marimbas. Chimes playout till a door bell, ironically, closes the track.
After the teasing intro, track six, Jump, Run, kicks off with a dissonant chime that carries over another 80s-esque rhythm, this time with a soft high-hat thrown in. Halfway through, Roland claps, snares and cymbals hint toward a Ghetto-House beat, but are soon reeled in by a climbing steel synth that cuts into the track.
Jump, Run ends in a swishing decline of reverbs that pass over to a turning point in the Mixtape with track seven, Flash. Now an attentively catchy 80s rhythm meets windpipes that throwback to Kickboxer or some other martial arts film. Half way through the track, a downtempo ticking counts down to the return of eclectic sampling; this time with windpipes and moaning trumpets. What sounds like ascending marimba lines gather toward the end and gasp into the next track.<
The penultimate track, Climb and Collect, gathers the 80s rhythm, chilling-wet synths, and the stepping drum beat of JZ Penzall together. The wet synth merges with a hollow line that feels like a cruising rhythm in the making. A running bass line holds under the high ends, oscillating with the synths through each bar. The controlled, fluid progressions of Climb and Collect are a relief after the staggered and disjointed atmospheres in the rest of the Mixtape. It’s without a doubt the best rhythmic track. Its cruising synth lines really are special.
BRB OMW also adopts a cruising synth line, though not quite as catchy. The track lies somewhere between the smoothness of Climb and Collect and fullness of Jump, Run. A nice pattern of snares and bells give a good beat to nod your head to. At the close of the track, and the Mixtape, it’s as if you’ve come to the end of a long, strange journey; not really knowing where you’ve ended up, but still feeling oddly satisfied.
Despite my track-to-track analysis above, listening to TBH as individual tracks is not the way to listen to it. The later tracks, Equator Ride through to BRB OMW, seem to stand apart from the first half of the mixtape. Their rhythms and tones are almost a whole other collection that could have been released thirty years before the prior tracks. But when listening to the first track,Young BMX, all the way through to BRB OMW, the collection clearly has something to say for itself. The recurring samples and reverbs seem to connect the tracks and the differing sides to the mixtape. I can’t help coming back to Japan’s Tin Drum album. I think Dilian’s industrial and atmospheric take on the 80s aesthetic has created an up-to-date answer to Japan’s 1981 release; bringing something dark and personal to the 80s pop sound.