KUPKĀ “Agony and Extasy” (Verydeeprecords)


So this is where we are now, eh, Kupkā? We have a little agony, we have a little extasy [sic], and we understand each other, the universe. Is that how it works? Is that what we’ve become, a strict dichotomy, a caricature of ourselves? Where’s our nuance, our depth? Where’s our HUMANITY?

Look, I apologize for the outburst there, but do realize that it’s just what your “tones and drones” do to me, you know what I mean? They sink in, get all up in that spongy mass of brain situated somewhere in that skull of mine. They make me think uncomfortable thoughts, make me question what it is everything’s all about. It could just be the ones and zeroes, or it could be the organisms reproducing rapidly under the microscope, but I just can’t seem to get a sense of scale right now. I may be my normal six-foot self, or I may be hundreds of billions of miles across. Agony.

Extasy. That’s it, isn’t it, Kupkā? Just gotta pinpoint the extasy and I’ll have it. Then maybe there’ll be a balance, an equilibrium, a moment of transcendence. But I’m not there yet, I’m still percolating in your primordial sauce, your secret star potion, your magnificent ooze. I’ll percolate there for a while yet, drifting from one thought to the next, unable to break the stasis and get a grip. Unable to center.

We can’t all be you, Kupkā. No matter how goddamned hard we try, we can’t all be you.



--Ryan

PETER KRIS
“Mandan / Moroni” C56 / C58
(Os Tres Amigos)



Even the above pictured cassette shells are glued to the back of 120+ grit sandpaper, which is to say that this release, on every level, is mighty fine. Os Tres Amigos (Portugal) should be known by now as a label that takes great care in the dramatic curations of their physical releases, providing a memorable piece of art to ponder alongside the sounds contained within their tapes’ magnetic strips. 

Peter Kris, by any measure, holds up his end of the deal.  "Mandan/Moroni" gives us nearly two hours of contemplative, minimalist electric guitar meanderings that patiently veer and sway just off the beaten paths between ambient-drone and guitar-soli disciplines, each and every single track a distinct sonic labyrinth of its own, loosely drawn with ghostly melodies, relaxed pluck, and all the time and patience in the world. 

As you’d imagine, the tapes are already almost sold out, so get hopping!

and/or

—Jacob An Kittenplan

ROBERT TRAXLER “Study for Synthesizer and Spliced Cassette Tape” C30 (American Damage)


This is so great, so freaking far out there. Robert Traxler drops a space-age sound collage that’s beamed from a million places around the various arms of the Milky Way. The title of this tape says it all, doesn’t it? The sound sources interact with each other in amazingly alien ways, yet ways that are awesomely relatable to these ol’ human ears.

Over thirty sci-fi minutes that sound like they were birthed in a deep-space science lab, Traxler whirls around like a mad scientist, goggles affixed, a bubbling beaker in each hand, triggering delightfully nutty experiments. Exploring the depths of his instrument, he rummages through unforeseen tunnels of circuitry to tease out future-facing sonics, discovering some crazy stuff along the way. And although the title sounds like this is a paper published in an academic journal, Traxler has way more fun than the average postgraduate bookworm, eyes constantly widened by the thrill of invention, grin plastered to face whose cheeks are constantly blown back by the winds of intensity. That’s what you want from this, isn’t it???




--Ryan

GUIDON BEAR
“Downwardly Mobile: Steel Accelerator” C49
(Antiquated Future)



Olympian songstress, Guidon Bear, springs forth from the cap of Mount Rainier a fully formed, psych-pop-punkish, 90s indie-diva, wielding the drive of Liz Phair (circa “Exile…”), the vocal flexibility of Tanya Donelly (Belly’s “King”), and the sputtering ninja-diction of Alison Mosshart ("Crash Diagnostic”) all seamlessly melded into one super-being, to spin spell-binding yarns about comfort zones, nomadism, goats, and vocational unrest. 

There is not one single wasted minute in this entire synth-accented, outsider-indie concept album, and the pot is sweetened all the more if you read the accompanying comic/lyric sheet provided in the link below. If you love PNW indie rock, this is going to melt your mind; if you don’t love PNW indie-rock, this’ll still melt your mind. Antiquated Future don’t release no junk!

and/or

—Jacob An Kittenplan

PAPA MANZANO
“Ritualism” C28
(Bad Cake Records)



Amidst this chaos of beheaded source material and foggy synth modulations lies a floating bedrock of near-noddable sway, its fractured raft-guts syncing up just long enough to bang into one another to form a soggy, slippery beat or two before drifting apart again, splinters of tonality and discord littering the surrounding surface. One part sound-collage and two parts horror-movie-climax,  Papa Manzano’s “Ritualism" is a bewildering trip down scary-ry lane!

and/or

— Jacob An Kittenplan

SEIKAI
“III: Sunrise & Sunset” C58
(Mystic Timbre)



Between bygone scaffolds of stilted, dungeon-synthy tones* & riffy arpeggiations twinkles and slithers an ancient, astral ceremony of Space Hearts harkening and sentimental dirt dwellers rapt in celebratory toil. &yet still, between these glorious forces, a slew of surprisingly fitting modern novelties punctuates the scape, rendering our sky-map at once ostentatiously Sci-Fi and deeply sentimental. 

Seikai’s “III: Sunrise & Sunset” is an all enveloping quest of mystical proportions and sound potions that’s pretty much guaranteed to transport the listener far, far away from their internal state, obscuring Earthly mood, speed, and time, in bewildering combinations.

Austin, TX’s MYSTIC TIMBRE imprint has one hell of a good thing going here, folx. Get in on this!

and/or

—Jacob An Kittenplan

There is no time like the preset, right?

JRPG
“Solipsis” C58
(Mystic Timbre)



Melding seriously intense, star-gazing New Age presets, 80s smooth-jazz-gone-funk riffage, and vaporwavey beats/mixing aesthetics, JRPG (Austin, TX) serve up unapologetic, high-octane elevator muzak for the righteously cheesy & nostalgic. 

On their debut release, “Solipsis" is full to the brim with myriad strong moods a-splattered all over the neon ampitheater, no nook or cranny safe from the oozings, so vibrant and thick, of their fluidly grooving themes. 

Consistently toeing the line between chill and upbeat, JRPG manages the sonic equivalent of a muted Hawaiian shirt with glow in the dark pineapples and scented chili peppers in fractal swirls. It’s pretty goddamn great. Listen to at max reasonable volume with headphones and get tripped out!

and/or

—Jacob An Kittenplan

GUILLERMO PIZARRO “Three-OST”




This soundtrack tape is the twelfth release by the artist. To my knowledge, it’s at least his third film score, so one might expect Mr. Pizarro has a comfortable niche in this regard. Without further pause, let's find out!

If I wasn’t convinced by the artwork that this was a horror flick score, then the opening cut, “The Call” was solidifying proof. Deep bass synth pulsations, loud objects being “dropped” then some distortion sweeping in. This, all in the first few minutes. Side one continues with a  series of surprising twists and, of course, a sense of impending danger. All done without overusing any particular effect.  Side two follows a like theme with suspense and surprise being the key words in defining this music.

A word about the packaging-well, maybe several words. The j-card, like the tape and its contents, is all top notch. The cassette is still available (at this writing), but only four remain. A special blood soaked version was created in a very limited number and only one remains. The tape is wholeheartedly recommended to any collectors of film scores or interesting electronic music. This is one of the better film scores I’ve heard this year-and that includes all configurations.


https://guillermopizarro.bandcamp.com/album/three-original-motion-picture-soundtrack


-- Robert Richmond

LIFE EDUCATION
“Guru Overlord” C49 (Specious Arts)



Patrick R. Pärk’s output is, to say the least, prooooooo-lific, with various projects focusing on niche sub-genres of hypnotizing electronic music; Life Education being his one dedicated to the power of the loop and its versatility in ranging from cheery to eerie, dance-y to trance-y. With “Guru Overlord”, he has set those loops in the (relative) backseat in favor of letting heavily processed electric guitar riffage and drone lead the way to cosmic zone-outs and tribal blissings. The tones linger far longer on the darker side, flirting with industrialism and detachment, while the rhythms are busier-to-the-point-of-ambient. At the end of the day, GO makes for gripping meditation or art-making fuel for the ears, with and without headphones, loud or quiet. 

and/or

--Jacob An Kittenplan

HOWARD STELZER “The Crossing: Official Motion Picture Soundtrack” C40 (Flag Day Recordings)


“The Crossing” is the soundtrack to a film by Joe Taylor that hasn’t been made yet. I’ve linked to the Indiegogo page below in case you’re interested in the film, which is a “dark western tale of desertion, betrayal, and retribution set in 1865 America.” I’d check that out.

“The Crossing: Official Motion Picture Soundtrack” by Howard Stelzer captures that “dark western tale of desertion, betrayal, and retribution set in 1865 America,” playing unbroken like the vast stretches of wasteland and desert in the American West. Composed with an eye toward windswept vistas, “The Crossing” soundtrack lives and breathes, giving definition to the setting and making it as much of a character as the leads. You can taste the dry dust on your tongue, smell the open air, and see the smatterings of cloud formations flitting across the intense blue sky.

Ambient by necessity, the score serves as a backdrop to the action (none of which, admittedly, I’ve seen), and there’s blood at the edges of the synthetic string (I’m guessing) arrangements. There’s death in the hills and in the desert, the terrain wild and untamed and daunting to the weary pioneer and the fugitive alike. Stelzer captures this tone effortlessly, hovering high above the action like an omnipresent entity observing but unable/unwilling to intervene. It all plays out in the end, like it’s supposed to happen. The film may be finite, but the land and the sky endures.





--Ryan

LOWBEAT
“Evolución Reinterpretade”
(Erizados Tapes)




This is one of the earlier releases from this intriguing fledging label (Erizados) located in Barcelona, Spain. This is danceclub electronica with minimal layering and condiments. The effect that has is to make you focus on the beat with the bits and pieces coming in and out simply adding a thin layer of icing to this well-executed though all-too-short tape.

While there is no indication of such, this is e.p. length with three tracks on the “Triangle Side:” and two on the “Other Side.” The cuts are distinguishable from one another but with craftsmen-like precision, they segue into one another in a manner that hardly warrants your attention to the pending change. A nice touch indeed! The music is consistent though not predictable until the middle of the second side where a white noise barrage fills your headphones (or speakers) taking you by surprise then returning you to the status quo.

The tape is playdoh yellow and is superbly packaged in a nicely done j-card which was “reinterpreted from original Guillermo Moreno Mirallas work by Javier Rey” from the label. A download card is included for those so inclined.

When all is said and done, this is a very good, current example of European electronica packaged equally as thoughtfully. Only 75 copies produced.  Don’t wait on this one! B+


https://erizados.bandcamp.com/album/evoluci-n-reinterpretada


-- Robert Richmond

LOWBEAT “Evolción” C28 (Erizados)


Barcelona-based label Erizados dropped “Evolción” by Lowbeat over three years ago, yet here we still are thinking about it. Lowbeat is the moniker of Quique Sánchez, and he’s dedicated “Evolción” to his son Pau. This is quite touching – as a father myself, I can only imagine expressing an artistic dedication to my son in the same way. Instead, he’ll just grow up knowing that his dad’s a silly old music blogger. Hooray for him.

Ha! Just kidding. Everything’s cool. And everything’s cool on “Evolción,” a dreamy techno workout that’s as disorientingly propulsive as it is slathered in earworm hooks. But before you’re like, “Ew, slathered” or “Ew, earworm hooks,” you should take a listen, because there’s a lot of great action going on here, and not a whole lot to be grossed out by. Smooth and vibrant, clear-eyed and buffed to a sheen, “Evolción” skips forward on the human timeline to a point where butts are always wigglin’ and Barcelona’s the only cool place to be. Maybe it is already. Who knows?




--Ryan