Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Shawn Biggs
Yes, there's something called no-fi music and it is the living and breathing cousin, Siamese twin of chillwave, chillcore and any other kind of doctored version of the kind of music you get basically, when you're broke as fuck and yet you have all of these saltwater-y ideas and melodies, things that feel suntanned and just like a party that you're pretty sure you'd fit into, that you'd like to express. It's usually identified in the wild and through headphones, but a severe burying of water-logged and reverbed out to the high heavens vocals, guitars and keyboards that are lovingly distorted and fuzzed into some kind of mistaken identity and drums that do whatever they please. The five-piece band Young Prisms live in San Francisco, a place that has become a genuine hotbed for the movement and such acts who are pushing this form into its place where there's a loyal and frenzied appreciation for anything that sounds as much like aesthetics stacked on aesthetics as it does anything that we can give an exact definition to. And maybe that's the point, this inability to figure it all out, to hear it all, to believe that we understand what's happening as these bands make these woozy dreams and string them across our ears to let us hammock away inside. They make air conditioning and the effects of pot smoke feel like the same sensation as we lurch forward and strain to hear if the sounds that are coming to us are anything more than just vowels and ooos, ahhhs, the things that we hum to soothe ourselves or when we're all alone. Young Prisms, according to Michelle Broder Van Dyke in a recent feature she wrote for the San Francisco Bay Guardian (coincidentally, the band loved the piece she wrote and felt it was enhanced by the two advertisements that ran on the same page: one for condoms and one for medicinal marijuana), met randomly at an improv show while at Mills College, with bassist Giovanni Betteo performing on a miked typewriter. They all moved into a house together and started making music together, crafting the kinds of songs that entertain themselves by getting lost in the covers, feeling their way out of the dense fogginess with a keen sense of where they actually are. It all works together - the individual fogginess and murkiness, with everything contributing to the mood of loose muscles sagged eyelids, sweet comfort - and it makes sure that we long for no greater clarity, just what's before us. We feel a part of these Young Prisms songs, like we're trapped in a maze with high ceilings, plenty of sun and something soft and comfortable to recline in as we try to figure out how we're supposed to get out of this place.