Tuesday, January 17, 2017

“Dark Tropicals”
(Entertainment Systems)

Dark Tropicals is a dense vision from African Ghost Valley, the duo irradiating jungle landscapes with their noxious sonics, enveloping territories with complete twilit atmospherics. To remove oneself from the concept of Dark Tropicals would be wasteful – the words have meaning, whispered under breaths as totemic mantras, each syllable a powerful spell cast on listener and vicinity alike. Life creeps, burdened by poisons unleashed by humans. Life recedes, all of it, as intelligences higher than ours increase the concentration of our chemical annihilation so that we, too, succumb to the encroaching uninhabitability. I’m such a downer today.

But dang, turns out if you let all this icky-sticky-ness leak into your mainframe, the resulting output sounds pretty cool, at the very, very least. Maybe this mass eradication is the cure for what ails the ol’ planet, or at least it’s the last gasp before we turn our top-of-the-food-chain-status certificates, the ones we all have laminated and stored neatly in our home offices, over to the hyperintelligent machines doing all that eradicating. The tropics have rotted, life is on the brink. It’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day, but without the happy ending! (I forget – did T2:JD have a happy ending?)

African Ghost Valley is anticipating the end. Bass bubbles form the foundation, and synthesizers pierce them with impunity. Dark Tropicals decays and rots before our ears. Become enmeshed in the decline.

--Ryan Masteller

Monday, January 16, 2017

"In the Heart of Solitude" C38
(Constellation Tatsu)

Forget breathing “New Life” into an instrument, Stuart Chalmers has taken Laraaji’s cult classic, cosmic-zither aesthetic, and expanded the lungs wide enough for a whole other world to drift right on in there. Themes haze & meld along Primordial beginnings, Call & Response spirit fights; Oh, the Light, Ahh the Dark, Owe the Other…

It’s all concentrated here and innovatively fleshed out, even further/unexpectedly, by a righteously tweaked/abused toy recorder’s natural feedback and some creative tape manipulation/time-fuckery that make and take this outta your “yet-another-spacey-auto-harp-new-age-album” and send it into the “tripped-le-fuck-out-soundtracks-for-dying-star-worshippers realm” that I’ve been waiting-without-knowing-for, for years.


-- Jacob An Kittenplan

Sunday, January 15, 2017

STAG HARE “Velvet and Bone (Inner Islands)

The last time I reviewed a Stag Hare release, it was the overwhelming 4xCS Tapestry, a behemoth of an album that nonetheless felt like the most intimate excursion over its four-hour runtime. Perhaps it was because each track was dedicated to a specific person that it made such an impression on me, its personal touch a reminder of human connection in a time of distance. Maybe it was because I wrote it during a pretty hideous time when gun violence seemed to prevail as an everyday occurrence. To say that I reveled in Tapestry is an understatement. It acted as a balm for my troubled soul.

Velvet and Bone, also released by Inner Islands, is a departure from the Stag Hare sound we may be used to these days. Instead of the thick swaths of dronage – well, more accurately, in addition to the thick swaths of dronage, the addition of gentle rhythmic touches and hushed vocals accelerate the immediateness of the album’s six tracks, the resulting music getting right up in your grill instead of carefully infiltrating your consciousness. I mean, it’s as “getting up in your grill” as a Stag Hare jawn gets, meaning that it’s still a more blissed-out experience than you’re likely to encounter on the reels of a cassette tape.

Tackling the familiar ideas of depression, self-reflection, loss, love, death, and how all that stuff intertwines into the fabric of life and humanity, Stag Hare, perhaps unsurprisingly, presents a convincingly earnest portrait of one person’s struggle through it. Velvet and Bone is transcendently honest, gorgeously rendered, and, weirdest of all, actually catchy. Hum along, I mean it, you can! I know, to a Stag Hare release! This new revelation has me giddily reaching for the rewind button, something that Tapestry didn’t exactly lend itself to (nor was it designed for). The healing power of music never felt so joyously tangible.

Stag Hare
Inner Islands

--Ryan Masteller

Saturday, January 14, 2017

DON'T "Forget It" EP

This is certainly a gift.  Not only is it a pop/punk, which I'm partial to-but this collective is from my stomping ground where you learn by the toughest rules. That said, this is a tape EP by Don't titled "Forget It." Don't forget it, get it!  Four songs-"Ambiguous," "Your Neck," "Gold & Glowing," and "Your Head." Mike Dutkewych did an excellent job recording this bunch as did David J with the mixing and mastering. All around, a very well recorded presentation.

But I'm starting backwards working my way forward. It's unclear who wrote, or for that matter who sings these songs, but all four tracks are exceptional with the lead-off cut "Ambiguous" being the Premium head turner(as it should be.) The band: Asia Ma, Jared Sparkes, Julia Fisher and Nick German shine throughout as I find myself listening over and over, wishing this were album length.

I wish I knew who did what, but alas, such is the tape world. In any event, this is an incredible collection by a stunning group. Can't wait to hear more from this bunch.

-- Bob Zilli

Friday, January 13, 2017

"TION" C44
(OBS Modern Electroacoustics)

About one hundred years ago, Luigi Russolo’s Intonarumori sought to re-define our recently-industrialized mind’s ear, re: “What is Noise?” and “What is Composition?” The sighs and moans of factories and engines were thus refined and expertly arranged to show how truly tonal shrieking metal can be, how a slow grumble can rumble itself into some lulling, rhythmic mood.

Fast forward another century to Somnoroase Pasarele’s latest “TION”, which takes that concept and applies it to the 21st century’s ever-growing cache of electrically produced cacaphonies, but with more painstakingly precise (digital) arrangements & timbral augmentation that would have taken a lifetime to write/perform, back in Russolo’s time.

Russia’s OBS Modern Electroacoustics now offer us “TION”, a tape (or CDr) where both of the 20+ minute passages evoke images of haunted merry-go-rounds with most brutal horror shows acted out in slow motion, with piezo pick-ups (by the dozen) placed strategically about, to harvest a swarming chorus of steel slashes, grinding gears, struggling motors, gravel stuck in boots, dragging on the floor, distant shrieks…this is stop-time temperament, capturing the minute and a half before the harrowing climax, a tension-building-block distillation in its most efficient essence. Dis-ease. Pre-climactic panic attack.

Below are a few visualizations I’ve repeatedly achieved whilst listening, with headphones, eyes closed, and a nice candle a few feet away:

Incantations. Cult crickets. Gutteral howls. Sword-fights in slow motion. Rainsticks. Static. Frogs. Fog. Aol modems. Copper is one ductile conductor. Sonorous ice scraper’s’wish-upon-a-windshield. Overpass. Atonal gestures assume myriad natural phenomena. Chorus of buzz saws.

Australian tribal commencement. Clinical-electrical outlet assessments. Ill-tempered co-worker(s) run(s) amok. Bad things. Just. Bad. As pace of bad be established, more bad keeps on a-chuggin’ along. How bad could it get? A pattern persists. A gong intervenes. Or maybe carves out open space. For bassoon of heavy. Oh, then back to pattern-al, minimal discomfort. Slow set up. Getting okay with it. Now bassoon notably more comfy. Calmly lumbering through otherwise this discreet sound-set.

Insectivorous waterfowl setting up shop along muddy, dusky banks. Haunted factory conveyor belts spring to life, jostling broken glass, loose change, rusty bolts. Water still, save creeping oars making way on down home. Cycles of growth & decay confuse one for an other, a seam-ripper in reverse. Incomplete buckets boast & bray for more chances. Nightfall sings her tail to sleep.

Bottom link is to SP’s visual art.


-- Jacob An Kittenplan

Thursday, January 12, 2017

“Carapace” C19
(Dinzu Artefacts)

What, you want stability? No you don’t – I know for a fact that you don’t. You want instability because instability brings surprise. Yeah, sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, but you never expect it, and that’s the key. Sequences is in no mood to deliver upon expectation, instead opting to traffic in diversions, only to pull out the proverbial rug when you think you’ve got him pegged. Niels Geybels, the Belgian behind the Sequences brand, allows us to observe, through nineteen minutes of tenuous constancy, what the churning lagoon sounds like from beneath the waves. But please remove all ideas of pacific beachbound  meditation – there’s not a grain of white sand nor a palm tree within [earshot] of this release. I shouldn’t have to warn you so explicitly – I figured the terms “instability” and “tenuous constancy” would do the trick. You can never be too careful.

The cassette’s cover image provides all the visual cues you need to submerge yourself and allow the currents to move you. Tones oscillate and overwhelm, and sometimes recede for clarity. Changes occur on a dime, with tracks often not reaching three minutes in length, allowing Geybels to fiddle with perception as the whim strikes. Let it happen – there’s no resisting the movement, the pull, the expanse greater than comprehension. Consider the perspective of a turtle or a crustacean, whose titular shell protects it on its path through life. The wide ocean beyond the immediate vicinity is an unfathomable distance. Impose upon the creature’s tiny mind the philosophy of meaning and its place within the space, and you break it. Carapace exists until it, too, breaks, fleeting, active, violent, ultimately unstable, never disappointing.

--Ryan Masteller