Friday, April 29, 2016

NICOLA CORTI & MOON RA “E.S.P.” (Artetetra)

Sleep. You do it. I do it. Max Richter does it. Coffee fights it. Lack of it makes you crazy. Too much of it makes you feel sluggish. Seven to eight hours of it is perfect. Right now, this morning, I’m awake after seven or eight hours of it. I’m in a good mood. That bodes well for this review.

Nicola Corti and Moon Ra (aka Marie e le Rose, aka Monologue) were intrigued by sleep, much more than you or I likely would be, since the average among us spend all of our time while doing it … well, actually sleeping. But still, it’s fascinating for the conscious person to wonder what happens within the mind while it sorts the day’s activities mid-slumber, to imagine how the firing synapses conjure images or scenes that seem completely alien to the sleeper. Ever keep a dream journal, one of those notebooks you leave by your bedside and scribble in at night when you’re jostled awake by events in your dreams? Me neither. But I bet it would look absolutely crazy (read, probably ridiculous) in the full light of the morning.

Anyhoo, E.S.P. is a “song cycle” dedicated to sleep. Corti and Rose use various instruments, effects, synthesizers, and other gadgets to improvise the ebbs and flows of sleep cycles, allowing the natural motions of the sounds generated, along with the decay of those sounds, to emulate the sub/unconscious mind. The effect is ambient recording at its most sideways, meaning that anything sort of goes here. “Intro – DormiVeglia” mimics the deep breathing of one newly asleep. “Twilight Zone” revels in the weird moods generated through mental images, and “R.E.M.” keeps the listener on edge through menacing tones and effects. Just kidding, it’s a cover of “Losing My Religion.” (Just kidding again, it’s not.)

“A Dream” gives the listener some repose, some rest, and is a bit gentler, but that’s before the almost eleven-minute “Hyncoubous” kicks in, a massive chaotic structure that only gets weirder the more you listen to it. It’s my favorite passage on the tape in that it gives you no real idea where it’s going next, no real grounding in anything. It’s unpredictable. “Outro – Woke Up” is also the best approximation of the vivid dreams you have in the morning right before you realize that sunlight is now creeping around the corners of your curtains.

I don’t normally like to dig into specific tracks one by one, but E.S.P. has such an interesting take on sleep that it’s hard not to be surprised by how well thought out this whole exercise is. It promotes new ideas that wouldn’t necessarily have been obvious without its help. And even though “sleep” is a fairly popular concept among ambient/classical artists, it’s usually tackled in a more subdued, tranquil way. E.S.P. is anything but tranquil, and thank goodness for that.

--Ryan Masteller

Thursday, April 28, 2016

CHEAP MEAT “Demos” (OJC Recordings)

 These cuts are the scraps. What, the music, or the meat? I don’t even know anymore. I’ve been accustomed to Cheap Meat for a while now, in that all my lunches are bologna. All my dinners are “TV Dinner”s. Don’t even ask about breakfast. All day, every day, the lo-fi-ness of my diet bleeds into the reality of the music I ingest. Gritty, distorted funk guitar and bass runs obscure gritty and distorted vocals. Or is that the consistency of my food? There are four songs. There are four compartments on my TV dinner tray. Coincidence? You decide. Demos is over in a flash, choked down in less than seven minutes, before the first commercial break.

I guess nutritional value aside this stuff tastes OK sometimes. Sounds OK? See, I’m still confused.

--Ryan Masteller

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

RSS B0YS “B0DY FL0W” (Speaker Footage)

Who are RSS B0YS? Shut up, it doesn’t matter! If you need to know more than that there are two of them and that they’re Polish, you’re not paying attention to the right things. It’s the music, man, not the people behind the music. Lock the questions away in your mind and never ask them again. You might find you don’t like the answers anyway.

What I can tell you is this: RSS B0YS don’t eff around. They operate in some post−Wax Trax! universe where Chicago industrial evolved into black hole−massive techno, where bass and beats collide at an atomic level with chords and melodies that will snap your neck with the amount of involuntary double takes you’re liable to be inflicted with. They blast you at times with breakneck passages (see the diabolical and diabolically catchy “R00N 0N”), and at others the tunes are smooth as glass, or the “chillax” setting of your iTunes visualizer (see the diabolically catchy “BYRD R00N”). But the best part about B0DY FL0W is that the entire thing acts like a wonderful mixtape primer of everything that’s great about electronic music. It fulfills the promise of its title in that it FL0Ws perfectly from one track to the next, from one minute to the next.

By the time the ten-minute “N00R” winds down, you should be exhausted, because there’s just so much going on here. Speaker Footage has found their poster children, their label mascots in this duo. But what is it with all the zeroes? Is it an homage to binary coding, and as such an homage to the homage of the name “RSS B0YS,” serving as a reminder of RSS feed content delivery? Maybe we’ll never know. You know why? Because we should never, ever, ask questions about it! Just let it ride and vibe out.

--Ryan Masteller

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

“Falling Out with Number 1”
(Dirty Pillows)

 I know you remember the review I wrote for Evan A. James’s self-titled tape on Adhesive Sounds, because it was your introduction to the man’s masterful work. Thank you, thank you. He’s at it again with Falling Out with Number 1, twelve tracks of inventive and experimental jazz-tinged electronics, and kids, if you expected a sophomore slump, fuhgeddaboutit. James is as in tune with his compositional chops as a kickboxer’s feet are to his opponent’s face. That means Evan A. James is kicking the living crap out of all other genre wannabes. End awkward metaphor… now.

Still recalling Badalamenti at times, but also reaching into the Orange Milk Records roster for inspiration (e.g. label honcho Giant Claw), James reveals his restlessness throughout Falling Out, presenting here his tunes in bite-sized chunks that barely ever reach three minutes in length, yet better serve the album as a whole by their brevity. It’s easy to see this play out through the first few tracks, as “Bleakarcade” opens the tape with fidgety vaporwave before transitioning into the chamber synth of “Alch,” complete with processed vocal samples (there’s the Giant Claw comparison). Then “Tumble” manifests itself, all one and a half minutes of jazz bass and strings, totally jostling the listener out of any sort of pattern. This sort of stylistic dance keeps repeating over the full course of the tape.

It’s not a stretch to suggest that Falling Out with Number 1 is one of the most inventive listens you’ll encounter thus far in 2016, and here’s hoping that Evan A. James brings more of this A-game action to future releases, hopefully in the very near future. For now, go back to “Bridge, where human voice samples are matched with mournful strings for a powerful effect. Or “Transparentradiosong” or “Danse,” each equally emotive, for more down this same path. Or, heck, even “Fallingoutwithnumber1,” which ends the tape and flips the whole thing on its head by going in for the electronica kill – kickboxer style – complete with “pop chorus” … ish. See? I want to talk about every single tiny part of this tape – all of it is worth obsessing over.

--Ryan Masteller

Monday, April 25, 2016

HECK YEAH "Say Yes to the No-Nos"
C33 (Greentape)

If you know me, you know I’ll never understand experimental tapes. What is the point? Do people actually listen to these? Who actually gets up in the morning and thinks “today, I’m going to experiment with my music genres!”?

If you know me, you also know I give credit where credit is due; I don’t like experimental tapes very much, but I judge them on nonpartisan criteria and am pretty generous with my ratings.

And finally, if you know me, you know I very much dislike writing negative reviews — I’m the guy who always tries to look for the best in everything. Alas, this is the third time in my career as a Cassette God that I’m being forced to write such an appraisal.

A note to Say Yes to the No-Nos: if you want to deem a song “experimental”, make sure it’s a damn song first.

Here’s how the word “song” is defined: 'A song is a single work of music with distinct and fixed positions and patterns using sound and silence and a variety of forms that often include the repetition of sections.’ I think we can extend some leniency to music with less "distinct or fixed positions" — as long as some pattern exists. "Sound and silence”? By all means. “Repetition of sections”? Be my guest!

My problem is this: the tape reeks of desperation. It screams “I wanna be an experimental tape!” under the guise of an accomplished one. There are too many positions and none of them fixed — too much sound and not enough silence — too much repetition and a dearth in unconventionality — too much vice and not enough versa.

Below is the link to a website that has the tape listed and nothing more. There was no download card or bandcamp link listed, so I did some hardcore research and came across this site. It just exists — you can’t purchase it or even stream it online.

And honestly, maybe that’s for the best.

-- M. Syed

Sunday, April 24, 2016

“Moody Snooz” C30 (Hylé Tapes)

Dan Olsen is Dang Olsen, and if his parents had been smart, they’d have named him that right off the bat. But they didn’t, and Dan was just Dan until he realized he had a talent for warp zone pop nuggets, or maybe just pop nugs, and started liquefying his musical inspirations into fluorescent metallic goo. After a while, he stood back and surveyed what he had created, exclaiming “Dang!” Thus the prophecy was foretold.

This is not my first rodeo in Dang Olsen Dream Tape’s world: I reviewed his Constellation Tatsu tape Just Roll and loved it (along with his art, a perfect visual aid to the music – “eyeball brain rainbow entity”!). Here, on Moody Snooz, his first release for Hylé Tapes, Olsen continues riding the hypnogogic vaporwave train he’s been conducting for a while, marrying varied elements of the styles with an ambient bent, as if he intended all listeners to relax on a space beach after ripping gravity bong hits for a few hours. That’s right – you’ll not not hallucinate under these circumstances.

What’s weird is that I just added The Moody Blues’ Days of Future Past to my Discogs collection, because I have it on vinyl for some reason, so Moody Snooz, although it sounds nothing like The Moody Blues, makes me think of that. But this is a red herring, as Justin Hayward, John Lodge, and crew would never have come up with a tune as awesomely named as “Bud Booger Trance Majik” (and take that, Anthony Kiedis!) They also would likely have not been as adept at the act of balancing beats and space, as Olsen does. “High Guide” brings the drone with the subtle pulse, “Pumpin” drops the head-nod beat for cruising the strip, and “Stones” soundtracks the late-night comedown. And these are the first three tracks!

If the term “cold chillin’” is in your vocabulary (and why wouldn’t it be?), then Moody Snooz is the tape for you. There is no harshing this buzz – the Dream Tape rolls until it stops and then it unspools in your mind in the form of waves consisting of magnetic strips eternally wash upon a boombox shore. That is what the kids call “maxin’” and “relaxin’,” if I’m not mistaken. And I’m never mistaken. So get on it – the beach is that way, mon frère. Here’s an umbrella drink and a towel.

--Ryan Masteller