The artful racket of Imaginary Tricks
Mike Visser calls it his “carpal tunnel routine”: the marathon looping sessions at Brooklyn’s Japam recording and rehearsal space in 2014 that accidentally spawned Imaginary Tricks.
A studio-rat’s nest of cables and keyboards tucked inside a graffiti mural of a building on Starr Street in Bushwick, Japam was, for the transplanted California musician (ex-Frank Jordan), the analogue of a neighborhood gym, and Visser got hooked on free throws.
“I would go there on my days off and just play all day long,” he says. “I didn’t have a band. I had this loop pedal, and there’s a drum kit in there. I was having so much fun that I kept doing it. I’m still doing it.”
Most times, the first thing he laid down was a bass line. Then the fun could begin. “Capo, detune, chord structure—basically make the guitar the bass line’s bitch,” he says, laughing. “Sometimes a song would happen in five minutes. Sometimes … I’m still working on a song.”
One of those early cuts, a tail-eating earworm called “Bird,” entered the world fully formed, a prototype of Visser’s preferred method of spontaneous-combustion songwriting: Abandon all premeditation and you get crimes of passion. Songs started emerging from the noodling in between takes: “What’s that thing? Let me do that over and over and over.”
“Bird” led off his first Imaginary Tricks release, the 2015 EP One Plus Five, and it’s the lead single off his first full-length, Skommel. It’s also the first track captured in Japam (the remainder of One Plus Five is cloaked in the lo-fi light of Visser’s bedroom), thus offering a glimpse of where this riderless horse is galloping.
“When it comes to recording, I am a fucking caveman,” he says, a self-deprecation that, considering the primitive energy that powers these Tricks, is actually quite the compliment.
—Noah Bonaparte Pais