ON VACATION




Sorry...but I can't upload any reviews this weekend due to poor internet connection. Should be back online by Monday or Tuesday

CATCHING UP WITH CUCHABATA RECORDS




Cuchabata begin its thunderous existence all the way back in 2003 when its founder, David Dugas Dion, dropped his self-titled David and the Woods EP. Fifteen years later and Dion, with a likeminded community of wacky artists, continues to pump psychedelic sludge into the aquifers of Montreal, the label’s (and movement’s?) home city, where the unsuspecting populace is forced to slurp up what Chuchabata’s got brewing and hopefully becomes a happier, more carefree place to live. I’ve had the pleasure of digging through some of the label’s releases over the years (in particular the fascinating ruckus of La Forêt Rouge), but there’s definitely an MO that bridges each crazy tape the label drops. Some buzzwords inherent in that MO: freedom, improvisation, community (I’ve referred to that one already, and there’s a reason), and exploration.


DAVID AND THE MOUNTAIN “Ensemble”

Start at the top, at the Dion, at the Mountain, which is what the Woods became, evolved into over the years. Maybe? This is where we start though, because Dion and a huge list of collaborators (including oud and guitar maestro and local hero Sam Shalabi) knocked one out of the park with “Ensemble,” a sprawling, ever-changing masterpiece that unquestionably requires repeat listens to get everything that’s going on. Over two untitled half-hour sides, David and the Mountain blast through heavy psych and experimental improvisation like they’ve dynamited a quarry filled with it so that it can be free to filter down throughout the countryside. Once the initial crest of the flood passes and spreads out, noise experiments gradually give way to Eastern meditative drones and distinctly Montreal-style post rock. By the end of side B the psychedelic rock is back, heavier, more destructive, as if the Ensemble has found a new quarry to dynamite, and the cycle continues. The glorious, uninterrupted cycle (if you’ve got one of those self-repeating tape decks).


CE QUI NOUS TRAVERSE “Volume/Brut”

“First take it or leave it.” This is how the trio Ce Qui Nous Traverse (What Is Going Through Us) does it, capturing the live-in-studio vibes. What results is an effortless psychedelic guitar record (guitars only!) droning through speakers like molten lava. These excursions, flecked with blues in their cheekiest passages, are deliberate but not plotted, like the empty maps the early explorers filled in as they went. Ce Qui Nous Traverse are the new wave of these explorers, sonic adventurers with blank slates and full pedal boards. They’re patient, allowing the discoveries to come to them rather than forcing themselves on unwitting notes and chords. Their journey is a lengthy one, but surprise awaits around every corner.


CAAPI “CAAPI”

CAAPI is indebted to some of the greats here, improvisers, spiritual forebears; indeed, the five tracks here are named for “Pharaoh,” “John,” “Ornette,” “Cecil,” and “Albert,” which are all pretty obvious except for John, so I’m guessing McLaughlin? Who’s to say. But the duo, composed of Dion (once again) on drums and Guillaume Cloutier on electric guitar and joined on “electronics” by Nathalie Gélinas (“Pharaoh,” “Ornette,” and “Albert”) and Félix-Antoine Hamel on tenor saxophone (“John,” “Cecil”), take their inspiration and warp it into a whirlwind of improvisational mastery that would surely impress the virtuosos whom CAAPI is fêting here. Each track displays the players’ utter wizardry and control over their instruments, their spongelike capacity for collecting and then regurgitating components of their inspirational subjects. Jazz and psych collide in a wondrous explosion of heat and light, generating awed “oohs” and “ahhs” from the throngs of listeners, whom I’m imagining are out there with their own copies of this tape somewhere because I’m “oohing” and “ahhing” just while sitting in a chair, and surely I’m not alone. Surely!


Cuchabata Records

David and the Mountain

Ce Qui Nous Traverse

CAAPI


--Ryan

GERMAN ARMY “Pacific Plastic”
(Seagrave Records)




German Army seem weird at first then they get really neat. The murky industrial slurry is green and firey. Echos of the life of a plastic object collector. There are triumphs. There are low points. There is boredom. Signs of life are present, enshrouded with globulous glitter and glucose on wrappers with the shiny foil interiors.

The recording microphone seems like it was held up to a bulbous blown out beast of a speaker. Track 8, Janjangbureh could very well use a Bjork sample, or it sounds like her voice. Strings and metal, clinking and clanking, some ritual rainforest loops, some hard footsteps, eerie ghostly warehouse of gym equipment buzzing in the dark.

Pacific Plastic

--Adam Padavano

SARA RENBERG "Night Sands"
C38 (Antiquated Future)




It’s hard as hell to listen to Exile In Guyville when your bedtime is fast approaching and you know damn well the nostalgia will just rile you up and you can’t just objectively enjoy the music because all that teenage acne and embarrassing thoughts of exes are but one clean guitar strum away and even if you could maybe manage to somehow repress the reservoir of emotions and associations that Liz Phair’s voice triggers, any number of songs would be stuck in your head at once and they’d all run willy-nilly through your dreams all night long and you’d just be singing “Fuck & Run” all day the next day at work, only you’d have to sort of bleep/hum instead of singing the expletive cz you Really don’t want another meeting with the boss about your potty mouth, right?

Well, good news. Sara Renberg is here to fix our little problem with her slightly more chill, pared down version of EIG which has no direct riffs or words borrowed but like ALL the exact same guitar tone and feel. Plus, her lyrics are maybe a li’l more glib and balanced. Like, imagine this is an unreleased Girly Sound Demos tape with a new Nom d’Plume and it’s kinda perfect, okay?

http://www.sararenberg.com/
and/or
http://www.antiquatedfuture.com/

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

SOFT SAILORS “S/T” (self-released)





Soft Soft Soft Soft Soft Soft

Sailors.

Four piece band out of LA, earnestly presents a five song cassette of rock n roll fun. The first song, No One Called You, Bumblebee, is an instrumental introduction, instructional tinkle twinkle trinket. The last song is a cover of th’Raincoats’ No Side To Fall In. The singer sometimes sings similar to John Darnielle, main Mountain Goat, and other times similar to Stephin Merritt, main Magnetic Field. It’s a quick ride, and full of nice choices.

sssssssssssssoftsailors


--Adam Padavano

MELLOW FELLOW "Jazzie Robinson"
C21 (Palm Tapes)




This unsung prequel to “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” finds them with Fender guitar and Yamaha keyboard under hand, their consciousnesses awakening after a two day blackout where they apparently made an appointment with a rich patron of King Leer’s Weird Karaoke bar who must have been impressed enough to spring for ten hours of recording time in his “up & coming” studio/basement/love den.

Rosencrantz squints around the room at ne’r seen before session musicians who sheepishly nod toward the chicken-scratched “set list” taped to the mic stand at his feet. With a decent grasp of yacht-rock and jazz chord progressions and the residual devil-may-care confidence that comes from what must have been the better part of a gallon’s worth of rotgut still coursing through his veins, he says, “Okay, Gilly, can I get some SERIOUS flanger in the monintor? Yeah. Alright. Okay. Once more, from the top…”

https://palmtapes.bandcamp.com/album/jazzie-robinson-pt-016
and/or
https://mellowfellowstudios.bandcamp.com/album/jazzie-robinson

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

N.E. HERTZBERG "Enough Rope" C22
(Analog Cowboy Records)



N. E. Hertzberg has tried his hand at many a genre, from New Wave to Hardcore Punk to Indie Folk, and “Enough Rope” finds him exploring minimal electronic beats with sporadic, ethereal vocals. The mood ranges a good bit, from an industrial haunting to Friday twilight excitement, adding a layer of complexity to the overall collection. Short & sweet.

https://analogcowboyrecords.bandcamp.com/album/enough-rope

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

GOOD SIGN “Demo” C7 (Reflective Tapes)




Good Sign delivers the pop punk goods in the vein of early Superchunk and Versus, an indie snack for the nibbly passerby. The Portland trio barely hits the seven-minute mark on their demo, but it sounds like they’re having an awfully good time. Features members of In Flux, Congratulations, Taurean, Alien Boy, and Perfume V, among others. Whoever names their band after a Pavement song/lyric is OK in my book. Mine in college was called Dance Faction. Shruggity shrug shrug?

Hard not to crack a smile while listening to these four tunes. Have a blast, rockers.

Reflective Tapes

--Ryan

AGENDA “(in hold)”
(Friends and Relatives Records)




In a time of genda inequality, there are trailblazers, pioneers, swashbucklers, sound makers. Jeremy Kennedy + Yosuke Kitazawa, Los Angeles residents, are all of those things.

Exhibit A=Agenda=Item1.
Exhibit B=Bgenda=Item2.

Statements in sound, sound statements.
Fluted columns, Highfalootin’ calm.
Refurbished reverberations, cold calls and infomercials.
Parcel Post, media mail, return to sender, greeter asunder.
Bleep is to Bloop as Foghat is to Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

Bring a blanket and snacks.


freunds und relatifs


--Adam Padavano

LILY KONIGSBERG & ANDRÉA SCHIAVELLI
"Good Time Now" C33 (Ramp Local)




I’ve written this review dozens of times and can’t get it right, so please bear with me here. Good Time Now fucking DELIVERS on so many fronts that I can’t quite wrap my head around it. Not usually one to wax poetic about a pop album, this trading back and forth between two wildly different artists has me imagining what it’d sound like if Lou Reed’s “Berlin” had a psychotic break and re-recorded itself for a more streamlined audience.

Vocals-wise, make no mistake; Andréa Schiavelli’s nonchalant baritone may share a handsome range with Lou Reed, but his upper register adds a whole new, intimate dimension. &Lily Konigsberg’s tooth-achingly sweet soprano that follows is like a cartoon rainbow blasting through a hazy pool hall. Did I mention I don’t know how to write this review?

And the arrangements; fucking brilliant. Ever the back-patter, I get a great deal of self-satisfaction from counting out the beats to figure out exactly what time signature a song is in, but I missed how deceptively complex both LK and AS’s songs are, mostly because I was distracted by the genius horn and string arrangements (respectively) that accompany their distinct, genuine vocals. All of these songs are both incredibly catchy AND chock-full of engaging counter-point; not your standard pop album fare. Imagine Velvet Underground and Mirah had twins, and they grew up playing American Football while Swearing At Motorists.

I’ve listen to this album probably 50 times and it just keeps getting better. If you’ve lost your faith in pop music, this might bring you back, if only for a half hour or two (or three, or four).

https://ramplocal.bandcamp.com/album/good-time-now

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

GERRIT HATCHER “Good Weight” (Amalgam)




The pieces on this tape by saxophonist, improviser and composer Gerrit Hatcher drift between tasty licks and free jazz spasms. Gerrit Hatcher’s saxophone playing on this release lies somewhere past expected progressions and somewhere before total jazz mayhem. He’ll start a fairly short and simple phrase and repeat it, like some skipping record of the Simpsons theme song (sans all other instruments of course). Then, note by note or all at once, the pattern will spiral into free jazz reed blathering, only to re-materialize into another catchy looped phrase later on. I found this back-and-forth to be refreshing actually. It makes the release as a whole more interesting and experimental than more straightforward sax playing, but the catchy looped phrases bring the listener back to Earth once in a while. Some free jazz can have a tendency to toss you out into orbit and leave you there until the record is over. The play between chaos and melody on “Good Weight” makes for a nice balance.

The A side is composed of two pieces dedicated to some of Hatcher’s greatest influences (as per the info in the j-card), Frank Lowe and Frank Wright. The track on the B side is titled “Libido Farce” and is a collection of 9 brief movements. Overall though, the style and form of the playing on this release is pretty consistent throughout. Hatcher obviously has talent as a saxophonist and this tape has made me want to look into some of his more composed music. All in all, this is a solid release if you are into jazz, free jazz, or just good sax playing.

http://www.amalgamusic.org/catalog/physical/good-weight-gerrit-hatcher

http://www.gerrithatcher.com

--James Searfoss


EVAN ANDERSON
“Pillow Talk” C25
(Dead Definition)




Shimmering yet dusty, world-weary yet youthful, Evan Anderson’s four pieces that comprise “Pillow Talk” are the dream recordings of the solo guitarist. No words penetrate Anderson’s world, no lyrics weigh down “Pillow Talk” like the anchors of so many wayward fools who think that their songs need to be expressive through verbal language. Those artists are truly mistaken – Anderson lets the music talk for him, speak for itself, for us, for others, to us. That’s how you do it – it’s not easy to do, which is why so many people fail at it.

These four tracks of pensive Americana expose the beauty in decay and erosion, the wonder in the fragments of dreams slowly dissipating into nothingness, into downtrodden expressions of hopelessness. And it’s in those depths that the heart still beats, that the spirit finds resilience and strength to persevere.

Like William Tyler without a backing band, Evan Anderson exhibits a masterful approach to his instrument, a control and restraint that’s important when avoiding the trappings of the solo guitarist. He’s probably never in his life crooned Dave Matthews or “Wonderwall’ at coed passersby on the university quad. And thank god for that.

… Don’t prove me wrong about that last thing – please.

Evan Anderson

Dead Definition

--Ryan

ENDLESS CHASM
“Four Worlds”
(Histamine Tapes)



Who goes there?

It is I, the seeker of the antidote.

Be gone, mortal.
But I have travelled very far, and seek the magic elixir to save the village from peril.

Wrong portal.
This IS the endless chasm, is it not?

Never heard of it, I’ve been to the end of this, there’s a ball pit, concession stand, unisex bathrooms, petting zoo, gift shop, trap door that leads you to the giant praying mantis.

I need the teardrops of the giant praying mantis. That is the antidote.

He’s on vacation, come back in two weeks.
histamine bottle

--Adam Padavano

LIGHT SLEEPER
“Unstable Harmonies”
(Dormant Tapes)



Sir Lewis Gorham, famously known for insomnia and analog synthesis, decided to address his lifelong struggle with disruptive quasi-ambient rumbles and pet hair floatation. At sunrise, the Light Sleeper heats his Moog in the oven at 103.3 degrees for approximately 23 minutes. With custom tactile hot mitts, he begins a morning serenade to the REM demoness. This is a glimpse of his ritualistic practice. Although it is unknown whether any of his audio-culinary fusion bares any fruit, he has produced the Unstable Harmonies record.

DORM 003


--Adam Padavano

THE LAST AMBIENT HERO
“Cassini / Trappist-1” C88
(self-released)




At least – AT LEAST – we know what we’re getting into here. No guessing games, no beating around the bush, no pathetic silliness. The Last Ambient Hero lets everything out at the get-go, leaves nothing to chance. He is, as stated, THE LAST AMBIENT HERO, and The Last Ambient Hero will guide you into the future you’ve always wanted.

“For those who look up instead of down.”

I’m not going to pretend I understand the process of what TLAH is doing with these two side-long 44-minute tracks, but I can tell you that they intend to represent and/or replicate the Music of the Spheres, “Musica universalis,” the “harmonic,” “mathematic,” or “religious concept” of the movement of the heavens. We’re talking synthesizers and software here, people, and you folks at NASA and SpaceX are just going to have to wait in line to get to the discoveries going on here. You’re going to want to hear this stuff.

“Cassini” is obvious. “Trappist-1” suggests the Belgian beer-making monks, whom I’m pretty much infatuated with. They’re not space monks, but their brews are far out.

OK, now let’s look at space pictures while drinking the abovementioned beer and listening to this. That sounds like a pretty stellar evening to me right now.

The Last Ambient Hero


--Ryan

BLEACHFIELD
“Bleachfield 1”
(Signal Pathology Recorders)





Hey, could we PLEASE leave the corpse of Scott Weiland alone? No more poking at it, no more nudging it with your steel-toe boot, no more taking pictures of it, no more dyeing its hair and beard, no more spray-painting it with Alice in Chains lyrics, no more propping it up and pretending you’re in “Weekend at Bernie’s,” no more trying to set it on fire, no more asking it for money, no more trying to pry its jewelry off, no more pretending to have a tea party with it, no more inviting it to bar mitzvahs, no more arguing with it, no more rubbing its nose for luck, no more posing its facial features in comical expressions, no more accusing it of insurance fraud, no more placing funny hats or glasses on it, no more trying to use it as an example in your university’s anatomy class, no more smearing it with honey and trying to turn it into a beehive, no more sending it Edible Arrangements on Valentine’s Day, and  certainly, and most importantly, no more digging through its pockets for old demo tapes.

Thanks,

--Dean DeLeo

https://bleachfield.bandcamp.com/

SCREAMING PLASTIC
"Live Improvisations 1 + 2"
C48 + C59 (Self-Released)




Screaming Plastic are an electrified free improv quartet from Omaha, NE that record their cello/electric guitar/electric bass/drum kit (and barrage of effects pedals, of course) jams live to I-Phone 6s with minimal editing and zero overdubs.

Concerning these two recordings, the progression from 1’s stoccato, textured hollows of percussive intra-instrumental rapport to 2’s thicker, exponentially more fulfilled layerings is quite something to behold and it makes back to back listens between these two albums all the more rewarding, contrasting the two.

https://screamingplastic.bandcamp.com/album/live-improvisations
and/or
https://screamingplastic.bandcamp.com/album/live-improvisations-2

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

-OTRON "Prism Exhilarated" C52 (Self-Released)




If you like trip-hop beats, slick production, scads upon scads of instructional/educational vocal samples, and the occasional saxomophone solo or ambient soundscape, well, has UK’s –Otron got a collector’s item for you! No, seriously. As per their bandcamp:

“…It is also the world's very first album release to integrate Soundary's Prysm technology.

Prysm is a unique duplication system, ensuring that every copy of an album is sonically different from every other. Thus, when you buy Prism Exhilarated on cassette you are purchasing a unique musical artefact available to no-one else. It is the ultimate collector's edition.

For this first Prysm release, 49 unique tapes of Prism Exhilarated have been produced. Available alongside this one-and-only limited-edition run is a 'reference' digital rendition (the effective copy 0), which is included with each cassette and also purchaseable as a standalone download.

For more details on Soundary Prysm, head to
soundary.co.uk.”


Kinda cool, no? The J-Card certainly is purty!

https://otron.bandcamp.com/

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

THE DOLL “Hiss” (Big Sleep Records)




Is it weird that I keep picking up this tape, hoping against hope that the luscious red bubble wrap adorning its j-card will somehow become tactile enough that I can pop it with gleeful abandon? Does it help or make it worse that the sound of bubble wrap popping is a central element in lead track “Bubblewrap”? Is it concerning to anyone else that I’ve now just dug through my trash looking for any scrap of bubble wrap among the discarded Amazon boxes (damn you, Amazon, and your giant bags of air!) and mailers that these cassettes come in?

I’m going to say, yes, worse, and hopefully.

But that’s not why I’m here. Or you either. You’ve got work today, you need to stay focused.

The Doll manipulates sound – that’s a given! – but these field recordings tell a story grounded in everyday events, in real life, in the physical world around us that we can touch and feel and embrace – and pop! Throughout “Hiss,” during which there’s a lot of the titular sonic flourish, The Doll observes, records, and reflects, flashing commentary on the disposability of objects through the sound associated with them. Take the car alarm on “Home Sweet Home” for example – the impermanence of an automobile is juxtaposed against the idea of a lasting place of dwelling, yet the imposition of the noise reinforces the idea that the car is going to wind up as junk at some point. Also, the home itself is violated by the noise, a crack in its ironclad defenses as a place of safety, maybe to the point where the home will one day be abandoned itself.

Disposability! Bubble wrap! We pop it, it flattens, and oceans more of it is manufactured. We live, we die, and other people fuck to replace us. Circle of life. This time I mean that.

But still, the noises burbling out of this one are cool. See where it takes you.

The Doll 

Big Sleep Records


--Ryan

ENDURANCE "Shade Terrarium" C52
(Constellation Tatsu)




The crown jewel of Constellation Tatsu’s Spring ’18 batch, for me, was Endurance’s “Shade Terrarium”, which pairs a polar perfect along with Chihei Hatakeyama’s “Scene”. While CH’s humble, droning swells always prove hypnotically stoic and timeless, Endurance’s offering takes those moody seas of e-bowed guitar ambiance and slow-motion thrashes them mercilessly about with myriad doctored field recordings, indefatigable xylophone choruses from every decibel level, an emotional dynamism ranging from mania to melancholy to outright malaise, and an overarching depressive impatience that comes part & parcel with the isolation and darkness of any effectively oppressive Shade Terrarium. This is by no means a “feel good” release, but rather a blindingly brilliant, poignant capturing of our affected dispositions as we slip from Hecate’s suggestion into a much needed vernal shrug.

http://www.ctatsu.com/portfolio/shade-terrarium/
and/or
https://endurance010010.bandcamp.com/merch

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

ZIYAD "Compost Regrowth" C35 (Hear Now Records)




Formerly “Noah’s Heark”, Pakistan’s Ziyad Habib conjures up some pretty dynamic electronica, ranging from peaceful synth soundscapes to outright dancefloor jamz. The layers and production are tight as all get-out and the beats, when employed, hit hard, as do the sparse vocals of Lady Midnight. Probably too psychedelic/experimental for mainstream radio, this album ought garner some serious attention for anyone who enjoys dancy electronica mixed with r&b & footwork.

https://hnrecords.bandcamp.com/album/compost-regrowth
and/or
https://mooshymoo.bandcamp.com/

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

FLESH NARC “Songs of Reality” (NULL|ZONE)




Ever wondered what a US Maple/rRope/Skeleton Key hybrid sounded like with Auto-Tuned vocals? If so, then friend, I’ve got a treat for you. Enter the mad realm of Flesh Narc, a concept that sounds like it came from a terrific 1980s action movie but is actually a quartet of dudes whose madness burbles so close to the surface that they can barely step into society without the average citizen passing to the other side of the street when they see Flesh Narc coming their way. This madness seeps into every second of “Songs of Reality,” a tape that’s as invigorating as it is sort of terrifying but also super abstractly listenable, like if Justin Timberlake got caught in a blender and found that his tonsils were the best tool to help extract himself. (Spoiler alert: he didn’t make it.)

At times a noise recording masquerading as rock and roll, at others rock and roll becoming inverted by some sort of gravitational anomaly, “Songs of Reality” straddles the very line of existing and not existing, valiantly attempting to prove its existence by shouting itself into existence. It’s the kind of wavering reality alluded to in platitudes like those spoken by the great Dr. Buckaroo Banzai, such as, “No matter where you go, there you are.” It means nothing and everything, a Zen riddle simmered too long in a psychic saucepan. Except violent – almost way too incredibly visceral for prolonged contemplation. See, Flesh Narc batter the airwaves with a devious ruckus only hinted at by their contemporaries, and you pretty much have to make snap decisions or you might find yourself brained by a toaster oven hurled by someone ELSE listening to Flesh Narc. Gotta keep your eyes peeled, you people are everywhere.

Flesh Narc

NULL|ZONE


--Ryan