"A Call To Ignite" C13

Adam Void embodies the Renaissance artist, a multi-disciplined explorer and creator of sound capture/sculpture, photography, painting, writing, you name it. What really stands out here is a raw, sincere reverence for the unpolished, industrial-strength vibrations, their wringing out cyclical jolts of brute force, trapped and/or emulated by AV, and stuck to tape in DIY/No-Fi fashion. “A Call to Ignite” may bear only one lone train whistle in its denouement, but the preceding 12 minutes boast a jarring series of possessed/distorted Casiontone beats and Dial-Up-Modem-core destruction that carries every bit of weighted battery as any rusty-railed bridge bearing a heavy load across its creaking back.


-- Jacob An Kittenplan

"Freight Noise" C11

A mile away, as-the-crow-flies, runs the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), Amtrack, and maybe some other trains. Riding to work, I am occasionally stalled, waiting for these ginormous steel caterpillars to pass by. The sounds their frictitious, heavy stories clang out are always mesmerizing, and I never really wished I wasn't “held up”. 

Listen to “Freight Noise”, on your own time, and also fall in love, with what it means to “plod along” and “deliver".

To sweeten the pot of danger-free novelty, A.VOID provides an earnest account (mini-zine)  of what it meant for them (and a friend) to hop trains for two weeks, through the south, in the rain.

Tape release includes a gorgeously earnest manifesto/zine. This is pretty much why an ephemeral tape culture exists, right?


-- Jacob An Kittenplan

“92 Minutes In The Tea Room”

To be a reviewer around here you have to be at least part sleuth. Information is not always forthcoming from labels and tapes. That said, what we have here is a split tape between Mid-Air! and DDDDDDDDD’s-that’s nine “D’s” friends.

Side one is Mid-Air! and that begins innocently enough with some  simple repetitive piano and percussion. This doesn’t last long and before I can clean up my spilt coffee they (he, she, it?) are expanding on this theme and then taking it in new directions altogether. Uh-oh, now we’re beating on the pots and pans. Simple is gone. Innocent is hiding. A simple cymbal tap in succession. About midway we are treated to some grunts and groans accompanied by a sinister backward piano. Some sense of rhythm returns and on it goes. And this is only side one.

The D’s, as i lovingly refer to them (him, her, they?) are a little more on the dark side. Subterranean. This is the soundtrack for the subway to hell. About half way through the side, everything stops and a voice announces “side two”. Well thanks, it’s been side two for 15 minutes….all is forgiven though as the music returns to twisting and turning like a day-old taco in your large intestine-all with a touch of low-fi to boot.

Don’t be mistaken, these are two separate and quite different performances on the two sides of this tape. The originality is the common theme.and not much else.

Aptly titled as its a total 92 minute tape, these guys call this “trip-hop”-which sounds about right. It’s not music in any traditional genre nor is it strictly electronic or ambient or even experimental. There’s some structure here. it’s not really free-form. It’s none of these and all of these. It defies categorization. Both bright and dark, silly and serious. This tape has found the lonely path of uniqueness. This is good stuff.

-Robert Richmond

MID-AIR! “Painting Music” C42 (100% Rare Cassette Tapes)

It can’t be easy to care for someone who is critically ill, and I lack (at the moment) the experience to relate to that. I can only imagine the emotional fluctuations throughout such a process, mood shifting on a dime depending on what sort of news you’re getting on any given day or on the mental and physical state of the person in your care. Short, intense bursts of anger, fear, or relief spike through your brain and body at will. The uncertainty of any given moment is a constant companion.

Mid-Air! guides us through exactly what this feels like on “Painting Music,” a rumination on facing this exact scenario with a “beloved family member.” “Painting Music,” a sampledelic instrumental hip hop/trip hop mixtape, lurches and sways, covering all manner of potential highs and lows, but mostly slipping back into that median medicated haze, either yours or the patient’s, denoting the long days and nights of worry and disquiet, all of which end up blurring together. Mainly sampling jazz and lounge records, Mid-Air! weaves together a sickly sweet narrative, one that highlights both the melodic delight of love for the person and the wobbling, offbeat rhythm of an uncontrollable situation.

But even if you are as far removed from this situation as it is possible to be, you can still apply “Painting Music” to any number of circumstances and still come out fuzzily optimistic on the other end. Easily a winner.


"Painting Music" C42
(100% Bootleg)

Oft times reminiscent of some trippier/glitchier ATCQ or J5! backing track (from another 90s parallel dimension), Los Angeles’ Mid-Air! kicks out a slew of slick trip-hop instrumentals for optimum, high-octane chilling… or maybe it’s all for a most-productive (less sleepy) study sesh? Either way, Painting Music provides a steady groove, 24/7. Take a listen via the Soundcloud link below.


-- Jacob An Kittenplan

MID-AIR! AND ELLIOTT SELLERS “Glasswerx” C60 (100% Rare Cassette Tapes)

Nothing but glass. That’s right, the name of the game is “Glasswerx,” meaning Mid-Air! and Elliott Sellers imposed a bunch of rules on themselves and used nothing but the sound of glass being struck or rubbed or otherwise handled to craft this massive opus. Sometimes the sound of glass is sampled or processed, but NEVER at the expense of the original sound. What you may not expect is that “Glasswerx” is a fascinating wormhole zipping through psychedelic fantasies and over incomprehensible vistas, each one of the 45 tracks an exploration of timbre, tone, and rhythm. At times droning through headphones in a glistening ambient atmosphere, at others clinking and clacking like minimal IDM, “Glasswerx” is surprisingly diverse given the confines of the concept.

And it’s easy to get lost in. Mostly reverberating like your imagination of vast Antarctic ice sheets, “Glasswerx” mostly feels like a place, a great expanse of frigid landscape over which you can fly like bird for miles upon miles without seeing any other life or without much change to the terrain. It’s beautiful and huge, and it’s impossible to tear your attention from.


"Glasswerx" C60

Utilizing nothing but nuance-focused, expertly mic’d samples of glass objects*, including (but not limited to) pickle jars, 40oz beer bottles, stained glass, fish bowls & wine glasses, Mid-Air! & Elliott Sellers team up for a fresh blending of disparate genres that bridges the gap twixt all four corners of the Earth. Seamlessly island-hopping between raw, Javanese Gamelan tones, heavily obfuscated** sample-sequences (a la trip hop), microtonal free-jazz freak-outs, and warbly, gritty drone, “Glasswerx” breaks the glass ceiling of rhythmic limitations and acoustic expectations, dragging us over vertiginous peaks bowed by snowy crystalline clouds, weaving us through echoes of clink-rung valleys, dipping our ears under grinding waterfalls and along groaning glaciers, all this concerted friction intended to completely disorient and realign our sense of pace and space, time & time again. Great for tripping out on in deep headphone meditation! Keep this business up!


-- Jacob An Kittenplan

*as in, aside from like, mallets and bows and forks and breath and such, no other instruments were used but glass-based things.

**liner notes say there were no ‘effects' used, only whatever idiosyncrasies that came part & parcel with the mic set ups!

TOUCH TEST “October Blue” C45 (Katuktu Collective)

Orson Welles lost a shit-ton of film stock. Terry Gilliam had a shit-ton of shit luck on “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” (then didn’t). Claudio D’Amato’s “October Blue” never even finished shooting. And while it may be premature to mention D’Amato in the same breath as Welles and Gilliam (for example, I’ve never heard of him), he certainly did crash and burn a film because of financial woes. So he’s got that in common with the auteurs.

Jesse Kapp made some lemonade out of all those unfortunate lemons. As Touch Test, he was tasked with sketching a score for “October Blue,” and despite the film’s unceremonious halt, Kapp saw his musical vision through to completion. This is good news for all of us, because it’s freaking excellent, and it would have made a great soundtrack to “October Blue,” or even something NOT “October Blue,” if given the chance. But hey, his inspiration came from the script and the footage that was shot, so I guess that’s where we’ll have to leave it.

Unlike most film scores that actually need the visuals to really sell what you’re hearing, “October Blue” stands proudly on its own. Perhaps part of that is the style – Touch Test excels at melodramatic synthwave, the kind lovingly curated by the likes of the Duffer Brothers in “Stranger Things,” and also have you seen the “Midnight Predator” video by Mr. Eff? Love that one – it also reminds me of excellent sci-fi indie “Midnight Special.” But “October Blue” was intended to be “unflinchingly dark, … tracing the narrative of three teenagers who are pulled into a violent suburban underworld.” That Touch Test’s score does NOT follow that vibe is kind of cool – it’s way more stylized, and the somewhat incongruous tone (I’m assuming from the description – I’ve never seen any film) would still probably work amazingly well in a variety of situations.

So take it from me – you don’t need a film version of “October Blue” to enjoy its soundtrack. Touch Test has made very sure of that.


"Dead King's Dream" C30
(Brave Mysteries)

“Wager your cloak, human, or I’ll cut off your ear… and turn it into a boot.” ((GASP!!!))

::sounds of twenty-sided dice a-scuttling across a wooden tabletop:::

Stilted medieval dungeon-synth arrangements plod along above heavily processed, vapor-wavey-gravy gurglings, shuttering accents, scramblings, and muddy-blurred baroque storylines; each bobbing and weaving "epically", like… like a familiar shadow-demon’s graceful cooperation in fighting off incoming shadow-dragons down below you.

Melodramatic plots “twists”* abound in meta-corkscrew, tongue-in-cheek fashion, all narrated (and curated) in ghostly stoic-cadences, via Troy Schafer**, one seriously innovative*** sound weirdo!***

My partner hates this brilliant tape because she has to study and/or wind down a lot… but I cannot get enough of this shit! Maybe they’ll do a split with Chaucerian Myth or something?!?! In my chainmail’d daydreams!


-- Jacob An Kittenplan

* Perhaps we hear an ashen Artax triumphantly rising from the Swamp of Sadness after all?
**Man, a buddy and I were juuuust drooling over his release on Black Horizons last week!
***See TS's back catalogue for their slew of documented quests in sound exploration.
****As in, if Rae Armantrout converted her daydream-tangents to swirling contrapuntal arpeggiated coil-swirls, Pod Cast would be the soundtra(tta)ck!

"Geneve Me Sansi" C36
(Anathema Archive)

"Geneve Me Sansi” starts out as a sparse Musique Concréte piece, but, by the beginning of side B, it has morphed into a full-blown electrical storm of glitching cycles, machine thrum, and wind-battered friction-fests. Vid Edda’s strong suit is in their drawing out all the charms of signal malfunctions and data decay/misinterpretations, and this newest release rewards the deep listener with an ouroboroan narrative of translation loss through short circuit fritzings- without a sonorous note to be heard along any horizon.

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

“Tape 1” C30

With this debut release of “Tape 1”, Toronto’s Qarafa immediately catapult themselves into the ranks of heavyweights like Bohren & Der Club of Gore with the ability to champion Saxophones and Synthesizers as Serious tools for bringing stoney grooves-as-ambiance-as-grooves to the atmospheric table. &while their guitar-work may feel busier and more angular (relatively) at times, the exact same inescapable gravity is achieved; no one makes it out of this glacially hardening amber alive. 

To put it simply, Every single time I put this tape on, I am half-surprised it does not rain.

Also worth noting is the fact that an experimental black metal band shares some DNA with Qarafa, & you really ought to check that out, too, via the link below!


— Jacob An Kittenplan

M. GEDDES GENGRAS “I Am the Last of That Green and Warm-Hued World” C80 (Hausu Mountain)

It was a labor of love in the end. After so much prognostication and hand-wringing, it finally came to pass that the Earth gave up the ghost, as it were, gagging its last noxious breath as the cesspool coating its surface finally won out. M. Geddes Gengras went with it, went down with the ship, so to speak, but not before transmitting his final missive, a love letter in cassette form to his once-vibrant homeworld. And so, “I Am the Last of That Green and Warm-Hued World” proceeds like a dream of sun-dappled afternoons in rich fields while the smells of springtime dance in your nostrils. It is a meditation on the breeze and the clouds, on currents and shadows, on oxygen and carbon dioxide.

No slouch behind the synthesizer – duh – Gengras continues a wildly inventive curious streak, taking his modular chops to Hausu Mountain this time around after having released amazing records on labels like Umor Rex, Stunned, and RVNG Intl. Each lengthy track here takes on a mystical quality, like MGG is attempting to tap into the spirit of the planet one last time before it bites the big one. Here he merges with the vibrations of life unburdened by its near-future extinction, tranquil and hopeful. Of course, that contemplation takes on a melancholy tone when you consider where we all end up, but until then we can ride it out in style with this joint in our headphones. (Or, uh, we can listen on our headphones while we go around and pick up trash or whatever. Being proactive.)

Maybe someday some entity will travel to Earth and find a copy of “I Am the Last of That Green and Warm-Hued World,” and maybe that being will get a sense of what the planet once was, before it turned into a chemical toilet unsuitable for carbon-based life (assuming (a) the tape’s playable and (b) the entity has something to play it on). Hopefully “I Am the Last” will make that creature very sad as it contemplates the wasted opportunities Earthlings had to contemplate serenity while conserving their resources. But that assumes that sadness is a transferrable emotion beyond the human experience – the alien may just not get it at all in the end, right?