PLEASURE SYSTEMS
"Antumbra Pull" C38
(Antiquated Future)




It’s no new recipe to mix chillll indie-folk with electronica. It’s been done before, and well, by well and many an artist, but usually by relegating the synth to drum & bass, all vocals layered and thoughtfully, thickly arranged (with maximum singalongedness in mind) and with rhythm guitars fingerpluck’d or metronimically strum’d, any leads taking a wee, e’r-tasteful solo here & yon. This guit-fiddle exploration, and a more sincere vocal execution,  is where Pleasure Systems adds to the dialogue, big-time.

Clarke Sondermann’s axe-use spans a wide range of genres, from Sea & Cake and Minus the Bear jazziness to an almost Slint-like angularity, whilst still keeping with indie-folksy prescription clean amplification. Maybe Papa M’s “Live from a Shark Cage” would be a more apt reference here? On top of this, sporadic field recordings add yet another element of diversity I don’t see often. The vocals aren’t meek by default, nor crooning, but a hazy, nomadic presence between the two, which fits well with said guitar/synth/arrangement chemistry.

Being from Olympia, CS will undoubtedly carry the weight of comparisons to the PNW sincerity of Phil Elverum and the honest/raw aesthetics of K-Recs, and that’s a fairly good place to be, right? Having been acquainted with Antiquated Future for some years now, I think I’m ready to drink their kool-aid, cz I really appreciate the plethora of sub-genres they promote along “left-field folk” lines, even though I usually don’t dig it that much, these days. Thanks for bringing me back around AF!

https://antiquatedfuture.bandcamp.com/album/antumbra-pull
and/or
https://pleasuresystems.bandcamp.com/

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

BRET BERRY “Environments” C30
(Obsolete Staircases)




You’re in an environment. Any environment. What does it look like? Smell like? Feel like? Now the real question, cassette tape lovers: what does it sound like? That’s the question Bret Berry sets out to answer on his, uh-duh, “Environments” tape on Obsolete Staircases. (It’s not “What does the environment taste like?,” although that might not be a terrible question depending on where you are, say, for example, a cake store.)

No, no – come to think of it, that’s not the real question at all. The real question is, how can Bret Berry get all your senses firing through NOTHING BUT sound? I’m serious, all of them. It’s not a ridiculous assumption that listening to a composition can stimulate more than just your ears; all you have to do is let your imagination wander a little bit and you’ve got all sorts of possibilities opening up to you.

So these four “Environments,” titled appropriately, are meant to be immersive experiences, and they succeed at their task. “Nightlight” features electric hums before opening up and cascading into the evening air, where you’ll encounter fireflies and cicadas on a humid summer’s evening, right outside your window. “Invisible Mechanisms” click and crunch, transitioning into and embarking upon an “Investigation of Secrets.” Then the hilariously titled (I think? I don’t know) “Sukha Dukkha” meanders upon a meditative path until you’re lifted into billowing clouds, the condensed moisture gently brushing your face.

So yeah – get everything going at once inside your body, simply by listening to this tape. Take it from me – I did it!

Obsolete Staircases


--Ryan

UBIK MCDXCII
“Echoes of a Dead Planet”
(Cellar Tapes)




This is big news: “Echoes of a Dead Planet” is the post-Burial death hip hop mixtape you deserve. Ubik MCDXCII (or Ubik 1492) twists familiar sounds until they’re unrecognizable and sinister, warping the reality of recordings beyond the realm of easy categorization. And yeah, this looks like a death metal tape, but it’s not – it’s just so preoccupied with the spiral toward eventual termination that there’s no other real option for aesthetics, is there? You just go with it.

“Ubik” of course is a novel by Philip K. Dick, whose premise isn’t something I’ll delve into much (although rapid demise features prominently), and MCDXCII is the Roman numeral representation of 1492, the year our hero Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue and gloriously discovered America. My 1980s elementary-school history education, folks! Gotta love it. But we all know (now, anyway) that even more disease and waste followed in his wake, so we’re back here to the combo: Ubik MCDXCII, time-warping death dealer, mirror holder to vile love child of Columbus’s legacy and modern technology. Take a good look, and try not to heave up your burrito or pass out on the sidewalk.

Dark, grimy, subterranean – the London maestro fulfills the rhythms of the alleys in horrific movement, echoing indeed our final throes before the bitter end.

Who wants to go out for ice cream?

Cellar Tapes


--Ryan

RANGERS “Late Electrics” (Doom Trip)




This is the guy I was telling you about. Joe Knight.

“Late Electrics” is his newest tape on the ever-fascinating Doom Trip. But don’t mistake this connection. Don’t for a second think that Joe Knight has anything up his sleeve – no tricks, no illusions. His cards are on the table, and his chips are down. He’s calling you out, you and your whole crew. He doesn’t know the meaning of the term “poker face.”

Somehow this turned into an extended metaphor, and I didn’t mean to do that.

I was telling you about Joe Knight because, in the tradition of weed-haze indie rock like Wooden Shjips and The Donkeys, it’s easy to vibe out to Rangers’ style. Texas guitar jammage hasn’t sounded this triptastic in a while, not since Rangers’ own “Texas Rock Bottom” for sure. And Knight knows what he’s up to – he didn’t release music on LA’s Not Not Fun for nothing. That’s certainly credible!

Joe Knight’s put together a nice little run of successful rock and roll here, a winning streak of about nine songs that fit perfectly onto two sides of a cassette tape. This continues the winning streak he’s had across multiple albums. And, given his winning streaks with things such as parking tickets and heads-up pennies found (none, and thousands!), I wouldn’t want to go up against him, not by a long shot. Especially not in a game of Texas Hold’em.

So it’s cool – it’s fine. Prop your feet up on your Fender practice amp, pop on some headphones, and jam along to your favorite track on “Late Electrics.” I like ’em all, but I’m going to do “Nile Rodgers” right now.

Rangers

Doom Trip


--Ryan

JOHN MARKOW "Over The Flame"
C18 (Self-Released)




John Markow’s guitar licks are flawlessly slick and seamlessly smooth and I kinda hate him for that, a little bit. Just a little.

I do not know John Markow, but my guess is that, by the time he’s 65, he’ll be a street musician who will have played in about a hundred fairly decent bands, a sizeable chunk of those touring internationally, playing genre-spanning music for dancing and having a nice beer with friends and being fairly productive at post-work-but-still-at-work gatherings.

John Markow’s style can only be defined as “easily accessible, agreeable, and fun”, and I hope he knows that, when he picks up a guitar at a party, anyone who knows his work won’t be leaving the room any time soon, so he has a responsibility to deliver.

John Markow can sing really well and has some clever tricks up his sleeve when doing so, which might bring to mind David Bowie a teensy bit, but not in any obvious way.

John Markow’s music can be downloaded via bandcamp on a sliding scale between the price of air and a sensible, 4-door sedan.

https://johnmarkow.bandcamp.com/album/over-the-flame

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

ISIS MORAY “Echolia” (Sunk Records)




Self-Described Dark Feminist Techno Bitch, Isis Moray, hails from Sheffield, UK. She appears to be just fine partying all night by her lonesome and some kind of light brite beat making device and a keyboard. Her sounds are classic rave and moody psyche of the beats and the treats.

Is Isis Moray a Mademoiselle of myth? Is she the stuff of pixie dust and plein air painting? Do all these sounds creep up from the mossy outlines of hairpin turns on the way to the Shire? The tire tread has glitter in the gutters of the rubber. The steering wheel is covered in melty candy. The platform shoes have doors in the heels with custom figurines resting in them. 

Isis Moray Patterns


--Adam Padavano

KOLB “Making Moves” (Ramp Local)




Bushwick. Shit; I’m still only in Bushwick. Every time I think I’m gonna wake up back in the jungle.

Billy Joel was there.

So was Craig Wedren.

Every minute I stay in this room, I get weaker, and every minute Rami Malek dusts off his Freddie Mercury mustache he gets stronger. Each time I looked around the walls moved in a little tighter.

Michael Kolb’s just gonna have to head up that river by himself. He’s got the chops – that voice; the tunes. Tunes about cars, miracles, and bikes. It’s all Bushwick, man. It’s alright, it’s alright.

It’s a good start.

Kolb

Ramp Local

--Ryan

DEATH TRICHECO
“Produczioni Tecnofobiche 1988-1989”
(Sanzimat International)




I don’t know why some bands push past the experimental home recording stage and some don’t. No, that’s not true, I do – it’s virtually impossible to keep a band together for any length of time, unless of course you’re Pearl Jam or Depeche Mode, and only then it works because people pay you actual cash money – not bitcoin! – to perform. Death Tricheco could only keep it together for so long, -ploding – whether im- or ex- is hard to determine without asking someone – just like the rest of their post-punk ilk. Except for Interpol. Is Interpol post-punk? They probably like to think they are.

Fortunately, the upstart Venice-based trio (ah, Venice!) decamped at some point in 1988 and 1989 to Canaletto Studios and let their imaginations run wild. And yes, “Death Tricheco” translates to “Death Walrus,” because if you’ve ever encountered a walrus in the wild, you’ll know what I mean when I say the experience is no less than terrifying. And by “imaginations running wild” and “post-punk,” I barely mean the latter and almost certainly am hanging on by dear life to the former. I don’t know if Death Tricheco was trying to lay a cohesive set of tunes to tape when they hit record (they almost certainly weren’t), but the resulting compilation of recordings from these sessions is nothing short of mesmerizing.

So this “studio” was actually a “house filled with wine, cigarettes, and a spattering of cheap keyboards, bongos and 4-track recorders.” This was a place where the Walruses could feel comfortable, able to sit back and test the ideas (or pieces of them) that were percolating in their fertile minds. These investigations led down some twisty paths where ideas bloomed quickly and sputtered to their natural endpoints. The collection of these disparate results forms a weird whole, one that captures a snapshot of three curious artists with an ear for texture and tape hiss, unafraid of the results of simply letting their minds wander. They’d almost certainly be heralded within a multitude of homegrown tape communities these days, and sure enough, they’ve reforming – just like Smashing Pumpkins! – playing together for the first time in thirty years.

Sanzimat International

--Ryan

HANZ BRONZE "S/t” and “Exploding Hanz" (Dubz, yo)




It hath been ‘bout exactly three years since I received Hanz Bronze’s eponymous debut full length (via Range Life Records) and, upon getting these lo-fi recordings/mixtapes, I am inspired to share in the revelry with these blogposts, copied from HB’s own website >> writings >>:


“Blog 3 /.
The third of July traffic was too much so I turned off highway 101 and drove home to get my bike . Armed with a couple fruit flavored Tums I rode downtown and paid rent - I bought some time . The people thought I was a cliche ' and then I drove a motorcycle flaming into the hospital - freeing everyone - even Burt Reynolds looked to me for guidance on chicks - as the crowd gathered and the sky grew overcast I felt paranoid - like the jerk at the post office that judged me for sending tapes to Indiana - I adjusted my book shelf and fixed my phono - I lamented that I'd never learned tennis - I got so bitter that I even started to love myself - I got so loving all the owls of America moved to my barrio. That's right assholes : hoo hoo ! Hoo hoo!!!
- Hanz Bronze

Blog 2 /.
I can't stop eating veggie burgers everyday - sometimes a black bean burger with Swiss cheese and avocado smeared lettuce onion tomato pickle mayonnaise mustard - you know what ? It's better than me eating cheeseburgers everyday although who knows mayb I am . Sometimes when I'm really feeling free I ' ll get a salad with blue cheese dressing instead of fries chips or tots. I'm the real tot . I ll never grow old I'm Peter Pan come to raise Peter Pan hell . I'm Peter Pan come to raise young god hell ! I don't get these jerks who can't wish a young god well.
- Hanz Bronze

Blog 1 /.
It was a happy moment in my life. I simply had never felt more content . The mountains of northern coastal oregon draped me in a sadness I had never known before , the preposterous level of gnarlacity of the waves I was too afraid to know . Maybe it was my fear of sharks , o , but that's silly. I wished there were more honky tonks but then I made the world my honky tonk and God was my dj . Or was it Jesus? Well I like him better than God anyway . I rambled around the south spray painting God is gay all over the little churches. I regretted it but I revelled in being a wildman. Life was never better yet I needed a woman o what a fascist I became . At least a happy fascist . I went to movies alone and I never wanked it. safeway became a sanctuary , my place to get produce , since I was too anti social to hit the farmer's market which didn't exist anyway . I asked out the cute red headed housekeeper at the hotel because I figured she could only say no. She said yes. She did say yes to a glass of wine after work and now I'm married and yes, my life has simply never been finer. Now God is my butler, that old freak.
- hanz bronze *”

As one might surmise from the aforementioned evidence, this chap is the Charles Bukowski of Frank Blacks. (You have been warned.) With a full band, he sings recklessly, commanding a powerful falsetto for precise accentation; yet, solo, his vocals tread a baritone, tight line between Lou Reed’s and (a much, much lower) Syd Barrett’s disregard for establishment harmony. Funk As Puck? Mebbe…

http://hanzbronze.com/

-- Jacob An Kittenplanq888

BÖHM “Transients” (OTA)




They’re still out there looking for us, but we’ve moved on. There was so little left for us here, and so much more out there to discover. This place has stagnated – we were stagnating along with it.

Daniel K. Böhm will not let us stagnate along with the place where we were, the places we’ve been, not with “Transients,” not while we’re moving. We wander, and Böhm wanders with us.

“Transients” gathers like a thundercloud in the enormous sky over this wilderness, this wonderful, mysterious landscape. In our relentless pursuit of a place to end this wandering, a place to rest, we are beset with turbulence. The road will end, and we will wearily, gratefully accept its termination.

Until, of course, it’s time to move again.

Electricity is in the air. Do you feel it? Is it real?

Böhm
OTA

--Ryan

HEAVEN LIMOUSINE “Beauty and the Beast” (self-released)




I’m not quite sure how to start this one, this tape eludes description in so many ways. So I’ll just dive right in and try to get a sense of it across. The music consists of fairly straightforward keyboard progressions, with the occasional drum machine beat or sample to accompany. It has a lo-fi bedroom quality to it in the best way. I like the feel of the instrumentation on this release. It has a drifting, frequently eerie quality to it. But I think it’s fair to say that the focal point of this project is the vocals.

The lyrical content bounces around between surrealism and a sort of ultra-personal storytelling. And the delivery somehow matches perfectly. It’s somewhere between spoken word style poetry and a folksy-indie sing-songy approach that is difficult to put into words (if you couldn’t tell). The vocals are all over the place lyrically and sonically, but not in a bad way. There is a rambling nature to it but without ever losing coherence. It’s a faerie-driven stream-of-consciousness monologue that leaves you scrambled at worst and dumbfoundedly introspective at best. It just might be the fuzzed-out therapysynth session you didn’t even know you needed. One thing I can say for certain about this music is that it’s intensely original and genuine. 

https://soundcloud.com/alice-aster/sets/beauty-and-the-beast 

--James Searfoss


INDIRA VALEY
"No Me Tengas Miedo" C27
(Antiquated Future/Spirit House)




On “No Me Tengas Miedo”, Indira Valey’s canonical slow-motion séances-of-one blur the line between wood, fire, & smoke; strings, vocals & percussive noise. The ceaseless interplay between subtle permutations amongst all that deceptively complex mixing of sonic strata is so well crafted in its nuance that I’m having a hard time believing this wasn’t compositionally mapped out with a fine tooth’d comb a million times before recording, but it’s also too loose to possibly achieve that, right? Right? The way the Simone-esque contralto foundations of witchy choruses contrapuntally tug and shove against the caterwauling sirens above, letting barely enough light in for the fingerpick’d mantra of electric guitar to meander through, for a quick sec…that can’t be transcribed, right? Only harnessed. &then there’s the almost imperceptibly executed layers of effects pedal-work that never oversteps, but always adds just that extra bit of texture to bump the focus away from the canon by a hair.

Yet another gem from the Antiquated Futurists up in PDX! Do listen loud and/or with headphones to get lost beside yourself like a dozen times in a row.

https://antiquatedfuture.bandcamp.com/album/no-me-tengas-miedo
https://spirithouse.bandcamp.com/
and/or
https://indiravaley.bandcamp.com/

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

LARRY WISH & HIS GUYS
"The Mouth is the Most Promising" (Bumpy)




As a prog fan, Larry Wish is the top shelf, stoner rock solution to hypnotic grooves, eery vocals & harmonies, unique prog drumming, and lots of subtle, mathy counterpoint sure to sooth the most savage/progarchive/ reader. Out on the newly started Minneapolis’ Bumpy Label, this was actually recorded in 2012. It shows the listener a dense world of imagination where coherency and genre blend into unconventional instrumentation, all while maintaining heavy rhythmic grooves that are not nearly as unfamiliar. Often reminiscent of the more cogent Beefheart albums (such as Bat Chain Puller) some of the songs are heartbreakingly complex in both macro- and-micro- arrangement.

The bass work of Sam Kramer and drumbeats of Katelyn Farstad (also of Itch Princess) are dense and unpredictable. The synth work by Aaron Baum goes exceptional with Wish’s powerful vocals and Tim Hudson’s clever guitar work. The album takes all sorts of turns including a drum solo by Wish and straight prog-deconstructions of abstract motifs into nearly free jazzesque proportions.

My favorite track was “Above a View of (Of View)” which was probably the catchiest and most memorable tune. “Riding His Bike on A Noun” is a sonic synthesizer suite with some interesting timbres and drum machinerhythms. “Christmas of a Town” is where it gets REAL proggy. I mean like strap yourself in for some dischord and dense resolution proggy. “HiFive” has a distinctly intelligent resolution and a tempo shifted riff of note. “Chaptermin” closes the album on an almost funky level of groove. As a whole, the album leaves an impression and the hypnotic riffs prevail.

Definitely for the listener who likes a challenge, get one of the limited tapes now over at the Bumpy Label!

https://bumpy.bandcamp.com/album/the-mouth-is-the-most-promising


--Josh Brown

TOWER OF DUDES / THE HEX
“Boring Country Songs
(Northern Gothic Recordings)




Cowpunk. You know it. You love it. You live it. You’re in Canada, why not buy a tape? You’re in America, why not also buy a tape? You’re in the Czech Republic – buy a friggin tape!

I love the name “Tower of Dudes” for some reason. And “The Hex” was a Pavement song (with an extra “x,” but who’s counting?). Pavement’s the best.

These dusty tunes are about drinkin’ and carousin’ and kickin’ up yer heels and rustlin’ steer and payin’ back yer student loans (?). But you knew that already. You knew it in your bones. You have boots on, a Stetson, probably chambray. Fringe. Spurs. Packin’ heat? Yeah you are.

Walkmen are made for this.

Just don’t walk into a local place with one of those yella sport ones. I hear they don’t take kindly to the yella sport ones.

Hey, don’t look at me, I’m just the messenger.

Tower of Dudes
Northern Gothic Recordings

--Ryan

PROUD FATHER
“Creations for Electric Guitar/Shining Fields”
C-30 (Reserve Matinee)





Proud Father of Chicago, is not to be confused with Proud Father of Tennessee, or Proud Father of Los Angeles, could be Proud/Father of New Orleans, circa 2010, but definitely not London’s Proud City Father(s). Now that we got that out of the way, this Proud Father pays debt to his forefather, Manuel Gottsching’s “Inventions for Electric Guitar” with “Creations”, a dense atmospheric bliss-scape.

A decent communicator, PF leaves no stone unturned with a paper insert detailing his homage, and for the second side, the who what where of a live recording he made in 2016, opening for Richard Pinhas. Several other shout-outs are included in the notes regarding the making of this release.

Side B’s The Light That Guides Through Falling Missiles live track unravels a misty yarn onto the dome. Onto the sphere. Onto the egg. Chirpy talky critters and stationary guideposts blur while damp winds spray. I guess that’s why he calls it…

shining fields

--Adam Padavano

EGGS ON MARS "In A Desert Place"
C38 (Self-Released)




Punk’ish, garage’ish
rock, EOM are
a mid-western trio
doing their DIY
thang & it sounds
like a lot of fun to
play this music in
this band, I bet.

https://eggsonmars.bandcamp.com/

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

DENIM CASKET “Demo” (self-released)




If you’re a fan of dirty, filthy, muddy slop, look no further than this demo from Denim Casket. This tape kicked my ass and if a bass-centric fusion of grind and sludge sounds appealing to you, you should let it kick yours too. Clocking in at just around 11 minutes, this release is way too easy to listen to over and over again. The fact that each track is utterly heavy in every way doesn’t hurt either. The tone of the basses (yes, that’s plural) is absolutely punishing. The vocals are scorching. And the drums are tight and fierce. I loved this tape almost instantly and I’m eager to see what comes next from these greasy (their word not mine) folks from Boise. With catchy song titles like “Ham is Hog Butt” and “Vape Coffin,” you can’t help but be pulled into the grimy, murky underworld that Denim Casket inhabits. The tapes themselves also look very slick and were self-released, so props to them for that as well. 100 copies were produced and are still available directly from the band, so don’t sleep on this if you like solid grind, sludge or anything in between. Or just good heavy music. Because, truth be told, this isn’t straight grind or sludge. It’s a refreshing blend of both styles and will not fail to kick you in the teeth with the best aspects of both.

https://denimcasket.bandcamp.com/releases

--James Searfoss


MICROMELANCOLIÉ
“Streaming”
(Never Anything Records)




Not one to let a good reference slip past me, I have to credit my Tiny Mix Tapes colleague A B D for his astute observation of track names as wave formations on “Streaming,” the excellent new tape on Never Anything by Polish artist Micromelancolié. That shouldn’t be a surprise – A B D records (did record) as Mt. Accord in his spare time. He inhabits the same universe as Micromelancolié.

Water is a repeated element on “Streaming,” the title itself a nod to trickling liquids and the effortless flow from source to destination. Micromelancolié’s synthesizers play off this constant motion like reflected sunlight, sometimes frigidly and turgidly as the water drops below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, sometimes torrentially as it seeks its way around a steep cataract. In any event, Micromelancolié pursues the dynamics in each property, extrapolating upon it in inventive and captivating ways. The use of field recordings is also a nice touch – there’s certainly a deft hand involved when it comes to weaving in found sound.

…Or “Streaming” refers to digital music streaming, but c’mon – we all know you’re really supposed to buy physical cassette tapes. That’s what this internet website is all about!

Psh. Streaming music.

Idiot.

The perceptive reader will have already clicked on the Never Anything link below without even reading this whole thing, so I welcome you back from purchasing your tape (along with the rest of this remarkable batch, which also includes Event Cloak, Peter Kris, and Nils Quak) to revel with me in the sublime soundworld that is Micromelancolié’s “Streaming.” Pull up a tape deck and have a listen!

Micromelancolié

Never Anything Records


--Ryan

MICHEL BANABILA “Sound Years” (Tapu Records)




I feel a bit late to the game with Michel Banabila and his (minimum) 35 years of audio output. Were any of his years not sound years? I’m digging into the catalogue large and small, now that I’ve given this one a spin. I wonder if one has to be there to understand all of this properly.

The sound years bandcamp page details each track’s original parent release, which leads me to believe this one is either a best of, odds and sods or introduction compilation. The Dutch fellow has produced 57 releases and counting, and this one addresses the matter of where to start. I appreciate that the bandcamp digital option splits this record into sides a and b rather than individual tracks, perhaps for those without proper cassettery.

--Adam Padavano

AJAÏ "Chance, For Us" C47 (Self-Released)




A cursory listen to “Chance, For Us” will no doubt have you drawing strong comparisons to Grizzly Bear’s magnum opus “Veckatimest”, but Ajaï’s voice is far more clear & sincere, and the lush orchestration behind it is a touch more psychedelic and varied. Where Grizzly Bear’s main goal is to have us singing along and shaking our asses, Ajaï keeps us dumbstruck and swaying along with the myriad currents conjured by crashing and woven layers of instrumentation and expert production. The end result is powerful, intricate, and magically cohesive. This is psych-pop at its finest.

https://ajaiband.bandcamp.com/album/chance-for-us
and/or
http://ajaicombelic.com/

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

sorry for the lapse in posting...we should be back on track now -ed.

ON VACATION




Sorry...but I can't upload any reviews this weekend due to poor internet connection. Should be back online by Monday or Tuesday as soon as possible. Thanks for your patience!

CATCHING UP WITH CUCHABATA RECORDS




Cuchabata begin its thunderous existence all the way back in 2003 when its founder, David Dugas Dion, dropped his self-titled David and the Woods EP. Fifteen years later and Dion, with a likeminded community of wacky artists, continues to pump psychedelic sludge into the aquifers of Montreal, the label’s (and movement’s?) home city, where the unsuspecting populace is forced to slurp up what Chuchabata’s got brewing and hopefully becomes a happier, more carefree place to live. I’ve had the pleasure of digging through some of the label’s releases over the years (in particular the fascinating ruckus of La Forêt Rouge), but there’s definitely an MO that bridges each crazy tape the label drops. Some buzzwords inherent in that MO: freedom, improvisation, community (I’ve referred to that one already, and there’s a reason), and exploration.


DAVID AND THE MOUNTAIN “Ensemble”

Start at the top, at the Dion, at the Mountain, which is what the Woods became, evolved into over the years. Maybe? This is where we start though, because Dion and a huge list of collaborators (including oud and guitar maestro and local hero Sam Shalabi) knocked one out of the park with “Ensemble,” a sprawling, ever-changing masterpiece that unquestionably requires repeat listens to get everything that’s going on. Over two untitled half-hour sides, David and the Mountain blast through heavy psych and experimental improvisation like they’ve dynamited a quarry filled with it so that it can be free to filter down throughout the countryside. Once the initial crest of the flood passes and spreads out, noise experiments gradually give way to Eastern meditative drones and distinctly Montreal-style post rock. By the end of side B the psychedelic rock is back, heavier, more destructive, as if the Ensemble has found a new quarry to dynamite, and the cycle continues. The glorious, uninterrupted cycle (if you’ve got one of those self-repeating tape decks).


CE QUI NOUS TRAVERSE “Volume/Brut”

“First take it or leave it.” This is how the trio Ce Qui Nous Traverse (What Is Going Through Us) does it, capturing the live-in-studio vibes. What results is an effortless psychedelic guitar record (guitars only!) droning through speakers like molten lava. These excursions, flecked with blues in their cheekiest passages, are deliberate but not plotted, like the empty maps the early explorers filled in as they went. Ce Qui Nous Traverse are the new wave of these explorers, sonic adventurers with blank slates and full pedal boards. They’re patient, allowing the discoveries to come to them rather than forcing themselves on unwitting notes and chords. Their journey is a lengthy one, but surprise awaits around every corner.


CAAPI “CAAPI”

CAAPI is indebted to some of the greats here, improvisers, spiritual forebears; indeed, the five tracks here are named for “Pharaoh,” “John,” “Ornette,” “Cecil,” and “Albert,” which are all pretty obvious except for John, so I’m guessing McLaughlin? Who’s to say. But the duo, composed of Dion (once again) on drums and Guillaume Cloutier on electric guitar and joined on “electronics” by Nathalie Gélinas (“Pharaoh,” “Ornette,” and “Albert”) and Félix-Antoine Hamel on tenor saxophone (“John,” “Cecil”), take their inspiration and warp it into a whirlwind of improvisational mastery that would surely impress the virtuosos whom CAAPI is fêting here. Each track displays the players’ utter wizardry and control over their instruments, their spongelike capacity for collecting and then regurgitating components of their inspirational subjects. Jazz and psych collide in a wondrous explosion of heat and light, generating awed “oohs” and “ahhs” from the throngs of listeners, whom I’m imagining are out there with their own copies of this tape somewhere because I’m “oohing” and “ahhing” just while sitting in a chair, and surely I’m not alone. Surely!


Cuchabata Records

David and the Mountain

Ce Qui Nous Traverse

CAAPI


--Ryan

GERMAN ARMY “Pacific Plastic”
(Seagrave Records)




German Army seem weird at first then they get really neat. The murky industrial slurry is green and firey. Echos of the life of a plastic object collector. There are triumphs. There are low points. There is boredom. Signs of life are present, enshrouded with globulous glitter and glucose on wrappers with the shiny foil interiors.

The recording microphone seems like it was held up to a bulbous blown out beast of a speaker. Track 8, Janjangbureh could very well use a Bjork sample, or it sounds like her voice. Strings and metal, clinking and clanking, some ritual rainforest loops, some hard footsteps, eerie ghostly warehouse of gym equipment buzzing in the dark.

Pacific Plastic

--Adam Padavano

SARA RENBERG "Night Sands"
C38 (Antiquated Future)




It’s hard as hell to listen to Exile In Guyville when your bedtime is fast approaching and you know damn well the nostalgia will just rile you up and you can’t just objectively enjoy the music because all that teenage acne and embarrassing thoughts of exes are but one clean guitar strum away and even if you could maybe manage to somehow repress the reservoir of emotions and associations that Liz Phair’s voice triggers, any number of songs would be stuck in your head at once and they’d all run willy-nilly through your dreams all night long and you’d just be singing “Fuck & Run” all day the next day at work, only you’d have to sort of bleep/hum instead of singing the expletive cz you Really don’t want another meeting with the boss about your potty mouth, right?

Well, good news. Sara Renberg is here to fix our little problem with her slightly more chill, pared down version of EIG which has no direct riffs or words borrowed but like ALL the exact same guitar tone and feel. Plus, her lyrics are maybe a li’l more glib and balanced. Like, imagine this is an unreleased Girly Sound Demos tape with a new Nom d’Plume and it’s kinda perfect, okay?

http://www.sararenberg.com/
and/or
http://www.antiquatedfuture.com/

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

SOFT SAILORS “S/T” (self-released)





Soft Soft Soft Soft Soft Soft

Sailors.

Four piece band out of LA, earnestly presents a five song cassette of rock n roll fun. The first song, No One Called You, Bumblebee, is an instrumental introduction, instructional tinkle twinkle trinket. The last song is a cover of th’Raincoats’ No Side To Fall In. The singer sometimes sings similar to John Darnielle, main Mountain Goat, and other times similar to Stephin Merritt, main Magnetic Field. It’s a quick ride, and full of nice choices.

sssssssssssssoftsailors


--Adam Padavano

MELLOW FELLOW "Jazzie Robinson"
C21 (Palm Tapes)




This unsung prequel to “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” finds them with Fender guitar and Yamaha keyboard under hand, their consciousnesses awakening after a two day blackout where they apparently made an appointment with a rich patron of King Leer’s Weird Karaoke bar who must have been impressed enough to spring for ten hours of recording time in his “up & coming” studio/basement/love den.

Rosencrantz squints around the room at ne’r seen before session musicians who sheepishly nod toward the chicken-scratched “set list” taped to the mic stand at his feet. With a decent grasp of yacht-rock and jazz chord progressions and the residual devil-may-care confidence that comes from what must have been the better part of a gallon’s worth of rotgut still coursing through his veins, he says, “Okay, Gilly, can I get some SERIOUS flanger in the monintor? Yeah. Alright. Okay. Once more, from the top…”

https://palmtapes.bandcamp.com/album/jazzie-robinson-pt-016
and/or
https://mellowfellowstudios.bandcamp.com/album/jazzie-robinson

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

N.E. HERTZBERG "Enough Rope" C22
(Analog Cowboy Records)



N. E. Hertzberg has tried his hand at many a genre, from New Wave to Hardcore Punk to Indie Folk, and “Enough Rope” finds him exploring minimal electronic beats with sporadic, ethereal vocals. The mood ranges a good bit, from an industrial haunting to Friday twilight excitement, adding a layer of complexity to the overall collection. Short & sweet.

https://analogcowboyrecords.bandcamp.com/album/enough-rope

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

GOOD SIGN “Demo” C7 (Reflective Tapes)




Good Sign delivers the pop punk goods in the vein of early Superchunk and Versus, an indie snack for the nibbly passerby. The Portland trio barely hits the seven-minute mark on their demo, but it sounds like they’re having an awfully good time. Features members of In Flux, Congratulations, Taurean, Alien Boy, and Perfume V, among others. Whoever names their band after a Pavement song/lyric is OK in my book. Mine in college was called Dance Faction. Shruggity shrug shrug?

Hard not to crack a smile while listening to these four tunes. Have a blast, rockers.

Reflective Tapes

--Ryan

AGENDA “(in hold)”
(Friends and Relatives Records)




In a time of genda inequality, there are trailblazers, pioneers, swashbucklers, sound makers. Jeremy Kennedy + Yosuke Kitazawa, Los Angeles residents, are all of those things.

Exhibit A=Agenda=Item1.
Exhibit B=Bgenda=Item2.

Statements in sound, sound statements.
Fluted columns, Highfalootin’ calm.
Refurbished reverberations, cold calls and infomercials.
Parcel Post, media mail, return to sender, greeter asunder.
Bleep is to Bloop as Foghat is to Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

Bring a blanket and snacks.


freunds und relatifs


--Adam Padavano

LILY KONIGSBERG & ANDRÉA SCHIAVELLI
"Good Time Now" C33 (Ramp Local)




I’ve written this review dozens of times and can’t get it right, so please bear with me here. Good Time Now fucking DELIVERS on so many fronts that I can’t quite wrap my head around it. Not usually one to wax poetic about a pop album, this trading back and forth between two wildly different artists has me imagining what it’d sound like if Lou Reed’s “Berlin” had a psychotic break and re-recorded itself for a more streamlined audience.

Vocals-wise, make no mistake; Andréa Schiavelli’s nonchalant baritone may share a handsome range with Lou Reed, but his upper register adds a whole new, intimate dimension. &Lily Konigsberg’s tooth-achingly sweet soprano that follows is like a cartoon rainbow blasting through a hazy pool hall. Did I mention I don’t know how to write this review?

And the arrangements; fucking brilliant. Ever the back-patter, I get a great deal of self-satisfaction from counting out the beats to figure out exactly what time signature a song is in, but I missed how deceptively complex both LK and AS’s songs are, mostly because I was distracted by the genius horn and string arrangements (respectively) that accompany their distinct, genuine vocals. All of these songs are both incredibly catchy AND chock-full of engaging counter-point; not your standard pop album fare. Imagine Velvet Underground and Mirah had twins, and they grew up playing American Football while Swearing At Motorists.

I’ve listen to this album probably 50 times and it just keeps getting better. If you’ve lost your faith in pop music, this might bring you back, if only for a half hour or two (or three, or four).

https://ramplocal.bandcamp.com/album/good-time-now

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

GERRIT HATCHER “Good Weight” (Amalgam)




The pieces on this tape by saxophonist, improviser and composer Gerrit Hatcher drift between tasty licks and free jazz spasms. Gerrit Hatcher’s saxophone playing on this release lies somewhere past expected progressions and somewhere before total jazz mayhem. He’ll start a fairly short and simple phrase and repeat it, like some skipping record of the Simpsons theme song (sans all other instruments of course). Then, note by note or all at once, the pattern will spiral into free jazz reed blathering, only to re-materialize into another catchy looped phrase later on. I found this back-and-forth to be refreshing actually. It makes the release as a whole more interesting and experimental than more straightforward sax playing, but the catchy looped phrases bring the listener back to Earth once in a while. Some free jazz can have a tendency to toss you out into orbit and leave you there until the record is over. The play between chaos and melody on “Good Weight” makes for a nice balance.

The A side is composed of two pieces dedicated to some of Hatcher’s greatest influences (as per the info in the j-card), Frank Lowe and Frank Wright. The track on the B side is titled “Libido Farce” and is a collection of 9 brief movements. Overall though, the style and form of the playing on this release is pretty consistent throughout. Hatcher obviously has talent as a saxophonist and this tape has made me want to look into some of his more composed music. All in all, this is a solid release if you are into jazz, free jazz, or just good sax playing.

http://www.amalgamusic.org/catalog/physical/good-weight-gerrit-hatcher

http://www.gerrithatcher.com

--James Searfoss


EVAN ANDERSON
“Pillow Talk” C25
(Dead Definition)




Shimmering yet dusty, world-weary yet youthful, Evan Anderson’s four pieces that comprise “Pillow Talk” are the dream recordings of the solo guitarist. No words penetrate Anderson’s world, no lyrics weigh down “Pillow Talk” like the anchors of so many wayward fools who think that their songs need to be expressive through verbal language. Those artists are truly mistaken – Anderson lets the music talk for him, speak for itself, for us, for others, to us. That’s how you do it – it’s not easy to do, which is why so many people fail at it.

These four tracks of pensive Americana expose the beauty in decay and erosion, the wonder in the fragments of dreams slowly dissipating into nothingness, into downtrodden expressions of hopelessness. And it’s in those depths that the heart still beats, that the spirit finds resilience and strength to persevere.

Like William Tyler without a backing band, Evan Anderson exhibits a masterful approach to his instrument, a control and restraint that’s important when avoiding the trappings of the solo guitarist. He’s probably never in his life crooned Dave Matthews or “Wonderwall’ at coed passersby on the university quad. And thank god for that.

… Don’t prove me wrong about that last thing – please.

Evan Anderson

Dead Definition

--Ryan

ENDLESS CHASM
“Four Worlds”
(Histamine Tapes)



Who goes there?

It is I, the seeker of the antidote.

Be gone, mortal.
But I have travelled very far, and seek the magic elixir to save the village from peril.

Wrong portal.
This IS the endless chasm, is it not?

Never heard of it, I’ve been to the end of this, there’s a ball pit, concession stand, unisex bathrooms, petting zoo, gift shop, trap door that leads you to the giant praying mantis.

I need the teardrops of the giant praying mantis. That is the antidote.

He’s on vacation, come back in two weeks.
histamine bottle

--Adam Padavano

LIGHT SLEEPER
“Unstable Harmonies”
(Dormant Tapes)



Sir Lewis Gorham, famously known for insomnia and analog synthesis, decided to address his lifelong struggle with disruptive quasi-ambient rumbles and pet hair floatation. At sunrise, the Light Sleeper heats his Moog in the oven at 103.3 degrees for approximately 23 minutes. With custom tactile hot mitts, he begins a morning serenade to the REM demoness. This is a glimpse of his ritualistic practice. Although it is unknown whether any of his audio-culinary fusion bares any fruit, he has produced the Unstable Harmonies record.

DORM 003


--Adam Padavano

THE LAST AMBIENT HERO
“Cassini / Trappist-1” C88
(self-released)




At least – AT LEAST – we know what we’re getting into here. No guessing games, no beating around the bush, no pathetic silliness. The Last Ambient Hero lets everything out at the get-go, leaves nothing to chance. He is, as stated, THE LAST AMBIENT HERO, and The Last Ambient Hero will guide you into the future you’ve always wanted.

“For those who look up instead of down.”

I’m not going to pretend I understand the process of what TLAH is doing with these two side-long 44-minute tracks, but I can tell you that they intend to represent and/or replicate the Music of the Spheres, “Musica universalis,” the “harmonic,” “mathematic,” or “religious concept” of the movement of the heavens. We’re talking synthesizers and software here, people, and you folks at NASA and SpaceX are just going to have to wait in line to get to the discoveries going on here. You’re going to want to hear this stuff.

“Cassini” is obvious. “Trappist-1” suggests the Belgian beer-making monks, whom I’m pretty much infatuated with. They’re not space monks, but their brews are far out.

OK, now let’s look at space pictures while drinking the abovementioned beer and listening to this. That sounds like a pretty stellar evening to me right now.

The Last Ambient Hero


--Ryan