Thursday, September 21, 2017

VLK “Avril and Sean in Camden”
C57 (Strategic Tape Reserve)

Oh VLK, I’m so sorry. Look, it’s bad enough having to hoof around Camden in that traffic (Camden is a gross, gross industrial city across the river from Philly, where I spent a lot of time), but it’s even worse when you’re riding shotgun in your employer’s Camry for a summer, life sucked out of the conversation because what’s there to talk about with this jerk? Nothing. Nothing to talk about because there’s nothing in common. And we’re talking 2004, before even the unabashed ubiquity of smartphones (iPhone launched in 2007 – I was still rocking Brickbreaker on my Blackberry), so you couldn’t just retreat into handheld oblivion, could you? Or at least pack your device with music so you could tune out the external. Nope, once that conversation hit the skids, it was all conservative talk radio and Avril Lavigne, wasn’t it? Oh, you poor thing, VLK. Well, I’m not here to pity you, because you took your employer’s love of all things conservative and Avril Lavigne (well, specifically Let’s Go) and turned that sticky black psychic horror into something weirdly listenable. Yes sirree, this mixtape plunders the phonics (well, sonics, actually – that sort of didn’t work) of that source material and emerges on the other end with a funky, weird, and enjoyable monument to that horrible time in your life. And you know what, VLK? You’ve sort of proven that you can turn crap into gold, because I can think of no worse crap than conservative talking heads, and I can think of no worse music than Avril Lavigne. Strike that – there’s lots of worse music than Avril Lavigne, but I bet listening to it while trapped in a car during that shitty summer felt like the equivalent of Guantanamo Bay sound torture. Nevertheless, the mashup of these ideas translates amazingly into a cut-and-paste effort that serves as an outlet for your frustrations. Can you listen to this tape without cringing, or is it therapeutic? I hope it’s the latter. God, Camden sucks. Sean Hannity can eat a butt. Maybe one of the “butts” on “Contra” that has the six-year-old in me giggling forever. So now that I like this tape, does that mean I also like Avril Lavigne? Oh Christ, I hope not.

Strategic Tape Reserve

--Ryan Masteller

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

C30 (Bonding Tapes)

As chilled out as it gets, ZOD1AC drops a beat tape for the laid-back ages, a drifty mélange of gorgeous synth melody and sparse percussion. THE ZOD1AC TAPES VOL. 1 – all caps because if you don’t market it that way, you’ll probably end up gently pushing product in a weed haze, and you can’t make money from a weed haze – dropped obviously on Bonding Tapes, continues the label’s fascination with hip-hop and outer space synthesizer worship. These sixteen mostly short tracks, over half of which are between forty-one seconds and 1:46, prove ZOD1AC’s restlessness on one hand (lots of transitions!) and his steady navigation on the other (a cohesive whole!). I’m going to be honest about this – I’m not much of a beat tape/mixtape guy, but this is pretty far-out, trancey stuff, which hits the sweet spot for me every time. It’s easily replayable, and although there are a lot of short tracks, the quick movements work remarkably as part of the greater whole. Lots to love about this one – whether you’re under water or gliding over clouds, there’s always something lurking that’s the perfect accompaniment to what you’re doing. So pop open your wallet and buy one already! Isn’t it just puuurdy too? Look at that thing!

Bonding Tapes

--Ryan Masteller

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

SOLO1 “Peninsula Strays” (Doom Trip Records)

Not unlike Leyland Kirby’s work, Solo1’s Peninsula Strays sounds like it’s taking place under water, a subaqueous song cycle that’s as level as it is engaging. Moving from samples to guitar to “various boxes” and back, all often within the same track, Andy Billington, of the YOU KAY, crafts woozy, languid soundscapes, sometimes gently rhythmic, as if Ant’lrd and Doom Trip alum Parallax ’48 collaborated on the experimental drone hit of the summer. And it is summer after all, and it’s really hot here where I live, so the cool waves of Peninsula Strays is a welcome distraction form the unending mercurial torture, each of the twelve tracks a refreshing balm. In fact, I just returned from vacation, and listening to Solo1 gives me the same feelings I had while stretched out on a raft in a pool. But don’t mistake Solo1 for a nostalgia-beach act or a mai tai-drunk relaxomundo purveyor of the tropical sort. Complete opposite. The walls of the backs of your eyelids shimmer in electric blue, nighttime light sources filtered through liquid, and you drift through a dream state to surreal landscapes that only you are able to understand. As reality bends, the music bends with it, bubbling and bursting till it reconstitutes itself as something a little different, not much, but enough to continue unfettered in a new direction, exclusive to your own imagination. That’s the fun of Peninsula Strays – no matter how you approach it, it works with you. It’s very cooperative that way. And who doesn’t like music that’s cooperative?

Doom Trip Records

--Ryan Masteller

Monday, September 18, 2017

“Discussing an Earful of Earth Nostalgia”
(Sticker Gitters Collective)

Earth nostalgia can go two ways: focus on the natural, organic elements – the people, the plants, etc. – or focus on the technological, meaning the progress that humanity has made in various areas. No matter what you’re focusing on, if you’ve got nostalgia for Earth, you’re no longer there. You’re gone – the planet is likely a desolate, uninhabitable wasteland in the rearview of your rocket ship, and the robots have staged a mutiny.

So what happens if your reflection occurs on a cassette tape, a piece of tech that firmly bridges the past and the future? Your head explodes, that’s what.

Nah. But let’s “discuss” this “earful of Earth nostalgia,” shall we? Real Yawny lands on the electronic spectrum, completely, hurling ten lo-fi electronic/techno tracks in our direction. Yeah, it sure sounds as if the Yawnmeister wants to join our new robot overlords by making music that would appeal to their innermost circuits, but there’s no way he can prevent his humanness from infiltrating the tunes. That’s a good thing, and once again, a gap is bridged – people using electronics to make electronic music to make people to, or something like that. Sure, increase the population, why not? We’re in space here, we need a colony. At any rate, Real Yawny’s groove sensors are processing on overdrive, and that combined with the tonal rough edges result in a nifty side A that’s easy to get lost in. I could live without the vocals on “Light Maps,” but that’s a minor quibble.

Wica Intina’s holed up in the back like Captain America in SNOWPIERCER, plotting, always plotting. He wants nothing to do with the technology, and in fact the retreats in the exact opposite direction, internalizing his humanness and expressing it through an acoustic guitar. His compositions are insular, recorded quickly to four-track (if that). We’re familiar with Wica, and we are unsurprised at this turn. What we do like is his choice of cover tunes: “Totally Confused” by Beck, which appeared on GOLDEN FEELINGS (which I have) and the “Beercan” single, and the resulting production is just as canned as the GF original (which is a good thing). Speaking of canned production, “Smothered in Hugs” by Guided By Voices is represented here, a BEE THOUSAND tune (also a record I’ve written about in the very distant past and I’m hesitant to link to). It sounds like a ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE outtake in Wica’s hands, exactly what he was going for (likely).

So here’s your soundtrack. The revolution against the robots to save what’s left of humanity begins now. Or if you just want to listen to a cool tape with two very different sides, you can do that too.
Wica Intina
Sticker Gitters Collective

--Ryan Masteller

Sunday, September 17, 2017

“Colony” (Crow Versus Crow)

To colonize, one must claim ownership over a property. Alocasia Garden, aka Reece Thomas Green of Folkstone, UK, visualizes the machinations of the colonizer through proto-industrial sound, its arrival and assimilation of space and/or population a tense inevitability in the composer’s hands. What’s colonized? Who’s colonizing? I can’t get enormous interstellar vessels out of my head, massive hulks moving from planet to planet. I also can’t shake the idea of European colonization, a real, terrible actuality that has shaped and continues to shape our world today. Maybe the former is a sci-fi metaphor for the latter (well, it certainly is), but either way, Alocasia Garden’s treatment of its ideas is as unsettling as it is thrilling. Piercing metallic tones reveal the intentions of Green’s subjects, and most of it’s not good. Rumbles of heavy, thudding progress fill the atmosphere, and forward movement occurs in an inexorable tide of struggle and vanity. Consider song titles too – “Consumed by Struggle,” “Allegory of Vanity,” and ones I haven’t referenced, like “Verity” and “Purge,” all ideas pointing to the ends of eras and the beginnings of new, and not exactly welcome, ruling entities. Weighty material indeed! Fortunately, Green guides us through the album like an author, scenes appearing and stories progressing toward their finalities. It all makes me wonder what sort of grasp he has on the English language – could there be a novel in there somewhere? I ask myself that question all the time. Sadly, I don’t have much musical skill anymore to fall back on when the words don’t come. Good thing I know how to listen to tapes!

--Ryan Masteller

Saturday, September 16, 2017

PETRIDISCH “A Fixed Point” (I Heart Noise)

Boston “darkwave” artist Petridisch has the honor of releasing the first physical artifact on I Heart Noise, till now a blog and digital mixtape label intent on unearthing “peculiar sounds” and unleashing them upon the unwitting populace – sounds a little bit like yours truly, if you ask me. (Except for the label part – who’s got time for that?) Now there are physical things to consume in real space! A CD (ugh; edition of 10) and a tape (yay! Edition of 50), but you’ve already bought the tape (because it’s sold out). Petridisch, true to his vast discographical root structure (see link below), toils in an electronic landscape that’s part techno, part industrial, all mood, and these four songs are a perfect entry point into his psyche-delia. “The Unknown Rabbit” and “Operation Interlude” are my favorite tracks here, mainly because there’s an added dash of shoegaze that was always oh-so-present in my favorite netlabel releases from the early to mid-2000s (Laridae, represent!). Thick synths swell over electro clicks, overwhelming speakers in the best possible way. “In the Red” and “In the Black” feature vocal samples, and while they totally work within the genre and within these two tracks, I’ll take non-vocal tracks any day of the week. Still, “Red” and “Black” have that gothic element, the female voices drifting over the bleeps and blops like KMFDM background singers over a half-speed Orbital track. OK, OK, the space is a magic space. There, I said it, you happy? A FIXED POINT, perhaps THE reference point for all Petridisch music, is the perfecto place to start your collection of PD tunes and also IHN releases. Get in on the ground floor here, folks, and tell everybody I sent ya when these things fetch a grand on Discogs.

--Ryan Masteller

Friday, September 15, 2017

SHEEN MARINA “Travel Lightly
(Very Special Recordings)

TRAVEL LIGHTLY indeed – Sheen Marina is a lithe organism, not overly burdened with the pomp or bloat of rock-and-roll excess. Lean and mean, and not just because of the assonance, Sheen Marina shreds through TRAVEL LIGHTLY, the band’s new (and blue!) tape (whose j-card is also really arty, like a totally detailed van, all fully fold-overed and junk) on Very Special Recordings, a label that knows a thing or two about shifty, active art rock. As such, Sheen Marina fits in spectacularly, drawing comparisons to Deerhoof, Mr. Bungle, the Dismemberment Plan, and, probably, Shudder to Think in some Baltimore-area co-ops. (I know a Baltimorean who was really in to STT, so there.) Guitars are strangled, drums are pummeled – a sax is bleated at some point. But see, Sheen Marina is sneaky – they write these choruses that will have you totally singing along with them, these melodies that just wriggle themselves into your brain. But just when you think you’ve got the song pegged, Sheen Marina pulls the rug and goes in a totally different direction, kind of like “Swipe” takes a page from both “Desert Search for Techno Allah” and “Do the Standing Still.” I love it – it’s pretty much the only kind of indie rock that still does it for me these days, the kind that keeps me guessing because I can never figure out what’s coming next. And don’t you just want to be surprised by the music you’re listening to? Who wants “Evenflow” over and over, generation after generation? I don’t. That’s what makes bands like Sheen Marina special – they keep taking chances, and the fact that they’re making some of the most listenable music you can think of is just icing on the cake. A blue cake, with a weird face decorated onto it. Wait a sec, that cake looks just like my van – is TRAVEL LIGHTLY permeating every facet of my life? God, I hope so.

Sheen Marina
Very Special Recordings

--Ryan Masteller

Thursday, September 14, 2017

EXT.TMP “Toggle God Mode” (Bedlam Tapes)

IF – and that’s a fully capital “IF” – you want your sound rendered in three-dimensional visual accompaniment, look no further than ext.tmp, the electronic artist masquerading as a computer file (probably one teeming with viruses). Bedlam Tapes, out of Germany, has somehow seen the need to unleash TOGGLE GOD MODE into the world, its synthetic TRON-esque landscapes pixelating before your very eyes as grids beget geometric forms, which take on size, contour, and texture before being imbued with life and set on constant cosmic gif-fery. You hear TOGGLE GOD MODE, and these things appear, as if the music itself was some sort of … Master Control Program? Regardless, IF fully becomes WHEN at this point, because once you enter this terrain, there is absolutely no returning from it, and do you want to? I mean, this video for “sidable_spectator” is like David Lynch on MS Paint after playing waaaay too many hours of MARBLE MADNESS on the NES. These visuals have to mean something, but what? We hover, we roll, we splash – but why? Our answers are not forthcoming from ext.tmp, but instead we are thrust ever further into the fantastic realm imagined only by the circuits of a computer. Kind of like a holodeck on the ENTERPRISE if the ENTERPRISE was fully assimilated by the Borg, but the Borg were all, like, tripping balls big time and decided to collectively major in graphic design. But there’s the paradox: we all know the Borg is a collective, they don’t go to college – they ALREADY know how to make this zany stuff! Still, ext.tmp remains, exists, creates, and we are powerless to resist against ext.tmp’s infinite electronic charms. Pulses and melodies earworm into your cerebral cortex and become part of your nervous system, engendering responses that you never knew you could perform, at speeds you never imagined your body could reach. And this is all before TOGGLE GOD MODE becomes the new normal – at first you’re merely at a stage of rapid and advanced change, and when you no longer sense the intricacies of ext.tmp’s alterations, once they’ve fully become part of you, that’s when you ascend. You’re probably asking, What do you mean ascend, to where? I dunno, man, I’m just telling you what I’ve seen with my own eyes. People change, then ascend. I imagine there’s some spherical Lynchian globule involved.

Bedlam Tapes
Rendering Portfolio

--Ryan Masteller

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

“s/t” (Dismal Niche)

I am a man of constant sorrow. I’ve seen trouble all my day. Well, now that you mention it, I have not seen trouble all my day, and I’m not really in a state of constant sorrow. But you’ll have to excuse me that the old Soggy Bottom Boys song gets lodged in the ol’ thinker from time to time, especially when I’m faced with a full-on deluge of Americana in the form of rootsy folk from the Midwest. And to be fair, Tim Pilcher and Monica Lord do not recall the Soggy Bottom Boys (maybe a bit on “The Hermit”), but they ply the trade of a-pickin’ and a-bowin’ they’s instruments till the sweet heavenly angels come to rest on the roofs of the lucky homes from which their celestial emanations emerge. Pilcher with his acoustic guitar sends the prayers of the downtrodden aloft, notes gently sparkling off into the night sky like embers from a campfire. Lord draws the angels to earth and tethers them here with her plaintive cello, beseeching them with supplications for increased attention. This self-titled tape is pure nighttime meditativeness, beyond the back porch but never backwoods – the aw-shucks dreamer and romantic in me is fully sated after its too-brief encroachment into my consciousness. So what do I do now, now that I’ve melted into the background, into the shadows, become adrift on the night? Can I speak in a different language, from a different pulpit, with a different message? No more sorrow, no more trouble. I will not be run out of this town. I will be redeemed! Forgiven – but maybe not by the great state of Mississippi? Ah well. I guess I should never have knocked over that Piggly Wiggly in Yazoo City. But hey – at least I know what redemption SOUNDS like. Sounds like this tape.

Dismal Niche

--Ryan Masteller

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

MONTE BURROWS “Skua” C20 (Falt)

Shit. ”Winter Winds,” side A of SKUA by Monte Burrows, aka Joe McKay, on France’s Falt, portends the advance of the White Walkers beyond the Wall, an event that the Night’s Watch is not equipped to stop in the throes of winter. The track is ten minutes of their advance. It’s terrifying, and we all know how that’s going to end. I’d offer spoilers, but I’m shaking with the dread fostered by these field recordings and processed through whatever computer programs Monte Burrows was able to get his hands on in Westeros.

OK, look, I’m not going to do that the whole time. So I watch GAME OF THRONES. So does everybody else. (And I read the books too!) And “Winter Winds” >/</= “Winds of Winter”? C’mon now.

I’m not going to do that the whole time because “False Beach” is also here, and it deserves some non-GOT attention, especially considering that (1) it takes place on a beach and (2) there aren’t too many beaches in GOT. Still, it’s a gray-sounding venture, a scratchy recording, more of a memory than an actual jaunt to the seaside. The sun doesn’t shine, the clouds menace, the wind is cold. It’s actually kind of like winter at the beach, and the wind … it’s the “Winds of Winter” again!

So I am actually going to do that the whole time, apparently. Sue me.

If we want to get technical, “False Beach” is probably what the Ironborn of Pike would listen to if they were into really tactile field-recorded tapes. They might not be as equally formidable a foe as the White Walkers, but you still probably don’t want to cross them.

I’ll show myself out.

(Joe McKay is probably like, “WTF dude.” I can only hope he’s a closet GOT fan.)

Monte Burrows

--Ryan Masteller

Monday, September 11, 2017

“The Vacation” (ΠΑΝΘΕΟΝ)

Oh… THE VACATION is dedicated to the memory of Ray Bradbury. He was one of the authors who inspired me most when I was an adolescent – the reveries, the danger, the unabashed hope, I think, in the end.

Oh, Oleksiy Sakevych – how on earth did you capture the exact nature of Bradbury’s tone and mood and feeling and … endless melancholy of growing up and realizing that the dreams you had were foolish and unrealistic? But in Bradbury’s alternate universe, they were not only possible but probable – “The Martian Chronicles,” “Dandelion Wine,” “Something Wicked This Way Comes” – all evoke childhood, or at least the status quo (potentially of childhood), ending and responsibility stretching out before you like a black, viscous lake. Take that responsibility and shove it. Let’s go to Mars, or let’s indulge in magic.

THE VACATION is steeped in nostalgia, synthesizers and textured tones like old, scratchy postcards flitting across the consciousness and telling stories within their moments, true stories that reflect the best books you’ve read and gotten lost in and will always have as a part of you. “They had wakened one morning and the world was empty,” “Stillness mixed with stillness,” “‘Wouldn’t we be lonely?,’” “His voice faded,” “Sunflower wilderness,” “Earth that was now no more than a meadow” – the titles extend the narrative beyond the sound, beyond the memory, until “And he had walked her through the still and empty city streets” admits the ending is somber but far from over. That’s all we want here. That’s what Bradbury gave us. Kudos to Endless Melancholy for capturing that in sound.

Endless Melancholy

--Ryan Masteller

Sunday, September 10, 2017

“Ataraxia Series No. 1: Heart and Insight Meditations” C61
(Crash Symbols)

Crash Symbols has unleashed upon us a new series of recordings, a maelstrom of cassette’d sounds that is bound to rend the very fabric of your being. The first entry in the series promises to shake you to your very core. Indeed, the Ataraxia Series, primed to blast through the cassette community with a vengeance … wait, it’s called the “Ataraxia Series”? I, uh… I think I might be headed down the wrong path here with this opening – I was under the impression that “Ataraxia” was something heavy, you know, with cool black metal fonts? Ataraxia. Yeah. But no, “ataraxia” is defined as “calmness untroubled by mental or emotional disquiet,” so basically the total opposite of what I was going for there. It happens – I am fallible.

Looks instead like I should have looked beyond the cover and realized that the series is actually called the Ataraxia Mediation Series, a “collection of guided and experimental meditation releases” that Crash Symbols is curating. Like those old tapes you find at Goodwill with the dated covers featuring inviting guides or smooth, stacked rocks or water drops or pan flutes – you know what I’m talking about – Ataraxia cassettes will serve as peaceful escorts through the inner workings of your being, acting as an escape from the everyday stresses while simultaneously serving as self-actualizers. Jesse Fleming, an artist from Los Angeles, and tone duo Electric Sound Bath combine their mutual interest in bettering oneself through relaxation techniques, with Fleming reading prepared meditative statements while ESB crafts the atmosphere. The result fills the spaces of your consciousness that have been overwhelmed by modern inconvenience and a fast-paced mentality, all while manipulating your outlook to guide – there’s that word yet again – you toward a sense of inner alignment. How is this not on the lovely Inner Islands label, which specializes in this kind of thing?

Anyway, Fleming’s words over the sound bath are exactly what you would expect from this kind of experiment, and I don’t know if I’ve heard the word “forgiveness” so many times in one sitting – forgiveness of others, forgiveness of self, etc. It’s refreshing in these turbulent times to consider that forgiveness is still an option. What does forgiveness look like again? Well, hey, I know what it sounds like – it sounds like Ataraxia Series No. 1, like coming to terms with yourself, like being a better person after hearing what it’s doing to the deepest parts of your being. It heals while it transforms, and you transcend while you hear, and time stretches out like a flat circle so that you encompass the forgiveness and the forgiving, living and understanding at the very same moment. You won’t even come out the other side an “enlightened jerk face” (ha, Jesse, good one), but a human being ready to interact with other human beings. Isn’t that the point anyway? You may even bond with someone over a good metal record – if you’re willing to forgive yourself first.

Crash Symbols

--Ryan Masteller

Saturday, September 9, 2017

TARPIT “Walls and Windows” (All Gone)

Like the bathroom stalls beneath old Veterans Stadium before they blew that abomination right up, Tarpit’s “music” is coated in grime and other unmentionable substances. It is likely that this artist/group is from Philly as well, at least according to the scant pieces of information that the internet turns up. But since I’m not about to poke around the old dark web for any further bits and pieces, you get what you get from me, an honest opinion on a barely coherent industrial/noise album. That sounds like damning commentary, but I assure you, if you’re the type of person who can stomach whatever still crawls in the dark corners of abandoned SEPTA subway stations, you’re probably in for a treat with Tarpit. The clangs, the squirms, the grotesqueries, all serve the greater whole of displacement and disillusionment. Coherence? Who needs it! Get lost in the muck – like, literally get lost until you’re truly unable to find your way home. Become one of the sewer people who are almost certainly living under every major metropolitan area. Especially Philly! One day they will all rise up and reclaim the surface.

All Gone

--Ryan Masteller

Friday, September 8, 2017

“On Being Lumpy (2016 Edition)”
(Lily Tapes and Discs)

Gorgeous bedroom acoustic folk music, à la the lo-fi Midwestern indie scene in the late 1990s early 2000s. Originally released in 2011 on CDR, ON BEING LUMPY is the product of Ben Lovell, the man behind Lung Cycles, who decided that enough time had passed that he could revisit these songs without being horrified by them in some way (he says he was “frustrated and anxious” at the time of their recording, and if I were Ben, I may have just let the tapes collect dust in a shoebox under my bed – or, uh, in an unused folder on my desktop?). The songs live on their own, depict a specific time in one’s life, and speak to the fear inherent in the unknown. I get it – I went through that kind of period before, and Ben speaks to the me of that time, likely how ON BEING LUMPY acts as a snapshot of his own life. The music is split between instrumentals and vocal pieces, and regardless of which is doing the heavy lifting, there’s still an element that can be easily latched on to, an emotional point of reference that keeps the tape moored to an actual real world. It makes me wonder – how would I respond to a time capsule from the me of 2011 here in 2017? Would I understand where I was coming from? Would I be able to relate? I don’t know. Listening to this makes me sort of want to dig deeper into my own musical past, pull out some of the tracks I recorded with … oh god no – oh, I really WAS a Primus fan at one point! Time to take these tapes to the incinerator – sorry Ben, you and I may connect on some of the emotional checkpoints here, but I’m way too embarrassed to release any of this junk. Good on you for plugging along a listenable path in the first place!

Lung Cycles
Lily Tapes and Discs

--Ryan Masteller

Thursday, September 7, 2017

DANE ROUSAY “blip” (self-released)

I wasn’t sure how “minimalist percussion” was going to translate from a concept to a reality, but once “blip” the album started zig-zagging through my headphones, I wasn’t sure if I’d even be able to escape it. Dane Rousay isn’t content to wail away on a drum kit like a basement-bound Neil Peart wannabe – no way. At times, I’m not even sure he’s playing “drums” or percussion or something – I have every reason to believe he’s processing these sounds through some kind of computer program. But you and I know better. The whole point of “blip” is the inventiveness on display, the “magnification” – Rousay’s word – of minimal percussion until it becomes an overwhelming maximalist production. At times I feel like I’m listening to an electronic glitch producer, but the tones and the timbres discourage me from that line of reasoning rather quickly. I’m reminded of the time I was in a band in college and we instructed our drummer to play like Aphex Twin, although I realized later I should have said Autechre. Assuredly, “blip” is nothing like that. It was a weird digression that I just thought of.

The sound is incredible, and makes the idea of a fully “percussion” album less avant-garde-y and more accessible than it probably has any right to be. Because it exists on the nexus of acoustic instrumentation, rigorous composition, and virtuosic playing bordering, as I’ve said, on the unbelievable (it’s actually injected with way more humanness and feeling than any technological composition whose feeling is sheened away by processing), “blip” probably has ripped a hole in the space-time continuum and plowed a nonlinear path in a direction unforeseen by physicists. From tuned and hammered glass (?) to an actual kit, Rousay’s playing is considered and resourceful, and it’s clear that the ideas he’s got kicking around in his head are well worth the attention of those with even a passing interest in percussive arrangement. Then, “blip” is a triumph, something to return to time and again with questions like “How’d he come up with that?” nagging the backs of our amateur minds.

And goodness – the “blip” art is fantastic, a gorgeous job all around. Kudos to Grace Herndon. And it’s mastered by Marcus Maurice, whose More Eaze work I’ve profiled in the past. I’m pretty sure “blip” is the complete package.

Dane Rousay’s WEB SITE
Dane Rousay’s BAND CAMP

--Ryan Masteller

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

SUPLINGTON “Repeating Flowers” (Youngbloods)

Producer Nakula Fogg’s output as Suplington is as gorgeously experimental as downtempo electronic music gets. Mixing found sound with his own minimal synthetics, Fogg creates a world as tactile and all-encompassing as the stages of life, death, rebirth, and everything in between. Fixating on a mood rooted in these natural processes, Suplington’s REPEATING FLOWERS wallows in the basest elements of existence, thereby enveloping any and all terrestrial entities and objects, glorifying them in whatever state they happen to be. It’s not hard, then, obviously, to get lost in the music, a chill mix as indebted to trip hop as it is to ambient, a Boards of Canada descendent without the obvious beatwork. The music easily takes over your current state, flowing through your consciousness and working on your perception as you begin to become aware of each living thing in your field of vision. Your hyperawareness causes you to get deeper into the music, and a cycle of symbiosis ensues. Do you really need REPEATING FLOWERS like a shark needs a remora? You might, at this point. Repeat REPEATING when it’s done if you don’t think you can stand another minute without it.


-- Ryan Masteller

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

UMBER SLEEPING “At Last You Can Fly”
(Halfshell Records)

Taking the best of Cold War–synth pop and mixing it with kraut influences, Umber Sleeping, mainly the project of Peter Tietjen, cuts a rug on the catchiest of catchy bloops and beats. Like some of my favorite synth bands from twenty years ago or so, like Pulsars or I Am Spoonbender (but without the mathy-ness of the latter), Umber Sleeping is easy to throw on and enjoy on any occasion. And if you’ve read any of my reviews ever, you probably know that I’m a sci-fi nut, so AT LAST YOU CAN FLY pretty much scratches that itch in all the right places. I mean, look at some of these track titles: “Where Is Neptune?,” “Atom,” “Starro” – OK, maybe it’s only a handful that point directly to sci-fi, but still, the music is totally all Isaac Asimov on us. Freaky future space colonies and that kind of jazz, set to music for mass consumption, likely individually packaged and portioned for maximum caloric efficiency on the intake. But that’s food, this is music. You won’t regret your decision to emigrate to a frontier planet. There’s even a track called “Dr. Monroe,” and if he doesn’t inspire confidence, then I don’t know, you may be lost to the cause. But hey, at least you’ve still got your Umber Sleeping tape, right? … Do you?

Umber Sleeping
Halfshell Records

-- Ryan Masteller

Monday, September 4, 2017

WILD ANIMA “Blue Twenty-Two” (Blue Tapes)

BLUE TWENTY-TWO logically follows BLUE TWENTY-ONE, which I just so happen to have reviewed a bit ago, but this is a completely different kind of animal… a wild one! Without the “l.” Anyway, Alex Alexopolous uses barely anything more than her voice, wordless, chanting, wafting through time and space. It’s a gorgeous instrument, and, steeped in mystery, it drifts through forests, beckoning travelers to remote monasteries where the only sound heard in the hallowed halls is Alexopolous’s voice. High above the walls in a tower a light shines as a beacon, a light that never goes out. Only those in tune with the reverberations of the vocalizations on a deep, subconscious level can find the monastery. I found it. I’m glad I did. Like Enya on a Julianna Barwick trip, Wild Anima fills the air with magic, and soft light seems to permeate the woods even in the middle of the night. Did I say “gorgeous” yet? I’m about to – it’s gorgeous stuff. BLUE TWENTY-TWO is the kind of thing you can throw on at a séance, a wake, a Renaissance faire, or during a D&D session, and it would be the perfect accompaniment to the more enchanting moments of a fantasy film. I find myself visualizing all kinds of things while it plays (as if you couldn’t tell). I’ve got the original version, but the re-release comes with ten extra tracks, all remixes. It’s sort of odd hearing Alexopolous run through the remix ringer, but it’s decidedly not unpleasant … just different. And that’s OK. Come for the voice, stay for the reinterpretations. All good in the end.

Wild Anima
Blue Tapes

-- Ryan Masteller

Sunday, September 3, 2017

ANDY ORTMANN “Cave Wave” C40 (Tabs Out)

Andy Ortmann runs Nihilist Records, but the fantastically titled CAVE WAVE is a Tabs Out joint. Andy likes to manipulate sound – seemingly inconspicuous samples and synth patterns resolve into weird psychedelic fragments that burrow into your brain and alter your vision, as if you were ingesting mushrooms through your ears. My ears have ingested, and I am a victim of the subterranean bonesick mesmerism. I am the Toxic Avenger, or maybe another Troma property, but I’m certainly worse off in my molecules than I was a half hour or so ago. It’s like the electrons in my body have all started to decay, slowly loosening their connectivity to various protons. And my mind – it feels like it’s being controlled subliminally. You may ask, how do you know if your mind is being controlled if it’s subliminal? I think that my mind has always been controlled, and it’s taken CAVE WAVE to draw attention to it. This neon green nightmare fantasy straight outta Haord (I am wearing my “Straight Outta Haord” t-shirt after all) is not straight outta Haord but is functioning in a similar form. I am off balance. I am unclear. I am disoriented. I am thrilled. Andy Ortmann is the exact dose of bewilderment in these times when everybody’s right and I’m wrong. I should take a step back and wallow in being wrong, in being submerged beneath the surface of this planet, surrounded by reverberating catacomb walls, and ride the wave of the cave till my brain breaks from the effort. It won’t be long now – I’ve become sure of very little, and I’m awash in oversensation.

In the end, the one thing that I’m actually sure of is that Andy Ortmann is probably a crab person.

Andy Ortmann
Tabs Out

-- Ryan Masteller

Saturday, September 2, 2017

"A Tribute to Tony Conrad'"
(Self Released)

Lather Sommer Duo side 'Conrad's Demons': If before recording his awesome solo album for the Melvin's series of 3, now 4 solo albums, Dale had taken a trip to Tokyo to pick up some psych inspiration, this is what the '92 Dale Crover solo album may have sounded like. Now classic sounding dirgey riffage, big sounding work-horse drums with wah-stomp feedback bends injected in the meat. Dood in flannel gripping a can of skuzz dream demo. Perfect for pulling all nighters in the van.

Open Sex side 'Fight the Snob Art of the Social Climbers': Take it down a few notches to the jammier, building on itself, airier Open Sex side. It's good to relax after the intensity of the LSD side. Open Sex knows the very open roads. 2 Drummers working very well together, a patient guitarist & an organist on the verge of rapture. The music seems to tell a cautionary tale. There's mystery ahead, mystery behind....better watch your speed.

--T Penn