Roadside Picnic with John Byrne – Nightlitter (C70, Red Light Sound)

roadside picnic

Roadside Picnic’s sole member Justin Wiggan joins forces with John Byrne of Cindytalk on Nightlitter. The album is a solitary track at 35 minutes in length on a single-sided cassette tape, and the titular track weaves its way through ambiance and minimalism during its runtime.

Nightlitter is a very quiet recording, and that has as much to do with the dubbing as it does with Roadside Picnic and John Byrne’s original intent. The track is certainly minimal enough, with quiet droning synths that ebb and flow with low bursts of bass to help punctuate. In a sense, this is music to listen to when you have a headache, or taking a bath – some soothing salve for a bad day, perhaps. I could see Nightlitter playing in a really swanky cafe, the patrons commenting how serene it is while sipping their tiny cups of espresso.

And yet it’s difficult to tell whether that enduring quietness of the tape is actually supposed to be, or if it’s because the cassette’s dubbing is poor. Listening to Nightlitter on the Red Light Sound’s Bandcamp, I’d have to go with the latter – the mix on the tape is so much lower than normal, to the point where I had to turn my stereo all the way up to hear it. I’m not complaining about the quality of the tape, because I don’t really get into that nor do I care about it; but when the volume starts to affect how the track is interpreted, that’s kind of a problem.

It’s unfortunate, because Nightlitter often sounds like it could be a jet flying high overhead, cutting through the air with sharp shudders. When you hear it so minimally, though, that affect doesn’t register as it should.

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