What separates normal, everyday noises from the sounds we call music?
It's a question Tulsa's Golden Pawn recording project seems to ask with its self-titled debut EP, and one the trio answers with improvised, ambient soundscapes that thrive on blurred sonic lines.
Dylan Aycock, Andrew Bones and Mark Kuykendall have all played original music in Tulsa for years. The Doldrums and Panda Resistance are among the many projects associated with one or more members of the group.
Anyone who's heard either of those bands is familiar with their thoughtful and organic sound -- one that extends, albeit in a more free-flowing manner, to their latest work.
The group takes its name from Golden Pawn II, a pawnshop at 1319 S. Peoria Ave., in a big yellow building that's supplied many Tulsa musicians' instruments over the years.
"I thought it was a cool name," Aycock said. "I figured it would look cool or sound good even to people who aren't from Tulsa."
Aycock's Golden Pawn is an experimental recording project that's so far manifested itself in the form of a four-song cassette. The musicians say -- in our digital age of downloaded music -- it's nice to have something physical to connect listeners to their music.
"Tapes are making a comeback," Kuykendall said. "They're cheaper to make than CDs and have a certain nostalgia that people like."
Golden Pawn has released an extremely limited number of cassettes -- 20 so far -- to local shops like downtown's Dwelling Spaces. A digital version is available online.
Instrumentation on Golden Pawn’s EP varies from track to track, but the
musicians rely primarily on vibraphone, guitar, drums and keyboards to paint their
pensive musical pictures. Blending in with the more common instruments, everyday
items like saw blades, bicycle spokes, scrap metal and broken music boxes also add to the
The music on the tapes is as interesting as the setting in which it was documented. The group recorded the four songs on their cassette in an old brick building on North Peoria Avenue. The place was a grocery store years ago and some say a brothel before that. These days Aycock and Bones live upstairs, and Golden Pawn records occupies the garage below.
"Dylan runs a microphone through a hole in the floor down into the garage," Kuykendall said. "The garage has really high ceilings so it makes for a good sound."
Instrumentation on Golden Pawn's EP varies from track to track, but the musicians rely primarily on vibraphone, guitar, drums and keyboards to paint their pensive musical pictures.
Blending in with the more common instruments, everyday items like saw blades, bicycle spokes, scrap metal and broken music boxes also add to the melancholy feel.
Golden Pawn's EP is the first release from Scissortail Records, a small independent label named for Oklahoma's state bird. Golden Pawn member Dylan Aycock started the label as a way to release some of the best recordings he and his friends have made.
"I just have tons of hours of recordings on my computer," Aycock said. "Some of its stupid and just sounds like people jamming, but then I just pick out all the parts that sound good and work them into songs."
Aycock plans to release some of his own solo work on his Scissortail label, along with solo projects from band mates Bones and Kuykendall.
"Mark (Kuykendall) has a cool project coming out," Aycock said. "He calls his solo stuff The New Honey Shade and has an album called Ozark Dream coming out soon."
Kuykendall brings a visual element to his solo project and his work with Golden Pawn. He combines ambient music with old 16mm film collected from estate sales to create dreamy vignettes.
One such piece posted on the website for Scissortail Records pairs spooky synth textures with grainy images of life in the country: people, horses, crops; even a Christmas tree and the inside of a small country church.
The spacey music has a haunting effect on the film's nameless faces -- turning everyday moments into surreal scenes à la David Lynch.
Kuykendall plans to make a similar video for "Workers Lament," the first track on the Golden Pawn EP.
"I've got lots of old footage of farmers and industrial workers -- people just working really hard," he said. "Everybody just looks kind of worn down."
Kuykendall hopes to eventually license both the music and images for use in larger film projects.
The members of Golden Pawn say they're considering doing some live performances, but so far no shows are planned.
For now, the three friends are just happy making music together in their garage. Fortunately, they're letting the rest of us listen.
Visit scissortailrecords.com for more information.
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