TODD BARTON “Ro” (Flying Moonlight)

I had a colleague who played the shakuhachi, but unfortunately he passed away a few years ago now after a prolonged battle with cancer. I can only imagine he utilized the practice as a centering tool or a meditative outlet to remove himself from thoughts or pain associated with it. In fact, “Ro is the lowest note on the shakuhachi  … Blowing the note Ro for 10 minutes to an hour a day is traditional training for shakuhachi players. Ro focuses breath, embouchure, timbre and listening.” That sounds about right. My colleague was certainly a contemplative soul.

Todd Barton’s been around a long time – in fact, Ro was originally self-released in 2003, but we get a reprieve from its scarcity with this new edition from Flying Moonlight. While you can usually find Barton tooling around a Buchla, Serge, or Hordijk synthesizer, or giving a talk or a workshop in Rome or Berlin or Vienna or some city far away from his hometown of Portland, Oregon, but here we’re treated to the talents of a true multi-instrumentalist. Not only are the recordings on Ro remarkably tranquil and dreamlike, but they’re also focused and purposeful, and concentrating all your attention and energy on them produces a sort of clearminded trance – an elevation of mind to a higher level? Who knows, and my mind is certainly not one to take that next leap to a hitherto unreached mental state (despite my impressive vocabulary), but maybe I’m just not doing it right. Maybe I just have to adjust the knobs and dials of my focus a smidge … ah,


…there we go.


TELYSCOPES “High Fidelity Drag” (Giraffe Boy)

Did you expect to fall in love again today? I didn’t. Philly’s Telyscopes have me hook, line, and sinker, their earwormy bait a distant memory in my gullet as I’m reeled toward my waterless death, and other fishing metaphors. Look, High Fidelity Drag is the missing link connecting Sloan, the Flaming Lips, and Neutral Milk Hotel, and I for one do not want to re-up on that pre-intellectual hominid existence. I’m ready to be washed in the blood of angelic harmony, gussied up by home-recorded fuzz or not. Telyscopes has it in spades. Is it a Philly thing? I get Philly. It’s a thing.

High Fidelity Drag is “loosely inspired by … Watership Down,” and while I’ve not read the book, I’ve seen the film (and done a podcast about it, which I’d link to if the internets weren’t so BLOODY CRUEL, but here’s the link to the page that once hosted it). I dunno. All that to say, Fall of Efrafa pretty convincingly built their whole ethos and identity around Watership Down, so there’s a benchmark to live up to. But since I can’t really speak very coherently on the subject of Watership Down and how it comes across in music or whatever, I’m not going to compare anything and just suggest that Telyscopes are worth your time to check out. What do you got going on this afternoon?



“The End of All Seasons” C27
(Strategic Tape Reserve)

With “The End of All Seasons”, Qualchan. pits vapor-wavy house snippets against Robitussin-based hip-hop instrumentals in a pillow fight to the death…or at least until one or the other passes out from feeling so loopy. What sets this release apart from your above-average beat tape is just how quickly each upbeat vignette comes and goes, arriving and departing A-L-L I-N, not any one track staying around long enough to get any real feel for before the next beat-battalion marches on through the door to your ears, the overall feel heavily hypnogogic, despite the pace and rhythms. This is tops for power-napping with shoes on, ready to bounce out the door once the tape closes up shop!

—Jacob An Kittenplan

“Split” C
(Hyster Tapes)

Robot heart and lung; pipes, wires, hollows & spools. Leitmotiv Limbo’s side of this esoteric split is all charming hiss and white-noise whisper'd transmission, minimally excited circulatory system, a hushed circle spinning, off axis, sleepy cycle wobble & rock self on back to sleep.

Machine worry, fret, and weight, dictated straight to electric guitar, amp, & cymbal, RNPno.2 just adjusts clicks & hum, feedback to back, all scritchy-like. What in tarnation was that?


— Jacob An Kittenplan

SPACE-SAVER “Save Yrself” / “Exponential Bummer” (Hiccup Records)

These JAZZ NERDS, am I right guys? They’re the best. I don’t even know how we get by without them anymore – they’re the ones who stir the pot, get everybody all hot and bothered out here in the summertime (well, by the time you read this, it will be almost Thanksgiving). They’re the ones who remind us of the virtues of the ice cream cone stack. They’re the ones who are as COOL as COOL can be.

OK, maybe the all-caps “JAZZ NERDS” was a little harsh, but I was whipped up into a frenzy by this drums/sax duo from Charlottesville, Virginia. That’s on me, though – I’m easily agitated. And that’s also Travis Thatcher and Steve Snider for you: not afraid to cook the room till it boils.

“Save Yrself” was first, and it set the tone. Sometimes cacophonous, always rigorous, it bleats and crashes in the right moments, swings and jives in the right moments, falls apart, coalesces, gallops, bloats, and bursts at the right moments. They’re all right moments, get me? One after another, right moment after right moment, seemingly bubbling effortlessly from these two. Like gas from a vent. It’s an unending pleasure.

And then there was “Exponential Bummer,” existentialism extrapolated till it meant little, then less. The energy is equaled; is it more exploratory, more experimental? Is it actualized, realized, achieved? Am I just typing to hear myself type? Let’s just say there’s a track on here called “Mindfulnesslessness,” which basically doesn’t answer any question it asks itself and essentially exists just to hear itself exist. But, like, in a really pumped-up jazz kind of way – with flanger!

Any fan of anything on Astral Spirits will dig this duo big time. Seek em out.


BARDO TODOL & DEVID CIAMPALINI “El Origen Del Pensamiento Mágico” C44 (Ikuisuus)

What international melting pot have we here? What disparate influences? Bardo Todol (Argentina) and Devid Ciampalini (Italy) make longform electroacoustic outsider fare under the Finnish flag of Ikuisuus. Where have the field recordings come from? What are they of? Who is they are? Am is I or be are in?

Tongue-tied. That’s where this gets me – I can’t make out verbs from nouns, and sentence structure becomes elusive. So I open the door and head on out into the world, certain the answers to all this “El Origen Del Pensamiento Mágico” are out there somewhere. And why shouldn’t they be? The field recordings collide with the synthesizers, and magic thought is instigated in a burst of stars behind my eyes like I hit my head or something. (Remind me to check on that later.) In fact, that’s the whole point of this entire exercise, if my Spanish is to be believed (and who am I to question the Spanish of Google Translate?). “El Origen Del Pensamiento Mágico” is “The Origin of Magic Thought,” and there is a “cliff of human voices which appear to be broadcasted from inside a giant wolf’s nightmare.”

That’s the exact feeling I was getting! But I’m out in the open now, taking in the fresh air, hopefully not in need of first aid, and levitating a few feet from the ground in the aftermath of “El Origen Del Pensamiento Mágico.” There’s a trickle-down – trickle-up? – effect at work here, and it’s simply making all the molecules beneath me just a bit heavier than my own molecules, so that’s why I’m up a little bit. So does that make it magic or science? I’ll let Bardo Todol and Devid Ciampalini decide.


“Neuter” C13

I know, I know. It can be R-E-A-L-L-Y hard to get into improvisational percussion, but, maybe* Claire Rousay’s “Neuter" is the crowbar your mind’s been waiting for. Sure, she’s got The 
Speed in Spades, but her command of resonance through frictitious aggravations and alternating striking materials is what can** really pry one’s rhythmically-stunted mind apart, bit by beat. 

No stunts here, though; her brushes/sticks/stacks are a mere extension of her fingers; her scrapes, swipes, smudges & flicks all melding into one smooth flow, like a beat boxer’s slurred consonants bending in on their own alluded lyrical finesse, a confident restraint, howling-in-negatives from the bombastic void. By the end of 13 minutes, you can almost feel the space between the hi-hat & snare’s head, the snare’s head and the underside’s wires. Concavity and open air. Excitation. Union.

In a world obsessed with aggression and release, Claire Rousay celebrates tension as its own cradled, resonating reward. Listen to this three times in a row and fall in fucking love!


— Jacob An Kittenplan

*fucking definitely

THE HOWL ENSEMBLE / LÄRMSCHUTZ “Faux Amis Vol. 6” C40 (Faux Amis)

The Howl Ensemble formed like Voltron at the second Howl Fest, held March 30, 2019, somewhere. Space and time are essentially irrelevant, but I’ve given you a date, and the Howl Ensemble spent about 22 minutes on this thing, so there are two pieces of information that place you somewhere on a timeline at two different points (one the initial performance, the second the 22 minutes it takes you to listen to the Howl Ensemble’s side). The septet, made up of electronic and acoustic instruments, lays it on thick with a heavy, HEAVY drone, not one for the faint of heart and one I certainly wish I would’ve been able to check out in a live setting. The Howl Ensemble simply bowls you over with waves upon waves of colossal sonics. I’m not going to guess on this stuff because I’m going to look foolish, but I how is this not an entire symphony testing the very limits of their instruments? All at once and without reprieve?

Then there’s our old friends Lärmschutz, whom I’ve covered extensively now here and at Tabs Out, and whose split series on Faux Amis reaches its sixth iteration with this release. Over the course of the series, Lärmschutz has taken their cues from their splitmates, and here is no different. Submitting a single 18-minute track that drones through the far reaches of our Utrecht heroes’ instruments, Lärmschutz goes all in on the mood, flirting with a similar heavy density as the Howl Ensemble, but ultimately veering a bit into free improv – as is their wont! By the end, chiming guitar and subterranean bass collide into abstract geometric shapes that freeze like ice crystals at the peaks of the highest mountains. And if you’re thinking, “Holy crap, that’s awesome!,” think again – while you’re technically correct, Lärmschutz does “holy crap, that’s awesome” pretty much every day before breakfast. It’s just their thing.

Don’t forget to keep your eye out – one of these per month should have surfaced this year… (with the complete understanding that the year is almost over as you read this).