DURA “Reverberation Hymns”

The latest batch of tapes from the Athens, Georgia, label Garden Portal – a fairly recent venture launched by NULL|Z0NE label head Michael Potter – starts us off with Dura’s “Reverberation Hymns,” a groin-grabbingly delicious set of meditative geetar (yes?) and field-recorded ephemera. So, yeah, you’ll need headphones, what with all the “reverberation” and “hymns” and whatnot that you’ll get on this release. A lengthy “song” cycle (hymns, remember!) by Mattson Ogg, “Reverberation Hymns” finds the musician turning inward, allowing the music that he’s making work on himself more than anything. These tunes are incredibly personal, it’s delightfully obvious, and their length and repetitive nature act as healing pulses to the psychological center. What Dura doesn’t offer are absolutes, or even answers. Instead, Ogg is content to let the music happen to him, to be the catalyst for self-betterment or healing or whatever. This is what the celestial singing of angels would sound like if it was distilled down into whatever it is Dura’s doing at all times.

ALEXANDER “Untitled”

Alexander, like Madonna, Cher, Prince, and Lebron, only uses a single name, and that’s all that matters. Because what Lebron can do with a basketball, Alexander can do with a fingerpicked acoustic guitar. Too bad there’s not some kind of “National Guitar Association” like there is an NBA, because Alexander would be an all-star every year. Over 22 short tracks, most lasting less than two minutes but a couple extending past three, Alexander joins the folk greats around the campfire with lovingly crafted instrumental passages that will likely leave you weeping, or at least nostalgic. Well, except when he plays the guitar really fast, then he sounds like he’s auditioning for Joan of Arc or something. All of it’s a great mix, an excellent showcase for the label and a charming introduction (for me, anyway) to a remarkable talent.


“Lifeforce” C37
(Constellation Tatsu)

On Arrowheads' “Lifeforce”, myriad contrapuntal, meandering synth arpeggiations, modular flares, and constantly tweaked drum machines all coalesce into a deliriously heady, heavy groove. The tone and pace is nearly demanding of mid-twentieth century sci-fi/space scenarios to be conjured, internally, and I was completely unable to walk down the street listening to this without pondering how much of a pain in the ass it’d be to successfully plan interplanetary travel via public agencies. Should I trust the government to provide adequate ferrying? Would I even trust a loved one who also happened to be a phenomenal rocket scientist and machinist? Via “Lifeforce”, I shall contemplate these logistics and space-the-fuck-out safely from my own living room floor.

I can’t wait to watch Solaris while listening to this!


— Jacob An Kittenplan

SODA LITE “Vale & Stone” (Inner Islands)

The confluence of events of May 18: Soda Lite releases “Vale & Stone” on Inner Islands (2019); my brother is born (1980); my friend John is born (1977); Pope John Paul II is born (1920); Mount St. Helens blows a gasket (1980); Ian Curtis commits suicide (1980).

Yeesh, May 18, 1980, was quite the day.

Still this is 2019, and this is Inner Islands, so “Vale & Stone” is sure to be a glistening pool of sonic healing, a mana or health spring of twinkling light-as-nourishment, fit to banish the bad vibes of May 18ths past forever (except for the birthday ones, because those are pretty great). And even beyond May 18, 2019, I have hope that Soda Lite’s newest excursion will be the balm that quiets the anxiety of modern discourse, a correction to a toxic course and a check/balance to emotional overload. Will it satisfy those criteria?

It will.

Life is/should be simple, and the tranquility of Soda Lite illuminates the path to self-healing and internal reason. New Age meets ambient by the serenity pool, where stacks of smooth rocks imbue meaning and joy while fountains and other water features trickle in the background. We are encouraged to eschew dysfunctional thoughts, and the anxiety we retain from long-past trauma can be obviated in the face of a brand new dawn. Look how “Vale & Stone” is contributing, helping! It’s like a natural high, and a lifting of weight from burdened shoulders.


“Thought Texture” C43
(Constellation Tatsu)

With nary a percussive tap to be heard, “Thought Texture”, the most recent Opaline release on Constellation Tatsu, finds us inhabiting the imagination of hyper-conscious stars, observing the cycles and releases of our own orbiting planets, asteroids, and retreating solar winds and neutrinos, these four phenomena all acted out, via synthesizer, in single layers each of swelling drone, synth-twinkle-riff, dramatic flange, and minimalist ploddings, all these rendered arhythmically unbeholden to any one commanding pulse. The gestalt here is that they all translate to their own Thought Textures, to be appreciated in isolation, but also separately processed as a mean of thrilling agitations. 


This is pretty trippy shit, if you’re open to it. Great for art or keeping the sandman at bay during afternoon meditations.


— Jacob An Kittenplan

SOLID STATE ENTITY “Chorea” C40 (Property Materials)

The thing about that snake skeleton is that it suggests movement. Not that particular snake, mind you – again, it’s a skeleton, so movement is probably the last thing on its mind (and it doesn’t even HAVE a mind). But snakes are really all about motion, and all those bones just make me wonder what kind of muscles and nerves and stuff they attached to. Really kind of fascinating. Unbelievable twitch responses in snakes.

“Chorea” is all about movement too – the name suggests involuntary movement, as it is in fact a “nervous system disorder involving repetitive movements or unwanted sounds.” Well, if you’re going to be making low-key techno music or laid-back electronica, then “repetitive movements” are all part of the deal. The unwanted sounds thing – not so much. You’re looking for the opposite of that.

Solid State Entity delivers on the “wanted sounds” – the whole vibe of “Chorea” is murky and tense, like you’re not sure if anything’s going to explode out of it while you’re in the middle of listening to it. It wriggles and writhes like you expect a snake to, anticipating a strike that never comes. Still, it lulls you into a sense of safety – and sure, you’re gonna be fine listening to this – the tics and jolts serving as points of delicious interest. “Chorea” slithers through the night, pulsing and jiving, moving in constant rhythm till the tape flips, then it keeps going.


“Subterranean Landscapes” C35
(Constellation Tatsu)

In three* layers or less, Chris Otchy refuses to repeat a goddamn thing to you. His unrepentant knob-twisting at the arpeggiator & e-ivories yields the soundtracks of all hyper-agitated perambulations you’ve ever wistfully strolled, distilled!  

A groove is carved in stone, but CO's synth-waters chisel, meander, warsh, scrape, and destabilize any developed relationship with said (rhythmic) bedrock felt, until we’re all not so sure we’ve even a stead of solid ground to stand on. Mayhaps, we shall levitate?

To boot, considering the refutation of any sense of static, Chris Otchy’s “Subterranean Landscapes” may be so poignantly paired with Jordan Christoff’s** “Enveloped” for back to back listens. Each tape proves spellbindingly mesmerizing, yet contrasts progressively in that they both offer a vibrant bolstering of hazy-lazy daydreaming, To The Max. 

Half-nap, half-brainstorm, “Subterranean Landscapes” is a healthy dose of inspiration, and I’m looking forward to more!


— Jacob An Kittenplan

*HEAVILY tweaked; liek…one flattened track equals maybe two-point-three-repeating, here
**also in CT’s Winter Batch


Broken Machine Films presents… and Twin Monoliths join forces on an excursion of thrift tape manips and “beats and some effects” on this thing called “Black Boxxes.” Maybe just maybe black monoliths. Not unlike the one they found on the moon that one time. Alien, I think it was. “Black Boxxes” is an alien thing. It remains fixed and upright, and if it had eyes, it would be staring right at you. Thank god this thing doesn’t have eyes – that would be unnerving.

Glowing like radioactive vaporwave (because isn’t that what Illuminated Paths is known for?), “Black Boxxes” weaves answering machine messages into the mix for weird and unsettling flavor, sometimes coated in effects for maximum schizophrenic Black Lodge distress. The effects are squeamish, the beats slushy, allowing the source material to shine like the unearthed treasure that it is. Voices appear like ghosts, telling stories that maybe shouldn’t be told, maybe HAVE to be told. Everything together coalesces into a slab of pure life, maybe pink and diluted, maybe upside down or suffering from food poisoning, but still there, groping through the haze and begging for your attention.

“Black Boxxes” or black monoliths? Proof of alien intelligence or just recovered crash site data? Why not both? The thorough documentation of “we don’t know what that was, we didn’t see anything” run through popular algorithms reaches beyond and through the library shadows to experience new life. You should expect it to wriggle under the skin of your arms in vast black wormlike ripples. How sound does that, I’ll never know. Just get me as far away from the glowing center as possible before I become one of them.


“Enveloped” C46
(Constellation Tatsu)

Jordan Christoff’s patient, ocean-infused dronescapes range in gathered chords from beatific to outright ominous; and it is above these deceptively tranquil waves that he floats boldly* the disassociated suggestions of birdsong, crest/trough, and the wind-ruffled leaves themselves, these morphing clouds all wrung via synthesizer, field recording, and pedal**, alone. 

JC's work unfolds glacially in both pace and power, his blurry visions a muted scaffold in which to hang sunrise-reflecting silks over the mind’s eye. Thus warmly blindfolded, “Enveloped" proves truly amazing for both actively tracking*** each layer as it comes & goes, or simply letting oneself get lulled to sleep. This is an ambient-drone masterpiece!


— Jacob An Kittenplan

*relatively speaking, of course
**as in, plethora of- mostly reverb, delays, reverb, & loopers…& reverb
***or at least attempting to!