Saturday, May 30, 2015
There I was, maxin’, relaxin’ all cool. Shooting some b-ball outside of the school. When a couple of guys – they were up to no good – slipped me this new tape by Millions. I didn’t know what it was, I didn’t! I had an old Run DMC tape in my Walkman. I was expecting something along those lines, I think. I was way off.
Straight dissonance! Killin’ it, right off, with a blast of freshly heated synth noise, melting my ears and face alike with “Trespassers.” This Millions cat, David Suss, where does he get off? I almost dropped my Yoo Hoo, and then there would’ve been trouble. I haven’t had a Yoo Hoo catastrophe like that since “Nil Admirari,” Oneohtrix Point Never’s similarly album-starting nuclear meltdown on Returnal. Alright, Suss calms it down to pure tones by the end of the track, but I’m chugging my drink in case “Bilocation,” up next, does this to me again.
“Bilocation” doesn’t ignite rocket fuel up in my grill, but it’s unsettling for thirteen minutes nonetheless. Sparkling synth meanders through the galaxy, all pretty and inviting, until a transmission interrupts it and the SETI Institute goes apeshit over the source of the interruption. At least they would if I elected to inform them. This one’s piping straight to my earbuds, and nobody gets any of it.
So it’s clear now that I’m only in it for the space bucks, and maybe a ride in a souped-up intergalactic 1973 Dodge Swinger. That’s right, I’m pretty far gone – I’m leaving my street-balling days behind for interstellar space travel! “Prismatic” is the trip, and then the portal, and then I’m in and out. “Line in the Sky” culminates in the promise of infinite movement, never staying in one place, always moving toward a new destination. Maybe I’m still being called by those transmissions. Maybe not.
This whole tape was inspired by Thomas Pynchon’s book Against the Day, by the way. I’ve never read any Pynchon, but I just saw Inherent Vice and was decidedly underwhelmed, but I’m more at odds with PT Anderson than anybody. Also, Pynchon had that bag over his head on The Simpsons. At any rate, this tape is perfect sci-fi head trippiness. Let Millions, and Field Hymns, make some trouble in your neighborhood sometime soon, OK?
Friday, May 29, 2015
This is good! Lots of rockin’ band songs, but interspersed with interludes of tape manipulations, noise, jokes, ukuleles, bubble bath & reprised theme music. Irreverence rules. These French boys are having fun making cool music—I listen to this and wish I could be European for the summer! Recommended.
-- Kevin Oliver
Thursday, May 28, 2015
I’m gonna talk about the Mountain Goats first, and you’re gonna wonder why, so I’ll just come out and say it – Matthew Squires is a dead ringer for John Darnielle, voicewise. Well, I guess he’s not a 100% perfect match (who is to anybody?), but it’s pretty damn close. Close enough that your enjoyment of the Mountain Goats will likely pave the way for your enjoyment of this tape.
Good thing, then, that I happen to dig on some Mountain Goats from time to time. I’m on board.
Squires, and his band the Learning Disorders, play a brand of low-key indie indebted to everyone from the Byrds to Figurines, the Danish pop band whose singer, Christian Hjelm, Squires also kind of sounds like, especially on standouts “Devotional #2” and the title track. (Also the Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers – anyone remember them? They covered the Mountain Goats one time.) Heck, pretty much any nasally voiced frontman with some folk and some rock in his repertoire could be called upon as a stylistic touchstone.
The jangle should be no surprise – Squires is from Austin, Texas, where jangle and barbecue and South By (that’s SXSW for you ignoramuses) rule pretty much every aspect of modern living. And Squires takes his Texan heritage seriously, apparently – or maybe not so much, I can’t tell – in roster construction. From Fartbook: the band is “Matthew Squires and a rotating lineup of people who he forces to play with him at gun point. Shows can be pretty intense.”
Only in Texas!
But still, this turns out to be the kind of rainy-day, sad bastard music that I turn to every once in a while. We need that sometimes – good lord, we need it. We all do. You’ll go crazy if you listen to the Beach Boys or Weezer nonstop. Crazy, I tells ya! So when heartbroken Matthew sings on “Echo,” “I am an echo. One voice torn in two. I am a memory of you,” I get a little verklempt, you know? You know? Or try my personal fave, “Trophy Song”: “And here we are, we are emptying ourselves. This is greater than any trophy we could fit on our shelves.” I’m not a terribly sentimental person, but I love this stuff. I eat it right up.
Looks like Already Dead Tapes – an absolute institution! – has already run a second pressing of these bad boys – I’ve got 50/50 of this batch. But Matthew Squires and the Learning Disorders deserves to be heard on a bigger platform – I’d love to hear this crackle through stereo speakers from 180-gram vinyl. But this is a cassette blog, and this is a cassette, so you’re left in this situation. While we wait for our wax, we can help Matthew get out of Austin and into the bigger, wider world. It’s waiting for him.
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
and I quote Faux Noose here when I don’t say “the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result!” and I say to myself, “there is no such thing as doing the ‘Same Thing’ over and over, at all!”
you take a guitar riff. You, or “Tony Risotto”, and, yes, you play it over and over again (well, you employ a loop pedal if you’re poor) and, really, the listener’s brain is ever changing, so, like, with each passing thought, the riff is, like, colored with the listerener’s preoccupation, right? So, like, there’s that; and, like, so, you add another repetition on top (hooray technology!?), which continues to facilitate further outside meditations, which than can again get disrupted by other newly employed guitarlines.
Yes, this tape is just guitarlines. Riffs become textures become mantras become ambiance. Highs and lows are, themselves, primordial drumbeats for some, distractions for others. I want to run this into a mixer and play it at halftime, with ten times the delay. I’m fairly certain it’d come out exactly like the kind of stuff I, myself, gravitate towards. Aka, it inspires me to further explore my own compositional relationships, which makes me goddamn appreciative. May it inspire you, too!
- - Jacob An Kittenplan
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Before I even listened to this tape, I was immediately struck by how stunningly pretty the physical artifact looked. The J-card is minimally adorned, with artwork that looks to be either a leaf collage or severely treated stark forest growth. It’s beautiful – the artist, Ida Nyström, captures perfectly an impressionistic sense of natural beauty. The text is carefully handwritten, as is the clear cassette with white lettering. Without listening, my response is, “astounding.” Remarkable work.
A little background on Björn Eriksson: He’s from Sweden, Sollefteå, actually, and he’s also recorded under the names Miulew and International Garbageman, and knows his way around some electroacoustic composition. So as if that stylistically rendered natural-looking cover didn’t give it away, well, maybe you’re an idiot. Acoustic guitars, natural samples, tape loops, and all sorts of gobbledigook get tossed in Eriksson’s songwriting blender, and the result is a bizarre and exciting head trip through the woods, or the park, or the basement, or … something.
I’m pleased to announce that the tape begins with a squealing bit of hot folk action, with Eriksson’s guitar running madly through folk and blues tropes on “Inner Forest Glade” while samples cavort and invade, providing color commentary. You can almost imagine Eriksson, sitting on a hollow log in the woods, smiling rapturously as sentient hand tools busy themselves with various chores around him. This wacko Disney-fried picture disappears completely as the hand tools take over on “Outer Merry-Go-Round,” madly spinning and chirping and whirring and becoming untethered from song structure and, sure, reality.
“Under Stairs” ends the tape recalling the soundtrack to Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys with a Casio beat, and the samples are once again at least partially under control. As the fifteen-minute composition unfolds, the beat and tune drop out, and the samples merge with synths and organ (possibly, who knows for sure?). What results is an unsettling ambient showpiece, an experimental outsider collage of sound that’s as insular as its title suggests – it’s best enjoyed in the darkness of a broom closet, under stairs.
I don’t know much about a whole lot, but I do know that Scioto Records has a nice handful of releases that you should check out, starting with this one. There’s all kinds of crazy stuff to love, no matter what kind of experimental or art freak head you are, and it could even serve as a nice introduction to other electroacoustic artists, such is its accessibility. And again, it’s very pretty – you could probably just stick it on your mantle and be done with it.
Makes sense that this tape is already sold out* at the source; what a patient exploration of glacially shifting tonal vignettes! Cusp after subtle cusp, minimal baggage crawls along hypnotically, daring you to consider three minutes ago’s juxtaposition, all the while keeping with a steady narrative that still manages to pull surprising sonic punches where best fitting. “Ambient/drone” is a vast region of unexplored territory and I’m goddamn hopeful that this person continues his explorations and shares them with us.
*note: the tape version has noticeably more ‘tape hiss’ than the bandcamp version, which might further reassure skittish listeners that they aren’t, in fact, actually being stalked by opportunists who have chosen to hide in the shadows beneath burnt out street lights, but are, really, still listening to recorded material. The first half of side A’s 21 minute track had me re-living every nightmarish alleyway echo between well-lit housing…and the ending…something between alien abduction and the final click before psychosis kicks in.
I really hope this isn’t just a one off while Black Swans are on hiatus, but (also) a future focus for Keith Hanlon.
- - Jacob An Kittenplan