CONJECTURE “∫V” C30 (Amek Collective)

 

Conjecture, aka Vasilis Angelopolous, dropped V (for vinyl? Probably not) on Amek in 2019, but Angelopolous wasn’t done there. He had some extra tunes that didn’t make the cut, and he wanted to complete the document V and get everything out there in the world that he intended. Thus we’re treated to ∫V, which, surprisingly or not, depending on how mathematically inclined you are (I’m not), translates to “complete V” in mathematical language, with ∫ being the symbol for “complete.” Now that I’ve knocked your socks off with that titillating bit of arcana, we can get down to business – the business of finishing up V as God and Vasilis Angelopolous intended. [Ed note: “God” is not intended to equal “Vasilis Angelopolous” in that sentence.]
 
We play around with the idea of singular vision, and we certainly find a number of artists who purport to express that vision, whether we agree with it or not (and really, who are we to disagree with another’s vision?). But Angelopolous had a vision for his work as Conjecture, and he truly completed it with ∫V. The three tracks appended to the original idea are supermassive black holes of colorless density, great subterranean aquifers of viscous albumen, molten rivers of liquefied steel. In the language of sound and music, not metaphor, we’re dealing with an onrush of nimble proto-industrial electronics, or ambient synthwork with a decided pulse. Maybe if Orbital completely melted down in a blast furnace and the sound was barely Orbital anymore, you might start to get there. Or you might just be like, “This is on Amek?” and you’d be equally if not more so in the right spot.
 
The three new tracks also get the remix treatment from Amek family members antechamber, Талос, and LATE, so there’s a shattered-mirror effect going on here with the revisions. (LATE was one of my introductions to Amek, and so I’ve got a soft spot for the project.) Basically, ∫V is like one of those 1990s maxi-singles with a bunch of remixes, like something from KMFDM or, uh, Busta Rhymes. (I LOVE Busta.) It’s actually kind of brave of Angelopolous to let others in on his vision, giving them free rein to retool his work. Good thing it turns out incredibly well, otherwise this Conjecture material might have ended right back up in the vault.
 
https://conjecture-project.bandcamp.com/
 
https://amekcollective.bandcamp.com/
 
--Ryan

ZACHARY LEVINSON AND ALEXANDER HOMAN “Endless Guitar Meditations” (AGH Tapes)

 

Sometimes you just do it because you love to do it, you know? You do it, then you do it again, then you do it some more, and you do it because it’s in your blood, in your bones. You breathe it, you live it, and it becomes both a part of you and a healing practice to regenerate you. Zachary Levinson and Alexander Homan know exactly what I’m talking about, because they’ve found what they love to do, and they intend to do it endlessly. That something just so happens to be experimental acoustic guitar meditations.
 
That’s the gist of Endless Guitar Meditations – Levinson and Homan each provide a half tape’s worth of acoustic improvisation that meanders like a river as it makes its way toward the coast. The two even collaborate on “On the Banks of the Bodhicitta (Ode to Fahey),” which wears its inspiration as on its sleeve as possible. That’s right, there’s quite a bit of Fahey worship in the playing of these two, a sort of proto-folk that also borrows from Orcutt’s jagged acoustic blues riffage. There’s also hints of raga, and of course there are passages where all you hear is the ambient squeaks and creaks of string and frame, neck and pick, the physicality of the recordings never wavering.
 
And it’s not just because these pieces are “endless” (although some sure are long) that signals a love for this performance – it’s evident in the playing itself, as these two attempt to outdo each other in a fretboard Olympics. But even then, when the focus is on the intense playing, on the perfection of performance, on the internal spirit of competition, the spirit moves outward, over the crowd, the audience, the listeners. And it’s here where the AGH Tapes motto comes right into play: “May all beings benefit by the virtue of these works.” And all things do, and are lifted and carried right along with every note springing to life under nimble fingers.
 
https://zachlevinson.bandcamp.com/
 
https://alexhoman.bandcamp.com/
 
--Ryan

THE MIDNIGHT STEPPERS “Isolation Drives” (Radical Documents)

 

It was a fluke from the start. Isolation Drives ended up at Radical Documents HQ, and it was good. It was good enough to be beloved, and beloved enough to release upon cassetted tape. But there wasn’t much for Radical Documents to go on – just a return address (“Beaverton,” Oregon, doesn’t sound like a real place) and a phone number: (503) 369-8009. Don’t worry – the number is on the j-card, and the Midnight Steppers request that you call them for more information. There’s no web presence – no Bandcamp, no website, no social media – so a number’s all we’re going to get.
 
Pretty DIY, eh?
 
Midnight Steppers are all about DIY, as Isolation Drives was proudly (I assume “proudly” since this is all in the liners) recorded to a Tascam 424 – “NO COMPUTERS WERE USED TO CREATE THIS MUSIC” (all caps in original). So the tape fits right into that early GBV aesthetic, or among the shitgaze pioneer releases of the mid- to late aughts, like Black Vatican or Psychedelic Horseshit. Everything is distorted and sounds like it’s being played in a can, and that’s what makes this so great – scuzzy indie rock doesn’t sound right unless there’s an inordinate amount of fuzz and hiss, like it’s a demo tape handed out at a chaotic live show at a local VFW. So hey, if you’ve got one of those lined up around Beaverton, you should give the Midnight Steppers a call – they might want on that bill. Here’s the number again:
 
(503) 369-8009
 
https://radicaldocuments.bandcamp.com/
 
--Ryan

DAO STROM “Traveler’s Ode” (Antiquated Future)

 

In what can only be described as a “waking dream” (my words), Dao Strom’s Traveler’s Ode connects roads and rivers and thought patterns as it eschews sense of place for a more universal concept. Wherever you go, there you are, am I right? (That’s a little Buckaroo Banzai wisdom for you there.) Traveler, wanderer, doesn’t matter what kind of title you get stuck with, it’s on you and you move from place to place, never sticking anywhere, nowhere ever sticking to you. That’s where it blurs – that’s where the “waking dream” occurs.
 
Dao Strom utterly embodies the paths she treads, soaking in the interactions she has with people and places and internalizing it for rumination later. It actually seems to have become a part of her – over ethereal instrumentation (recalling, among others, Julee Cruise and Grouper’s Liz Harris), Strom sings lullabies in a hushed voice that barely stick to the physical plane, becoming mist and memory as soon as the words pass her lips. All devolves into light particles and drifts into the sky. The energy of human interaction is what kept them tethered in the first place.
 
What also keeps them tethered is a limited-edition poetry/art book called Instrument, published by Fonograf Editions. This will only assist in deepening your understanding of Dao Strom’s process and mindset, and will undoubtedly affect you in profound ways. I haven’t even read it, and look at me – I’m weeping! Oh right, that’s the tape.
 
https://daostrom.bandcamp.com/
 
https://antiquatedfuture.bandcamp.com/
 
--Ryan

THE TUESDAY NIGHT MACHINES “Lozenge” C50 (Strategic Tape Reserve)

 

You can say a lot about the Tuesday Night Machines based on the packaging of their releases alone. Take Hawaiian Yurt Music, for example, which comes housed in a burlap O-card. Or Roof Tent Rhythms, which is enclosed in an actual piece of folded tarp under which the Tuesday Night Machines slept one night while compiling the samples that would comprise the release. And now there’s Lozenge, which comes in a regular Norelco case but has a purple felt j-card, and the cassette itself looks like a bright gold brick.
 
To be clear, these are not faults – they’re entry points for adventure.
 
This time the Tuesday Night Machines have served up a massive analog delight over two sides, each one a far-out excursion to the outer reaches of whatever TNM happens to be tripping on. (And that does not suggest actual “acid tripping,” just whatever’s floating the TNM boat.) I’m going to be honest – I’ve popped this thing in and completely zoned out to its ever-shifting sense of reality or unreality, lost in its vastness but grounded in its sonic waypoints, which lead the way toward full appreciation. I don’t know what that means, because you can hear so many frequencies, it sometimes becomes impossible to differentiate what’s there and what’s not. I’m pretty sure I’ve got a handle on it, but that surety isn’t complete. And that’s for sure.
 
https://nightmachines.bandcamp.com/
 
https://strategictapereserve.bandcamp.com/
 
--Ryan

ANDY FOSBERRY “When Comfort Is Stranger” C45 (Third Kind Records)

 

I’d like to get a glimpse of what’s going on in Andy Fosberry’s head. Not like a literal glimpse – there’s a brain in there, and it’s firing electrical synapses and whatever to keep the body going. I mean like a glimpse into what his inspirations are, the visual images that play within his mind that inform the music he makes. Again, not literally – I fully understand that there’s not a projector or something in there flashing home movies on one side of his brain pan. I’m not going to try to dig through his skull with a teaspoon or anything.
 
I promise.
 
Andy Fosberry makes soundtracks, and thank god for that. Some of the soundtracks are real – Fosberry sees film and makes music for it. Some of the soundtracks are in his head – Fosberry sees visuals there and makes music for it. When Comfort Is Stranger maybe telegraphs its opening track, “Here Is Your Eye,” a Stranger Things homage with pulsing synths and 1980s-inspired vibe, but it veers beyond it to all sorts of cinematic atmospheres. There’s lens-flared ambient and piano-led melancholy, like the appropriately titled “Lana Del Rey,” which flatters the muse with a deft homage. (And let’s not kid ourselves – Norman Fucking Rockwell is an absolute treat.)
 
So it plays out like it says it will, treating “comfort” and “strangeness” like interchangeable elements, two sides of the same coin, a combination made familiar by the nostalgia it promotes. Turns out Andy Fosberry and I see pretty similar things in our mind theaters when listening to music like this, and we both have a visceral and positive reaction upon the brilliant juxtaposition. You could probably chisel your way into both of our heads and see pretty much the same thing!
 
Metaphorically. Always metaphorically with the head excavations.
 
https://andyfosberry.bandcamp.com/
 
https://thirdkindrecords.bandcamp.com/
 
--Ryan

PORTLAND VOWS “Living Posthumously” C48 (Third Kind Records)

 

The first thing you gotta worry about when you listen to Portland Vows’ new tape Living Posthumously is right there in the title – what does that mean?! Bob Plant, philosopher, thinker, all around smarter person than me, either doesn’t get that the present-tense “living” really can’t be modified by the adverb “posthumously,” because that would be the type of paradox that could knock the entire space-time continuum off its axis (if indeed it’s on an axis). Did I say paradox? I meant oxymoron. You can’t live after you’re dead, which is what “posthumously” means: post-living.
 
So maybe I am as smart as Bob Plant, but get this: I’m smarter, and here’s why. I was able to make it all the way through the Portland Vows mind puzzle and come out the other side, completely unscathed, not knocked around or plowed over by his mental gymnastics. Well, I was at least a little scathed as I made it through Living Posthumously – but in a good way! In fact, I actually sort of started to feel like Living Posthumously was coating my brain in some narcotic yet restorative way, filling in all the emotional cracks that I wasn’t even aware of with its delicate and insightful drone smears and guitar twinkles. Perhaps it’s the art that put these ideas in my head (and kudos to Tiny Little Hammers for another superb design!).
 
So maybe Living Posthumously is a statement of stasis, a balancing act, a dissertation on a modern problem of feeling stuck in life in such a way that experiencing it is like looking back from beyond the point of expiration and viewing the sleepwalking self. It’s both a condemnation of inaction and the revelation and acceptance that inaction is all there’s ever going to be. But that doesn’t mean those complex feelings can’t coexist within your mind sans a soundtrack. And Living Posthumously is a great one, filled with gorgeous miniature lullabies, star shimmers, and Nyquil-coated safe spaces. You’ll need those safe spaces to recharge at least some energy spent on those thousand-yard stares.
 
https://portlandvows.bandcamp.com/
 
https://thirdkindrecords.bandcamp.com/
 
--Ryan

YAARA VALEY “Deshecha” (Antiquated Future)

 

Once Indira, now Yaara Valey has clearly spent too much time bingeing Game of Thrones during the pandemic, siding for some reason with the Greyjoys and lobbing a softball of a joke setup that I can only manage to get out of the infield because of the surprisingly obsolete, nay antiquated reference. (That’s two jokes in one. You’re welcome.) Seriously, doesn’t it seem lame to talk about Game of Thrones already? Pop culture truly moves at dizzying speeds.
 
Now that I’ve got that out of my system, we get deep into another superb EP by the Portland, Oregon, high priestess of ritualistic freak folk, the droning and engrossing Deshecha. Over five hallowed tracks, Valey concocts pagan ceremonies to nature, of “emptying” our earthly vessels, “undoing” our conceptions, “and surrendering” to the earth, the natural state of things. The quoted items are paraphrases of three of five song titles, so you can really get a sense of the theme running through Deshecha. As such, the EP isn’t a lighthearted one, even though the touch is quite light. I mean, of course, that the sounds produce (or are produced by) magic, filling your body with tingling sparks and lifting you (maybe literally) into the night sky. Valey then tends the fire she has built and continues to draw in more followers. Let’s join up.
 
https://indiravaley.bandcamp.com/
 
https://antiquatedfuture.bandcamp.com/
 
--Ryan

GUENTER SCHLIENZ “Mutterkuchen” C40 (Auasca)

 

You know something’s up with Stuttgart electronic composer Guenter Schlienz when he starts literally listening to his DNA. He says there are “sounds and styles … encoded” in it, and these “resonate heavily in [his] mind” and “rattl[e] his bones,” until they’re forced to emerge via the fingers touching synthesizers in certain predetermined patterns. These patterns are encoded within a computer program. They are organized and refined. They are offered up to the world.
 
Mutterkuchen finds Schlienz pondering these broadcasts from within his own body, wondering how they connect with the world and the wider universe, maybe offering a way that he, himself, find meaning out there. He’s certainly connected to the artists who have inspired him this time around: Bach on “Bach” (I think …), Tangerine Dream and Cluster on “Spoonful of Stars” and also, quite obviously, “Kosmische Music.” Basically he does what he does best, which is close his eyes and follow a muse out into outer space, like far out, and the sound of it reaches our ears at whatever point the soundwaves travel the interstellar distance back to our receivers. He’s a human broadcasting system, somehow surviving out there. Without a space suit.
 
But it’s really for him, and you can tell. The sound is within him, and he channels it in reverence for itself on its own terms. Doesn’t matter that there are antecedents and inspirations – they just help him translate it. And we are the lucky recipients who have it all translated for us. Bystanders, somehow in the path of excellence and delight.
 
Also, Mutterkuchen translates to “mother cake” – seems obvious, I think?
 
https://guenterschlienz.bandcamp.com/
 
https://auasca.bandcamp.com/
 
--Ryan

DANIEL SAYLOR “Plastic Present” C45 (Third Kind Records)

 

It’s the answer to a question nobody asked. Plastic Present represents a counterpoint to southern electronic rock, the point being … what’s a good electronic rock band from Florida? Never mind. Daniel Saylor lives three hours from me over there in Orlando, and somehow he finds a way through the heat and humidity, the tourist season, the constant construction and traffic, and the just south-ness of Floridian life to actually form a coherent thought, record it, and make it sound good enough to release. Not only that, he made it sound so good that he released it through Brighton, England, label Third Kind (one of the best). How’s that for a cultural surprise?
 
Plastic Present takes on a lot of the characteristics of electronic Radiohead or solo Thom, but without the constant barrage of depressing vocals. It only starts there, though, and spirals out from there. And sometimes there are vocals, but not often. And sometimes Saylor has help from erstwhile bandmates, but a lot of this work is really on the solo tip. Breakbeats and synths do battle for the tonal high ground, and both win and lose constantly, bringing about a tenuous balance that shifts one way or the other depending on how the next track begins. A second battle occurs between the syntheticness of sound sources and the obvious human manipulation of it (not to mention the playing of actual instruments at points) – the cross-section of human anatomy adorning the cover suggests that humans win. But the “plasticness” of Plastic Present suggests otherwise. Again, there’s no winner, but everybody wins.
 
So … what was the question in the first place again? No idea. What I do know is that Plastic Present is very good, and I still can’t believe it came out of a middle-Florida swamp. A paved-over swamp, sure, but a swamp nonetheless.
 
PS: The last song has some rap.
 
https://danielsaylor.bandcamp.com/
 
https://thirdkindrecords.bandcamp.com/
 
--Ryan

WHETTMAN CHELMETS / QUALCHAN. “Theme∞Variations” C34 (Strategic Tape Reserve)

 

We couldn’t agree more, Strategic Tape Reserve. Two of your favorite artists on one tape? Try two of ours as well! Whettman Chelmets and qualchan. have both appeared on the STR roster in the past, Whettman with Doesn’t Remember… and qualchan. with the end of all seasons. (What is it with these guys and punctuation?) We here at Cassette Gods have written about the two of them as well – feel free to take advantage of the search functionality on this web page to dig around in the archives. Everything we’ve said about them is complimentary, I promise.  
 
So it’s a big deal that the two artists have gotten together, and the results speak for themselves. Whettman takes side A and riffs on a melody that qualchan. had sent him, employing a bag of compositional tricks to avoid making any one of the tracks sound like the others. Classical techniques? Of course! But he’s also grounded in his own skillset, the one where he makes thick drones and ambient shoegaze and what have you. But don’t take it from me! Take it from Chelmets himself. Go ahead, dig through that back catalog. Also the promo copy. (Hey, at least I cite the ideas that aren’t mine.)
 
And then qualchan. takes side B, and we’re thrust immediately into a tripped-out sample/loopfest inspired by nature (Oregon’s Cascade region), but nature shot through with neon electric currents. How qualchan. juxtaposes the two and gets away with it is beyond me (although it probably shouldn’t be if I’m writing about music, let’s be honest). It’s laid back but verging on the point of soundtracking a lysergic nature doc, which, obviously, would be a really cool experience. Plus everything fades in and out quickly, often in less than two minutes. Come to think of it, Whettman Chelmets’s side does that too, except substitute two minutes with three minutes.
 
There’s so much to explore here – you’ll be here checking this out for a while on repeat.
 
https://whettmanchelmets.bandcamp.com/
 
https://hangontoyrego.bandcamp.com/
                                                      
https://strategictapereserve.bandcamp.com/
 
--Ryan

0824 “SGV” (Skrot Up)

 

No one’s ever going to mistake German Army for a techno band. They have techno elements, sure – drum machines, samples, synthesizers – but those sonic miscreants are way more on the industrial tip, and even then they’re often stripping away the heaviness or in-your-faceness of industrial (guitars, vocals) in favor of textures and repetitive components that zone you out as much as rile you up. And don’t get me started on Peter Kris’s work, solo, CCP, or otherwise! You’re really not going to get all four-on-the-floor to a PK joint. And sure, I’m aware that this opening paragraph is a massive oversimplification, but you gotta start somewhere, right? Right.
 
You’re confused! I can see it in your beady little fucking stupid eyes. The “band” 0824 is a duo composed of GT and PK, meaning this is a German Army side affair. The number comes from the “day [GT and PK] first heard techno at our local Tower Records in West Covina.” So there’s definitely some leaning in going on here, some genre appropriation: BPMs are wicked high, siren-y synth magic abounds, and melodies are quick, repetitious, and hooky. The tracks don’t last terribly long – get in, make noise, get out – so the attention span certainly isn’t taxed. Sometimes there are laser noises. What good techno record doesn’t have laser noises?
 
You’re absolutely right – there isn’t one.
 
This is a fun, energetic diversion among the German Army discography. Blast it wherever you can.
 
https://germanarmymusic.bandcamp.com/
 
https://skrotup.bandcamp.com
 
--Ryan

BENDRIX LITTLETON “Deep Dark South” (NNA Tapes)

 


Bendrix Littleton is Bennett Littlejohn’s recording moniker. If you’re giving me a double-taked “Huh?!” and wondering how I’m going to keep that straight as I’m writing this, you’re not crazy for doing either of those things. In fact, we’re told that Bendrix Littleton is somewhat of an unreliable narrator, whose name derives from Maurice Bendrix, a character in Graham Greene’s novel The End of the Affair, which makes this whole thing even harder on anybody trying to make any sense of it. Plus, now I’ve got three names to keep straight? Please.
 
So what kind of dude was Maurice Bendrix, and what can we expect from Bendrix Littleton? Maurice sounds like kind of a shithead, “consumed by jealousy, self-pity, self-hatred, and bitterness” – so maybe a self-directed shithead, but I’m not really sure I want to spend a lot of time with someone like that. Where Bendrix Littleton comes in on that spectrum is in his depiction of the endlessly stretching biographies of Deep Dark South residents crushed by economic disparity and ennui. Residents of the Deep Dark South are notoriously unreliable sources of information in real life (trust me), so we, as listeners, are equally crushed by the disappointment inherent in their lives, manifesting in a false, fragrant hope that barely conceals the rank spiraling to oblivion those lives are on. The trajectory is manifest through the transparent lies.
 
So it’s no surprise that Bendrix Littleton can barely manage to raise his voice above a whisper, with his acoustic guitar and studio accoutrements successfully propping it up, but only just. There’s a heavy, heavy weight on Littleton’s soul, and he struggles to relate the stories of the people he’s come across, stories of who he was and who he’s terrified of becoming, and stories of fleeting searchlights of hope in a dense haze of humid misery. Coupled with the homespun charm of the four-tracky sonics and you’re rewarded with a heartbreaking document of real, actual life. Turns out it doesn’t matter if the storyteller is reliable or not, or even if the narration is an outright lie – we can still all learn something from it, we can teach ourselves to feel again, for us, for those around us. Fuck, I’m sad now.
 
https://bendrixlittleton.bandcamp.com/
 
https://nnatapes.bandcamp.com/
 
--Ryan

ESTLIN USHER “Still” C72 (Clinquant Pudendum)

 

We talk about ambient a lot around here, as a style, a form of musical expression, but do we really take into consideration what it actually means? For me, getting a nice droning soundtrack, preferably via synthesizer, can perk up any situation in which I find myself alone in a room sitting quietly. But that’s more of a forced ambience, isn’t it? An imposition of mood upon an environment. What about the room, the objects, the air when that’s all there is? On Still, Estlin Usher is bound to find that out.
 
Still is an improvised electroacoustic encounter, whereby objects – dried grass, cymbal, flowers, foil – are subjected to moving air and recorded, subtly processed and delayed, their sounds creating the soundtrack of themselves, and only their own soundtracks. Contact microphones capture the audio, and the results are stretched and elongated over the course of two 36-minute sides. It rustles, scrapes, bangs, and fizzes, and – if you’re listening properly, with patience and through headphones – it envelops you within its microcosmic universe.
 
Who needs that far-out sci-fi ambient when you can get the real thing, right here? Tactile, rough, and full of life – that’s the Still bottom line.
 
https://estlin.bandcamp.com/
 
https://clinquantpudendum.bandcamp.com
 
--Ryan

KAY ODYSSEY “Knock Out!” (Pecan Crazy)

 

Ho hum, another day, another awesome tape from Pecan Crazy. Kay Odyssey is an Austin four-piece dream rock/indie band along the Belly/Lush spectrum, but with some heavily vibrato’d Sleater-Kinney-esque vocals. Honestly, did you just read that sentence or not? Because if you did, you should be drooling all over your clean shirt right now – there’s nothing not to like in that sentence. In fact, you should be running to the phone and calling the Pecan Crazy ordering desk. (Or going to the website, either one.)
 
This is a full ten-song burner (eleven if you count the cassette-only hidden track, and you should!). The guitars are recorded crisply and cleanly, the distortion compressed, the drums smacking away in clockwork foundation. Kristina Boswell’s voice expertly flits over the top of the compositions like a bird periodically alighting on a Marshall stack, but never once straining to be heard above the rest of the band. This is expertly crafted and mixed, and should be a staple for all you indie rock lifers still out there. I’m queueing up my VHS copies of 120 Minutes right now to get even more of a fix. If you don’t have VHS tapes like that, you can just play Knock Out! over again – no one would judge you.
 
https://kayodyssey.bandcamp.com/
 
https://pecancrazy.bandcamp.com/
 
--Ryan

MEZZANINE SWIMMERS “Kneelin’ on a Knife” (Already Dead)

 

Ow – frickin’ ow! Nope – don’t listen to what the Mezzanine Swimmers, which in this case is just a guy named Mike Green, not a bunch of high-wire water enthusiasts, have to say. Has to say, I guess. One guy. Anyway, again, ow, because Kneelin’ on a Knife, which is what this new EP is titled, is not a great idea in practice. You put a knife on the ground, regardless of how sharp it is, and actually try to kneel on it, you’re asking for bloody kneecaps. Take it from me, the guy who actually attempted that.
 
But then all … no, most is forgiven, because Kneelin’ on a Knife is a fun five songs of exquisite bedroom composition – meaning Mike Green does this all on his own and doesn’t need, like, a band practice space or whatever. He could do this in his bedroom if he wants (not that he has to). These delectable off-kilter tuneskies are delivered through a haze of homecooked static and fuzz, but not everything’s cloaked so heavily. Melodies abound, and porch-stomping rhythms ground most of Green’s work. The delightfully patchwork and collaged approach mirrors the cover nicely, and you all know how much I appreciate the rough-and-tumble homespun-ness of an experimental pop release. Mezzanine Swimmers is right up that alley.
 
https://mezzanineswimmers.bandcamp.com/
 
https://alreadydeadtapes.bandcamp.com/
 
--Ryan

SAM GAS CAN “Gone Doing” (Already Dead)

 


Lifer. That’s what Sam Gas Can is, a lifer in the outsider cassette underground. We hear from him periodically, and we rejoice in his release schedule. Listening to Sam Gas Can is like drinking milk: the calcium from the process helps promote strong bones. We feel that health determinant coursing through our bodies. It feels like every day.
 
Every day of our life this is needed. Gone Doing is the delivery system, and just when we thought we’d have Tascam-damaged shoegaze, we got speak-jazz rap. Just when we thought we got folk’d to the marrow, we heard the transmissions, we perceived the satellites. I remember the day I first heard Beck’s Stereopathetic Soulmanure, and Sam Gas Can’s Gone Doing hits a lot of those scattered-yet-cohesive-in-the-scatteredness’s spots. I loved Stereopathetic Soulmanure at first sight. I feel the same way about Gone Doing.
 
When you’ve done this for a while, you get comfortable – no, confident in the vision, the focus. Because even when it’s a bunch of crazy ideas tossed in a pot and stirred beyond recognition or intention (bah! Look at me talking about intention!), the result doesn’t have to curdle. The result can be the weirdly unified and secretly brilliant work of a dusty old treasure just waiting to be unearthed from the Northampton, Massachusetts, soil. Is Sam Gas Can a dusty old treasure?
 
No, we’ve been over this. He’s milk. Music milk for the bones. Life-giving, life-happening.
 
https://samgascan.bandcamp.com/
 
https://alreadydeadtapes.bandcamp.com/
 
--Ryan

ISAAC + DR. RUBY “Dragon’s Coldness” C16 (Fish People Birds)

 

The tour tape is always a tempting proposition for diehards. For Isaac + Dr. Ruby, Dragon’s Coldness represents that ever-elusive artifact for their 2019 East Coast/Indiana (that random Midwestern state) tour. (I guess you gotta go through Indiana on your way to the East Coast from Ypsilanti.) With mandolin and organ and whistle and what have you, Isaac + Dr. Ruby craft quirky folk tunes that every single dorm-dwelling undergrad should have a recording of. The bad news: the tape is sold out. The good news: you can still listen to it on Bandcamp, or even purchase a digital copy of it!
 
But this is a tape site, so digital files can suck it. If you can somehow find a copy of this lovely little item, you’ll get a stickered Dragon’s Coldness Norelco and a colored-marker-adorned tape shell, perfect for chilling out to after studying for two hours. Plus it’s only sixteen minutes long, so even if you only have time to take a quick break between research papers, it’s perfect for unwinding. Especially with cute/sour songs like “Draw Me in Gasoline” and “Dicks.” Great stuff. Too bad you missed the tour, though.
 
https://isaaclevine.bandcamp.com/
 
https://fishpeoplebirds.bandcamp.com/
 
--Ryan

VANISHING DMC “Vanishing DMC” (Podunk Label)

 

Having never lived closer than seven hours from Boston, I never had the privilege of seeing the charmingly named Flaming Dragons of Middle Earth live. Fronted by Danny “Monster” Cruz, FDOME was a band for the people – Cruz would invite the audience to grab instruments and play with him, and he’d teach them quick stuff and they’d make songs out of it. Sounds like an absolute blast.
 
Danny had Duchenne, a form of muscular dystrophy, and he died of a Duchenne-related heart attack in 2017 at the age of twenty-five. On Vanishing DMC (the “DMC” standing for Danny “Monster” Cruz), recorded in 2016, Cruz felt mortality encroaching. And yet, with Bob Fay (Sebadoh, Deluxx) and Matt Robidoux (Sunburned Hand of the Man, Speedy Ortiz, Curse Purse) in tow, Cruz cranked out weird new outsider fuzz rock like his spirit was flying as hard and as fast as possible. Tapped fully into his creativity, there was no stopping the DMC energy. And we are the lucky ones still living with Cruz’s output, still benefitting from his astounding life. We oughta whisper our thanks to that dude for flying the freak flag and keeping it absolutely real, all the time. Some good tunes too.
 
So while I probably never would’ve seen an FDOME show or caught Vanishing DMC in the act anyway, since I moved even farther away from Boston, I can at least partake from afar and in the future, reveling in Cruz’s invigorating songwriting on psych-fun tunes like “Dark Castle,” “Doggin’ a Pizza,” “Watch U Fuck” … haha. This craziness just puts a smile on my face. Put one on yours as well, and remember to treat everyone well and help those in need. That’s what I get from this.
 
https://podunklabel.bandcamp.com/
 
--Ryan

COACH CAMPA “If You’ve Got the Hammer” (Already Dead)

 

I’m a coach as well, just of U10 soccer players. They can get pretty rowdy I guess, but they listen pretty good. They learn, they get better. They play fair. Isn’t that all that matters in the end?
 
Coach (Ethan) Campa is a different kind of coach altogether. I’m not sure he has a patient approach, or even one that appreciates the learning process. It’s “Get it right or get out!” with that guy. He also plays drums, so he’s constantly hitting something, which isn’t something you can do with U10 soccer players. They frown upon that. But Coach Campa is still a leader, somebody who has to wrangle his “team” for a singular vision. And that singular vision is blistering noise-rock-core-punk, four descriptions of music that I smooshed together with bubble gum and hyphens. They’re kind of lazy, but so what. I do understand that I would be kicked out of Coach Campa’s program with that attitude, but here we are.
 
Coach Campa’s team consists of other members of his band, and we get bass, guitar, ukulele (!), and trumpet along with Campa’s battering of the kit. If You’ve Got the Hammer is a heavy ride through a barrage of mathematically precise instrumentation, speakers blown out by heavy distortion, octopus drumming threatening to bring the whole scaffolding down upon everyone’s heads. But enough wild instrumentation peeks through the rhythmic onslaught to anchor the freeform freakout of Campa’s virtuosity. Hey, it’s Campa’s band – Campa can do whatever he wants. And his ship is the tightest-run ship you can imagine. Just like my soccer team!
 
https://coachcampa.bandcamp.com/
 
https://alreadydeadtapes.bandcamp.com/
 
--Ryan

KOLE GALBRAITH “Panna II” C74 (Obscure and Terrible)

 

Panna II is the champagne bottle smashing off the bow of  Kole Galbraith, Josh Medina, and Sean Waple’s new label Obscure and Terrible (huh), part of an inaugural batch also featuring a cassette drop by Medina’s own Medina/Walsh combo. (I wrote about that one too.) Here, veteran artist Galbraith digs his heels in and rolls through a vast spectrum of texture and noise, utilizing field recordings and loops and manipulating them and slathering them with effects (probably). Drawing on the darkness of history and relations, Galbraith guides us down paths and into hidden corners and clearings, shaking our foundations by what we find there.
 
Still, that kind of thing is what prepares you for dealing with the world – those unforeseen and unfortunate discoveries catalyze mental processes, getting your dander all up for resistance. Galbraith has resistance in his blood, being a descendent of Colville and Sinixt tribes, and also a member of the Peoria tribe in Oklahoma. Panna II thus plays as stoic observation, taking in the territory, the land, and cogitating toward the next steps in the struggle. It gets under your skin and in your blood, and it pours down from the sky in the rain and whistles through the trees like wind. And still that anger boils at its core, a molten furnace energizing the body and mind toward action.
 
Seriously, take a listen, see if it doesn’t make you feel the exact same way.
 
https://kolegalbraith.bandcamp.com/
 
https://obscureandterrible.bandcamp.com/
 
--Ryan

THE BEEKEEPERS “Song Demos” C22 (self-released)

 

Great job, Nicky Reynolds! On Song Demos, the first of three such releases in 2019, Reynolds whips up a lo-fi power pop maelstrom that would line up nicely next to some Children of Nuggets tunes, or maybe some New Zealand indie records of the late 1980s and early 1990s. The songs are incredibly tuneful and composed, and Reynolds looks really young to be doing this – says me with a critical schoolmarm eye. “Nicky Reynolds, shouldn’t you be studying for your SATs instead of practicing these guitars at such a volume?”
 
No, I can’t pull it off.
 
Point is, the Beekeepers is something you should really try to get your hands on if you like a little Kinks with your XTC, or a little garage with your New Romantic. It’s can be a secret between friends, a tape passed back and forth like a talisman to ward off outside influence when you just want to escape. It’s music for hiding behind your book bag and hoping nobody notices you. It’s the crashing waves of self-doubt when romance eludes you, and the exhilaration that there’s something out there for you anyway, even if it’s in the form of a battered yellow tape. Listen!
 
https://the-beekeepers.bandcamp.com/album/song-demos
 
--Ryan

MENTOS GULGENDO “Mentos Gulgendo” C44 (Endless Happiness)

 


If the universe was indeed created by lunatics, then I’m almost certain that “Ionesendr,” the first track on the self-titled Mentos Gulgendo tape (“Ionesendr” is seventeen minutes long too!), was also a product of their handiwork. How else would you explain the appearance a lengthy, piercing organ tone that bores into your skull and never retreats? Well, actually, it does retreat in favor of some very nice psychedelic kosmische synthesizer, but still, that’s not the point! The point is, why do it in the first place unless you’re a lunatic, and apparently one who helped create the universe?

See, Mentos Gulgendo is a fictitious philosopher, so we’re getting into some nice sci-fi territory here, but who’s to say that Gulgendo is not actually real and Gulgendo’s philosophical musings are not actually the backbone of the entirety of existence? At least allow for this type of appearance in a theoretical multiverse, because everything that could ever happen has happened/will happen. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. The artistic endeavor known as Mentos Gulgendo, the duo of Antonina Nowacka and Mila Nowacka, channels this madcap synopsis into a reverberating drone, “electromagnetic waves … weave a field of transcendental beauty penetrating the structures of each other.” I agree, if Mentos Gulgendo sounds like anything, it’s electromagnetic waves penetrating solid structures and turning them into a “liquid, unsustainable fat.” I mean, if we’re stacking the universe up like this, it only makes sense that we’re all pretty much melted butter in the end.

The piercing becomes more periodic poking by the time “Suruliandr” rolls around, which resolves into rhythmic pulses and processed operatic vocalizations. It’s as if we were created, pierced, pulsed, churned, and poured, then hardened and made to endure the throes of whatever it was that actually did all this work in the first place. But what does it matter? Because this, in fact, was created by two people. Maybe they’re the lunatics. Or … the visionaries?

https://www.discogs.com/artist/8112168-Mentos-Gulgendo

https://endlesshappiness.bandcamp.com/

--Ryan

MANURE MOVERS OF AMERICA “Cut the Shit” (Already Dead)

 


I love that we’re just skipping straight to the puns, the humorous one-liners, the cockeyed references. It’s easy to do, especially if you’ve named your outfit “Manure Movers of America,” which Manure Movers of America have done. And true to form, the MMOA are heaving all kinds of refuse in all kinds of directions, sifting through the detritus of this country and commenting on it via noise and frequency. Also true to form, MMOA seem pretty critical of the results.

But let’s not dig in too deep here (PUN INTENDED), because then we’ll miss all the noxious sounds piping through the speakers. Yeah, this is noise, and yeah, there’s a track called “Get in the Van” (help me count the levels of humor there), but you’re going to miss the subtleties if you’re hoping for a Hank Rollins cameo or a wall of harshness obliterating you. MMOA is a careful entity, weaving layers of rumbling turmoil throughout things like “Gift Horse” and pinging odd nodes on other things like “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Shit” (pun/reference alert!). Plus, haven’t you always wanted to scream “Hardly Workin’!” in answer to that ubiquitous question you’ll obviously be asked by some jagoff customer someday? MMOA helps you do just that with knives of feedback.

So do it, Cut the Shit and get over yourself. Get on with your life. Manure Movers of America have certainly done so, and they’re here to help you out.

https://manuremoversofofamerica.bandcamp.com/

https://alreadydeadtapes.bandcamp.com/

--Ryan

TRISTAN MAGNETIQUE “3” C32 (Muzan Editions)

 

Anybody else find it odd that Tristan Magnetique releases shrink in size as the number of said release increases? The first TM jam was a triple cassette on Otomatik Muziek, and I wrote about it here. For those of you keeping score, that’s release number: 1, tapes in release: 3. For 2, on Cosmic Winnetou (again written about here), TM dropped a double cassette on us – so 2:2. Now we’re on 3, the subject of these words, on Muzan Editions, and we’re down to 1 measly cassette. Turn that into a chart and the line shoots up and to the right at a direct 45-degree angle. What’s 4 gonna be, an unplayable half-cassette released Auris Apothecary style (perhaps filled with sand)?
 
I only point out this pattern as an observation, not a critique or a criticism. Because if there’s one thing you can’t do to a Tristan Magnetique release is criticize it! (I am, currently, critiquing it.) Perhaps that’s because Tristan is the alter ego of ambient GENIUS (and Cosmic Winnetou label head) Günter Schlienz, sometimes styled “Guenter,” but don’t let that fool you – that’s just for people who don’t want to deal with umlauts). We like Günter Schlienz around here, and by proxy (and evidence), we like Tristan Magnetique too. The fact that he’s finally paired with the equally GENIUS ambient label Muzan Editions seems like a fait accompli, a match that was so destined from the outset of the careers of each that the intersection is almost too banal to even mention.
 
For 3, Schlienz pared down his gear list to include only a “Casio CZ101 and a few effects pedals,” and with them he crafted another ambient dreamworld populated by field recordings captured around his hometown of Stuttgart. It’s certainly a psychedelic wonderland, the hypnogogic tones and soft-focus palette make for an utterly immersive experience, and that’s absolutely the point – you want these two long-form pieces to simply overtake your worldview for a while, to cause you to float in a half-awake state until the line between awake and not awake completely blurs. It’s easier said than done, but with Günter Schlienz at the helm, it’s easier done than said. And he does it, like, all the time!
 
Also, Peter Taylor, aka MAbH, did the artwork for this tape, along with two others in the batch.
 
https://guenterschlienz.bandcamp.com/
 
https://muzaneditions.bandcamp.com/
 
--Ryan

CONTROL POINT “Dreamer’s Disease” (Hot Releases)

 


Everything’s a dirge to Control Point. Dreamer’s Disease finds Philadelphian Lindsay Gambone in slow-motion darkwave mode, each track a lurching funeral procession over synthesizers and drum machines. Proceeding at a crawl, Gambone clearly feels an existential weight bearing down on her, like gravity’s kicked up a notch – or exponentially. Her deep, chanting vocals take on a goth sheen, the ritualism invoked in each excruciating moment a demented prayer of deliverance to whatever monster deity lives out in those woods. I honestly don’t want to get too close to it, that’s for dang sure! Regardless, the Control Point MO spreads across this EP’s six tracks, never wavering from the seeming goal of rendering everything in sight and in life nothing more than a sacrifice to some midnight whim. God help us all.

BABIES IN THE BARDO “Babies in the Bardo” C52 (Sister Cylinder)

 


Every time I look at this tape, I’m like, “Let’s throw another baby on the bardo!” You know, like my go-to phrase whenever I affect an Australian accent – let’s throw another shrimp on the barbie? You knew that’s what I say, right?

 

So forgetting the general awfulness of babies and barbies and whatnot, Babies in the Bardo isn’t just a fun thing to try and untrip your tongue over. It’s actually the solo minimal darkwave/post-punk (so easy) of Early Day Miners bassist Jonathan Richardson. You may remember Early Day Miners from their tours with and/or their comparisons to Grandaddy (which may only exist in my mind – I connected those two bands somehow, and I may be making this all up, because the internet is NOT confirming my suspicions); you may remember reading about them in blogs at some point back in the day. Either way, at least one of them is back – in tape form!

 

So “bardo” is the Tibetan Buddhist idea of being in the state between death and rebirth. And that makes sense here, as Richardson uses synth and chugging bass and percussion to get at that and other states of uncertainty, injecting emotional throughlines we can connect to and prop ourselves up against. And no vocals! Or guitars (besides the bass). But mostly vocals, because if anything will annoy me about anything, it’s vocals. But only the annoying ones. Annoying vocals annoy me. Richardson wisely eschews them, and we can thus project our own thoughts onto the music.

 

Babies in the Bardo is lean, its spartan approach a boon to its listenability. Richardson connects nicely to the universal aspects of his chosen genre.

 

https://babiesinthebardo.bandcamp.com/album/babies-in-the-bardo-2

 

https://sistercylinder.bandcamp.com/

 

--Ryan

TOWNER “Towner EP” C13 (Crush Grove)


Presumably the cover is an illustration depicting the back of Towner the four-piece band onstage playing to a crowd of five outraged or indifferent people. It took me a while though – normally the back of the band isn’t used in press photos (or, in this case, images). Towner, which I’m guessing is short for “out-of-towner” (because, you know, the life of a touring band), play it fairly straight, copping mid-1990s indie/college rock that’s easy on the ears and just fine for any dorm room situation. The singer has a sort of speaky-version Black-Francis-meets-Peter-Garrett-from-Midnight-Oil voice. Not hard to enjoy. Dunno why that dude in the tie is angrily covering his ears or that one girl is yawning – there’s nothing really offensively loud, obnoxious, or boring. The texty girl gets a pass – everybody texts at shows.

 

DEXTER DINE “Self-Assembly” (self-released)

 


Self-Assembly, Dexter Dine’s 2019 self-released tape, does a nice job mixing sound collage and disparate source material with melody. Utilizing every electroacoustic trick in the book (probably) (what book?) Dexter works with an intriguing palette that teeters on the edge of found ambience and Orange Milk-y start/stop experimentation. If Self-Assembly is intended as the story of a mechanical entity gaining sentience and putting itself together, I certainly wouldn’t be surprised. There’s some Short Circuitmeets–E.T. thing going on here, and a deep dive into Dexter’s work reveals an imagination at work that dreams way beyond the human experience. In fact, I wouldn’t put it out of the realm of possibility that Dexter himself is some kind of sentient machine. He certainly is able to tap in to the nuances and details of mechanical science. Self-Assembly simply serves as an outlet for all that innovation.

J.G.D. AZZOPARDI “Phone Sex for Ducks” C43 (Moon Myst Music)

 


It’s creepy, I get it. And I live on a retention pond, so I get to see actual duck sex more often than I’d like. But thinking about a duck on the phone quacking away all sexy like while another duck on the other end of the line rubs one out with a wing or whatever gets the ick up in me. It’s just not something I want to think about. The obvious pre-doing-it ducks on the cartoon-strip cover don’t help.

 

J.G.D. Azzopardi doesn’t give a shit what I think. The Shack in the Barley honcho has decided that no matter what the taboo is, he’s going to break it, and damn my aversion to anatine coitus! On Phone Sex for Ducks, Azzopardi ratchets up the atmosphere, shoving dense noise collage after dense noise collage (four of them!) through my tape deck until I’m squirming on the floor in anguish. On the title track itself, telephone rings smoosh up against audible tension in a Twin Peaks–esque nightmare of wondering if and when the duck will actually answer. The phone continues to ring!

 

And Phone Sex for Ducks plows down its tense path until resolving itself somewhat with “Cemetery Improv – Sarah’s Grave,” which features some of what I can only refer to as “playful noise” – whatever that even means. It’s an odd, fitting end to this tape, leaving you skipping off into whatever it is you skip off into after whatever it is Phone Sex for Ducks is ends. That is until the skies darken and the aliens come and steal you away. Honestly, talk about a buzz-harsher.

 

Despite my feelings on the whole subject, this is riveting stuff.

 

https://shackinthebarleyproductions.bandcamp.com/

 

https://moonmystmusic.bandcamp.com/

 

--Ryan