METAL DISCO “Vade Mecum” (Detonic Recordings)

Post punk drifted to Australia’s remote shores probably sometime around when it drifted everywhere else – Detonic Recordings just so happened to perfect it in the interim. Or – maybe not perfected it. Definitely “revels in its weirdness” to the full extent that one record label can. Enough at least to cultivate an aesthetic around it.

Metal Disco is the perfect band for Detonic to release. Steeped in synthwave/darkwave/industrial traditions, “Vade Mecum” is recorded so crisply that I can’t even believe this isn’t some sort of hi-def digital version pumped through a $20K sound system. It’s not – it’s just a dude, his synths, and his drum machines on tape. You will not be surprised by the list of artists who have inspired Metal Disco, as lifted from the Facebook page: Cat Rapes Dog / And One / The Prodigy / Soman / Motor / Icon Of Coil / Combichrist / KLF / Ministry / NIN / Black Strobe / Cubanate / Aphex Twin / Orbital / Symphonix / FSOL / Orgy / Fischerspooner / Alien Sex Fiend / VAC / Juno Reactor / X-Dream.

Got it?

You should. “Vade Mecum” is a propulsive nocturnal creation that’s insanely fun from the first minute to the last. It totally reminds me of all the Wax Trax! bootlegs I had in high school. This is just a super fun reminder of how weird and great and dark and clangy one artist can get – Metal Disco and Detonic for everyone!

Metal Disco

Detonic Recordings


"These Carbon-Composite Poles Are Made For Walkin’" C37 (Strategic Tape Reserve)

Though I’d only had the utmost pleasure of hearing STR alums moduS ponY and Jöns before, I knew I was in for a treat when receiving this compilation tape for review. The wrist sweatband included bewildered me, big time, but reading the J-Card’s liner notes for clues yielded one hell of an A-Ha moment: this tape is curated specifically for fucking pole-walkers! Yes! Interspersed throughout these 19 tracks of Left-Field Electronica, Glitch, Ambient-Noise, Industrial & Vaporwavy goodness are several Nordic Walking gurus waxing philosophical in Swedish & Engrish!

Barring a lone, beat-heavy indie-folk number, the rest of the non-inspirational-speech tracks on this tape set a disorientingly stumbly pace for the flexy-caned urban-hiker to pensively perambulate to, their mani(a)cally upbeat rhythms frequently sputtering and disappearing amidst swirling modular synth work, warbled loops, heavily processed samples, and layered texture upon noise upon mystery.

If you know nothing of Nordic Walking culture and/or simply want to hear some tunes that’ll get your athletic swagger on, do study the link below!

--Jacob An Kittenplan

"Unschuld Und Verwüstung" C50
(Fish Prints Inc)

A cursory surface listening to “Unschuld und Verwüstung” will likely find you drawing comparisons to some slower jams by Eleanor-heavy Fiery Furnaces and maybe Ann Steel (with Roberto Cacciapaglia), and you wouldn’t be wrong. Like, at all. However, neither of those aforementioned goddesses sing in German, nor do they evoke even a sliver of the broodiness that Barbara Morgenstern consistently conjures up throughout this dark electro/chamber(ish) pop album.

Through droning bass accordion arrangements, modular synth/piano melodies, grooving drum machine syncopations, left-field accents (xylophone, apocalyptic guitar feedback, harp, & brass to name a few), & dedicated studio mixing wizardry, BM kicks out a diverse collection of get-down-able midnight dance floor jams & moody mantras to nod along to.

&a strapping of good headphones reveal will reveal a whole other rich, inner world, with countless details buried deep, deep, deep in the mix that won’t get heard without concertedly tracking them down.  Happy hunting! Hell yeah, Fish Prints Inc!

--Jacob An Kittenplan

ZIYAD “Compost regrowth”
(Hear Now Records)

Ah the Earth. Nature. Sounds. Music. Ziyad takes you home to our Mother who is Nature. This might be the soundtrack to Planet Earth III where instead of animals chasing each other trying to kill and swallow up their prey, we have all those little and big guys prancing around in perfect harmony. The lion and the lamb. The whale and whaler. Close your eyes and see all the magic of the world float up before in perfect little swells before the petals of multicolored flowers float up in rainbow bursts before they couple, part and become something new—a giraffe or pink pig or fuzzy lil caterpillars that gutslide over dew dappled roses sparkling in the morning sun. But then, by night, things begin to decay, like a stop motion of a rotting fox swelling, filling with maggots who then devour the carrion and replace it with rich soil that will eventually spring up a peach tree. Ah but there’s more. Much more. Soon these nature imagines turn human, especially when we hear LADY MIDNIGHT sing those POP melodies. God this tape is LUSH. DREAMY. and REAL. Real good. Real music. Natural music. Ahhh yes, this tape is for you because it is for anybody.

-Ricky Lemonseed

TENDER MERCY “Leave Little Room” (Obsolete Media Objects)

Nocturnal reveries in the vein of minimal Radiohead compositions. Mark Kramer has cultivated a distinctive singer/songwriter style, a black, evocative character, preferring the shadows to the light. His voice haunts the spare guitar notes like an utter specter. Songs like these play over the end credits of drama films that have faded to black following some sort of traumatic event.

The Tender Mercy tape is packaged beautifully in folded cardstock, like an invitation to some midnight affair or strange ritual. Accept it, know that it’s your destiny, and arrive promptly at the given hour. Your life may depend on it.

Tender Mercy

Obsolete Media Objects


“Pieza Para Guitarra Afinada”
C90 (Pilgrim Talk)

“Piece for Tuned Guitar,” which is how you say “Pieza Para Guitarra Afinada” in English (I had no idea), is exactly what to expect from Cristián Alvear over the course of these 90 minutes. The guitarist patiently allows his careful “melodic cells” to settle and grow within themselves, his acoustic plucking a study in discipline and focus. Drawing from Erik Satie’s “Vexations,” Alvear presents a single 90-minute piece that unfolds like clockwork.

But that all sounds like promo copy doesn’t it? What it doesn’t say is Alvear’s playing is hypnotic, likely to put you into a deeply meditative state if you’re so inclined or not careful enough. I was once hypnotized at a Renaissance Faire, and I believe I was made to act like some barnyard animal or another. (I had seen the show before, so I was aware of what could POSSIBLY happen.) I hope Alvear does not have any nefarious tricks up his sleeve, because I will certainly NOT eat weird things or pretend I’m an airplane or wet myself in public again.

Haha, did I say “again”? I meant “ever.”

But if someone drops Satie’s name in reference to their work, I’m in. This is a long damn tape, I’ll give you that, but it’s absolutely mesmerizing. Prepare yourself for some deep listening before you pop this one in, and set your tape player on auto reverse, because I have a feeling if you simply let it go, over and over, you’ll get to some pretty interesting places in your mind. Give it a shot, let me know how it goes.

Cristián Alvear

Pilgrim Talk



"Ashenden" C37
(Muzan Editions)

Everybody knows there are no noteworthy ghost societies here on Earth. There simply aren’t enough Hydrogen and Helium molecules packed together for them to maintain any kind of serious purchase in our atmosphere…at least not for any reasonable amount of time. Negatory. No. All ghosts (consciously neutrino-based) live out their most comfortable, free lives floating about within the miasmic clouds of Jupiter and Saturn, where they commute along well-traversed wind-tunnels carved out (much like deer trails for terrestrial dwellers) through eternally restless hazes of varying Noble Gas concentrations.

&it is along these trusty routes that the melancholic solar-windsong of Lee Noble can be heard, his otherworldly minor synth-swells colliding and infusing like muted hobo-banshees in the night, his counter-textures rumbling, gaseous leagues below, transmitting intermittent shockwaves through the airs, his violently persnickety gales of static careening and screeching to dead haults, just outside the “walls” of these cavernous paths.

This tape is one helluva soundtrack for watching the Cosmos series and/or reading Ray Bradbury to, at Any volume!

--Jacob An Kittenplan

CHELSEA BRIDGE “Jo” (American Damage)

Heartbreaking in its naked emotionality, resolute in its momentum, Chelsea Bridge’s “Jo” is a grinding slab of elegance in its ability to combine difficulty with euphoria.

“People think butterflies are pretty and powerless. … It’s not easy, destroying your home to spread your wings.”

Change is a constant on “Jo,” but slow change, chrysalis change, a complete reformation of body and soul and mind. Life ceases to resemble what it was. Endless cycles promise endless possibility.

Chelsea Bridge harnesses the power of ceaseless change and puts it to perfect use: as philosophical introspection put to music, a fascinating study of identity and belonging. Strap on headphones and evolve along with the rest of us.

American Damage


UTICA "Self Titled" C53 (Life Like)

This is one hell of a release to take mid-afternoon naps in the shade to! Just imagine yourself a stoned catfish, lazily hunting crawdads along a mildly murky stretch of the Mississippi River floor, those pesky mudclouds sporadically rolling along, masking the occasional errant pebble’s excited travel downstream, those gentle knocks on the nose waking you up just enough to see a tentative antenna searching out some water-striders. Carpe diem! In a decade or two, that li’l crayguy’s crawgrandchildren’ll be feasting on your decaying remains, so nosh while the sloshing’s good!

Ann Arbor’s UTICA manage to churn up a deceptively simple-yet-blissful haze of New Age ambiance along the shallow riverbanks of droning minimalism. With blurry, bassy piano arpeggios that wax & wane in & out of focus (think mid-tempo parts of La Monte Young’s “The Well-Tuned Piano”) just below major-key feedback and e-bowed guitar meanderings, it’s easy to get lost in trying to track just where the synths end and the strings start, but why bother? 98% of this long, slow-burner is consonantly euphoric, with only a faint, sporadic minor-key visitation that passes quickly without leaving any moody aftertaste. Pretty brilliant stuff!

--Jacob An Kittenplan

LLARKS “Metallic Summer Sea” (self-released)

The ocean is made of heavy metals, dense with molecules, shifting in tides and currents, washing on shores blasted with solar radiation. Crystals twinkle in daylight, casting alien prisms as far as the eye can see. An unending bombardment of energy from the nearest star constantly makes and remakes the genetic code here, the physics hurtle and change at near unimaginable rates. Yet summer is still summer, technically, even though from a human perspective it resembles nothing of the sort – in fact, nothing even remotely like anything a human has encountered before. 

Llarks bristles with unearthly static and emanates melody imbued with friction. It is a calming presence as well as a mysterious one. It is constantly in motion yet deceptively still. It envelops and infiltrates yet is observable from a distance. Encounter its hallucinatory state and focus your full attention on becoming overwhelmed. You will not be disappointed.



SALMARI “Agnosia” C28
(Black Ring Rituals Records)

Side A of the tape, a single track called “Revenge Bidding,” starts as a confluence of recorded voices and drones that rises from a hectic crucible of sound and gradually stretches out, becoming a chant-like pulse. Colorful and contrasting patterns follow, from synthesized tones to tangles of noise to peaceful sustain. This track is restless but never in a hurry, though it covers much space.

Side B, “Chasm / Fuck Whole Foods,” includes distorted vocals alongside industrial clanks and ringing. The side begins with a Gregorian chant-y reciting of the line “I will always be alone,” that repeats and builds in trancelike progression. The piece develops gradually and elongates as it continues, becoming ethereal and drifting, a sonic mist covering the metallic clanging below. The vocals on this side really bring the various other elements together (and the other elements are various, from prepared piano to metallic churnings). There are portions of warped and twisting vocal samples, sung and spoken lyrics, and consolatory whispers. Overall, this music is very enjoyable and diverse, an interesting ride throughout.

--P. Karras     

ANDY BIRTWISTLE "Chewed" C40 (Start Here)

“Chewed” is to be experienced as an academic artifact documenting the mortality of fidelity as lived by a descending and ascending sine wave trapped in magnetized tape, from 10Khz to 40hz, and vice-versa. Read the bandcamp bio for the manifesto.

My neighbors (and their pets) fucking hate me for playing this on the livingroom stereo.

--Jacob An Kittenplan

“Moments Without People in Them”
(Dormant Tapes)

Moments Without People in Them, aptly dedicated to the late dog Bill, takes us on a journey through the atmospheres of a dog’s happy brain. Pulses of sweet peaceful ambience carry simple melodies into the wind and the wind takes these sounds to places unknown, undiscovered, where people have not yet trespassed, but trespass they will as soon as these sounds are heard! The album is a dream, reminiscent of brain waves. It must be these are the sounds that are heard when no sound can be heard. The gentle humming of our nervous and circulatory systems. The swift invisible current that exists only in the deepest depths of the ocean. Bubbles coming up from the core of the earth, from the core of the dog’s brain. Bill was an old dog, at least this music seems to capture his later, more sedentary years. We watch feathers and leaves float through the air’s calming breeze. They captivate us but that captivation is subtle and easy on the eyes, a sunset without the sun—as the cover [of this album] portrays. Get it and listen to the somniferous waves carry you away deep into your own consciousness where endless discoveries of new nostalgias bless your thoughtless thoughts.

-Ricky Lemonseed

"Fluid Electric" C40
(Ingrown Records)

Ambient-Electronica sound-collagist Andrew Dickey’s newest endeavor (as Corsica Annex) picks up where his former projects, Lent and Eigenface (and a whole host of others, really), left off, but this time, with a finely-honed focus on subtle transitions and mixing, eschewing all rhythmic energies for more minute, atonal texture metamorphosii and sleight-of-hand mood shifts. Which is to say, AD has upped the ambient stream-of-conscious editing game Big Time here. The hallucinatory result plays like a repetition-less Chad VanGaalen animation, where a simple walk in the woods incrementally involves daydreamy vignettes of visiting all our neighboring planets’ equivalents of tree-lined bogs. Perfect zone-out soundtrack on the stereo, but truly mesmerizing when played loud, through good headphones! More please!

--Jacob An Kittenplan

CONSCIOUS SUMMARY “Exhaustions” C32 (Skin Trade)

Samur Khouja left Los Angeles for India one day, spending a month on the road there before returning home and recording “Exhaustions,” which he conceived on his journey. I, on the other hand, went to California for a wedding for six days and returned home and did basically nothing. I guess I listened to Conscious Summary. Wrote about it a bit.

Having clearly proven that Khouja has a more drive one single pinkie finger than I do in my whole body, I now turn to “Exhaustions” itself, three tracks composed for synthesizer and voice that overtake your attention. The tracks hover there, like landscape covered in fog, and move in slow motion, punctuated here and there by bursts of noise and shrouded in a sort of orchestral ambience. It’s a bit creepy, I’ll give it that, and it sounds perfect right about now in the days leading up to Halloween.

But “Exhaustions” isn’t a “Halloween” record – it’s much more of a mood piece, and connecting it to Khouja’s Indian jaunt is important. In it you can hear the weariness of experience and interaction, as well as the intrigue of traveling through and discovering new places. Eyes widen and dim in the ebbs and flows of an endless voyage. It’s all here – the full experience. (Re)live it with Conscious Summary.

Skin Trade


“Annihilate Your Masters”
(WEATNU Records)

I used to LOVE netlabels, especially the ones that trafficked exclusively in ambient, electronic, and post rock. The best ones combined all three. Ten years has now passed since I so eagerly dug into that stuff. Ten long years… But hey! Here’s Whettman Chelmets to bring the whole thing back around, full circle, and rekindle my love for that heady brew of the one-person-that-sounds-like-a-full-band recording project. “Annihilate Your Masters” is a sensory treat.

Not content to simply bludgeon or drift, Chelmets deftly combines elements of rock and electronics (and even musique concrète – check out “Preparation [Thesis]”) into an instrumental package layered with nuance. The distorted guitars are leavened by drum machines, and starry passages (like “Inevitable Synthesis”) offer intriguing counterpoint. Chelmets sometimes even comes off like early Godspeed, especially on “Resignation (New Thesis. Seeds of Preparation),” where disembodied voices speak over heavily treated solo guitar. In fact, with the Hegel quote that adorns the tape and the themes of “servitude, inevitability, and resignation” peppering the recording (not to mention the image on the cover of the person sleeping in the urban daytime), it’s no wonder I’ve pinned that comparison on here.

“Annihilate Your Masters” is a great reintroduction to all that bleak, apocalyptic stuff I never thought would hit me this hard again. But don’t worry, it’s not all bleak – come for some bombast, stay for the glowing, dreamlike passages!

Whettman Chelmets

WEATNU Records


(Magnetic South Recordings)

Total fucking shredders, man, both of ‘em.

I distinctly remember Losing My Shit while meditating to Tyler Damon’s last release on MSR, “Cloud That Passes, Cloud That Stays” a few years ago, and it looks like he hasn’t let up a single bpm.

With both musicians sharing the initials TD (and about a half-dozen collaborative releases together), this hyper-driven frenetic duet could easily assume the moniker Total Destruction, were they not equally as capable of dynamically delivering nuanced interplays, on-the-hush, as well. Dorji’s unique approach to looping a drone background whilst exploring improv dissonance is ever present, and, as always, met with Damon’s complimentary creative, percussive attack (I’m pretty sure he’s giving a manual typewriter a Serious Workout at one point), fluidly employing warp-speed fills, blastbeats, head/cymbal scraping, and rattlesnake-like shakers, to name but a few techniques he’s mastered.

This particular collaboration finds them all the better at trading off freak-out duties, letting the other build up a good frothing mouth before joining in on the rapid-fire, howl-at-the-moon madness.

--Jacob An Kittenplan

“Afraid of Death”
(American Damage)

Am I afraid of death?

I don’t know. I used to be. Then I used to not be. Then I was afraid of the pain involved in dying, and the more I imagined that, the more I became afraid of death again.

No, wait – so that makes me definitely afraid of pain, but it doesn’t answer the initial question.

So am I afraid of death? I don’t know! Probably.

Jordan Reyes slips us into his worldview through this “collection of songs and sounds in pursuit of permanence,” although just what “permanence” means as you confront the rest of time is up for debate. These song- and sound collage–based mediations open up various avenues for contemplation, of mortality, of relationships, of meaning. What could be an overwrought concept quickly overcomes any indication of heavy-handedness, as Reyes allows the passages and the spaces they contain to convey mood without browbeating you with forced perspective.

Even the songs themselves – haunted folk numbers – feel properly in place as the tape unfolds. “In Memoriam” closes the cassette with reverence, as it sounds like the entire track is a field recording of an actual funeral service. Does it help me feel better about myself as I contemplate eternity? I … still have no idea.

American Damage


ALEX CUNNINGHAM “Fiddle” (Personal Archives)

When your cassette album, called “Fiddle,” opens with the only track whose “self-imposed constraint [is] ‘improvise a fiddle tune,’” what else is there even left to do? I’m just gonna stop writing about it right here, because “Fiddle,” the track, is a hoe-down stomper of the highest caliber, and if you know me, you know that “hoe-down stomper” is a code word for “catnip” around these parts.

OK, that’s not even partially true (the fact that the track is awesome is, though), but “Fiddle,” the album, shifts from moments of almost antagonistic improvisation (hear the bow grind the strings on “Rest Area”!) to graspable propulsion (hear the sawed strings rev like an engine on “Rest Area”!), yanking your attention speakers-ward with its ever-changing virtuosity. Alex Cunningham’s released some pretty great records recently, with the solo “Ache” and also “Parlance” as part of the Vernacular String Trio dropping on Personal Archives within the past two years. “Fiddle” continues his exploration of the titular instrument (or “violin” for those of you who don’t happen to live in some Appalachian barrens somewhere), running through eleven tracks of violent dissonance that are as weird as they are wondrous.

And I’m not lost on the closeness of the phonology of “violins” / “violence.” It was a conscious choice. (I see you, Eddie Vedder.)

Is Alex Cunningham better than Antonio Vivaldi? No, but no one has ever suggested that (at least that I know of). But there’s lots to like here with “Fiddle,” so get crackin’ on listenin’ while swiggin’ that moonshine on yr back porch. Or, uh, don’t do that, and sit in rapt attention in front of a $20,000 stereo system instead. It’s really up to you.

Alex Cunningham

Personal Archives


“Beyond Faded / Morning Tinnitus”
(Self Released)

The slow bubbling of machine with frayed belts coughs up spew and dirge as the traffic of trains pass through ghosts who are tied to the rails with phantom ropes. We hear them howling but the howls are whispers, subdued, quiet and unafraid. The train runs over the ghosts and the calm comes. In the distance a buzzsaw saws and things fall from their shelves without being touched. A bottle breaks, the vacuum vacuums the vacuous air as the sound waves of LATHER float through and become whispers of another time. And then soon? there is music. A horn blows softly over rocky terrain. Strings are scratched without being plucked. A cassette player runs in fast forwarded, slows down, stops and rewinds. Swells of sound bloom and die. Are we at an industrial warehouse? Is there a party after? And then … the cinema! and … click, the tape stops and you are worried you did not hear enough but fear not for you remember there is still side two.

Quieter, just as haunted. A whirring of string sounds cannot tell which direction to go so they move back and forth in a frenzy without managing to leave. Like a bug undecided buzzing in the green sky of dusk. A signal emerges as signal noise, beeps beeps beeps and the clangor of a bell, harsh and sweet, calls our attention to something else. But what is it? What is it calling? I cannot tell. Yet the bell tolls and tolls. It is a church bell or a bell at home or school? Wherever it may be, the bell is haunted, no doubt. Listening is an experience. There is much going on and we want to put our finger on all of it. Yet. And yet we cannot. Things slow down. Time slows down and passes. Listen, can you hear the time passing? Keep listening for soon it will pass and leave us to flip the tape once again in an endless cycle of noise

-Ricky Lemonseed

“Quoniam Facta Sum Vilis” (Astral Spirits)

As track 2, “And the Deep Indoors,” shuddered to a close, I wasn’t sure if the vibrations were coming from my speakers or from outside; there’s construction in the development behind our house, and we can feel the rumble throughout the day.

Such is the visceral experience of Brandon Lopez’s “Quoniam Facta Sum Vilis,” which translates to “FOR I HAVE BECOME VILE IN THE EYES OF THE LORD” (all caps my addition for effect). That’s an insanely damning self-appraisal. To wallow in abjection is to truly plumb the depths for inspiration. How’d our friend Lopez do?

But first, I’m gonna bounce some promo copy off you for a minute, just to get the descriptive stuff out of the way: the “virtuoso bassist” created “Quoniam Facta Sum Vilis,” “in part, as an answer to the musical ‘reason’ of the Bach cello suites. … [He intended to compose] something florid and beautiful from the violent and erratic and to deny the supremacy of the wrote in favor of the intuitive.” So, it’s improvised. The Astral Spirits way.

We answer our earlier question with, “Pretty well, actually.” Cello’s not a solo instrument with a wide spectrum of sonic possibilities, yet I find myself transfixed to the unusual approach Lopez is taking with it. Instead of fluid passages, Lopez juts and jags around the strings, ratcheting up the tension and not really letting us off with any less than a rattled feeling. It’s constantly interesting (not that the Lord would find any of this amusing), and you never know what’s going to happen next. And all this with a cello! I’ll never make fun of bass players again.

And what the heck is going on at the beginning of “Gruppo”? Are those shrieks? A power drill? Add that to the construction symphony outside my window – it can join in with the bulldozers and excavators.

Brandon Lopez

Astral Spirits


“Ressemblera” C38 (Astral Spirits)

Don’t you get it by this point? If it’s on Astral Spirits, it’s all improvised!

East of the Valley Blues is the Toronto-based twin-brother acoustic guitar duo of Kevin and Patrick Cahill. You know there’s some serious mind-melding going on here, Spock style – I mean, these guys shared a womb, for crying out loud! In fact, I’d go so far to suggest that East of the Valley Blues is the greatest sibling operation this side of the Bacon Brothers, and THAT’S saying something.

“Ressemblera” is a dusty desert monument like Devil’s Tower or some shit. There are two tracks – the title track lasts thirty-two minutes, and you can sure gaze at some big sky in the night as you sit around your campfire listening to this play (if you’ve left enough room in your backpack for a tape player, that is). At once gorgeous and tense, relaxing and driven, “Ressemblera” the song shifts and changes while remaining squarely in the Fahey/Basho idiom throughout, the guitars becoming living creatures that take form as constellations and swirl in a cosmic dance before your eyes. “Reassemblera” continues this dance for six more minutes, an encore before you curl up in your sleeping bag to let the universe brightly swirl through your dreams.

The Cahills are a wonderful addition to the Astral Spirits roster, and their work here is unmatched. Buy two tapes today!

East of the Valley Blues

Astral Spirits