various artists "JK TAPES 1" (JK Tapes)

The new compilation by JK Tapes, their first release actually, is massive and wide in range. The aural variance is overwhelming at first. One might consider this to be best all-star document of what is mainly the west coast underground music since the Not Not Fun Bookworms Eat Tape Worms 2xCS comp. I think the best way to approach this review is to really analyze close up what tracks work really well and which don’t. But for this reason I’m not going to end up talking about any of the bands I thought I would. All the artists I normally enjoy on this release contributed merely really good tracks, in some cases not even that. So thereby we won’t be discussing Yuma Nora, Child Pornography, Rose For Bohdan or even Whitman, though they are all exceedingly dope when taken as a whole.

The really bizarre thing about this record is that the track that I enjoy the most, and actually, find to be something close to transcendent is by a band that in normal everyday practice I hate more than almost any other. I do believe I have been quoted as saying, on multiple occasions, Silver Daggers are the worst band in LA. I cannot stand to be in the same room as their grating angular shit squeal. I find them utterly un-enjoyable, especially live. Now that I’ve been perfectly candid, I must admit with equal aplomb that the best track on this compilation by far, is the one they are responsible for, and that’s despite the track having a horrendous art punk title “World Peace in Mass Decline.” This track latches onto a solid shimmering groove, adds jittery fills then suddenly breaks into a shaky slab of robot ska. The sax is smooth, the guitar is subtle – thank god – and the bass is driving and steady. Rather than feeling like I’m on the torture rack, I feel like I’m in the industrial Caribbean on some kind of confused holiday, but I’m enjoying it because I’m drunk on equally powerful alcohol.

Close runner up and the next track to awaken me from my generally impassive worldview is that by the shamefully underappreciated Jacob Smigel. I guess living in Las Vegas can cause people to have that error in judgment against you. “Snowball in Hell” is all about delivery, which is where Smigel excels. This is a simple song, broken in half by a strange skit; nothing special were it not for Smigel’s wistfully optimistic cadence. He has one of the best voices around.

This great track is followed directly by one of the album’s worst contributions. Yes, it’s recorded well, the playing is good, but everything seems so trite. The Sharp Ease’s grrrl vocals recall verbatim a hundred bands who had their heyday in post Kathleen Hanna America. The problem is Hanna moved on, while this band feels engulfed in a time they aren’t/can’t be a part of.

Though I dislike it, at the very least the above track is recorded well, seems to at have a solid goal in mind. The Futurians, on the other hand, sound the way I imagined Silver Daggers would have, if they met my lowest expectations. There is no purpose to this song. Next time try…just s little! Believe me, producing a product someone can give two shits about is good for both band and listener alike. It makes everyone feel good.

Directly on the heels, of this vacant shit fest, comes another album highlight by Cole Miller. At first I believed this to be a bizarre head fuck by the dude known as Toxic Loincloth, mainly because it begins as a somber pop tune that is suddenly interrupted by what is an entirely different song, which proceeds to play directly over the previous track. The tone couldn’t be more different – driving sax punk superseding droll sad pop, which again returns to the forefront during a lonely wail. But the Casette Gods editor informed me this was not a track by that Cole Miller, but another entirely and that the strange interruption was actually the compiler accidentally opening a Silver Daggers mp3 while dubbing. Though the effect is interesting, I feel bad for Cole Miller whose song is sabotaged by someone else’s music. His song starts well too, a strong voice and it only returns to the forefront after the song’s crescendo is in progress. Do I like it the way it is? Yes. But serio, a dude deserves to have his song heard.

All in all, this tape is quite interesting and the variety and the quality of the flow is consistent, which helps weaker tracks float instead of sinking and there are a lot of really good tracks to be found. I would definitely recommend purchasing this monster because as far as comps go the overall quality is pretty consistent with something for all parties, from noise heads (check out side 4, which is a deep psychedelic slurry with good contributions by Realicide and Haunted Castle) as well as for pop dorks. Songs range from the utterly saccharine (Stomache Aches) to panicked drugged negativity (Gowns – I like it). I wish some of the dubbing had been more careful, but it is well worth its reasonable sticker price ($8)