TATERBUG: “Boys of the Feather” c20 (Night People)

The directions that come with this tape instruct the listener to “play loud on weed”. I didn’t actually do either of those things, I just sort of laid on my bed and stared at branches out the window, reels spinning at normal volume, which worked out fine all the same. What first attracted me to this was Shawn Reed’s killer jack-o-skeleton cover art, but on “Boys of the Feather”, Iowa City’s most prominent resident dead head, the Taterbug, creepy crawls his way over a handful of songs of light chimes, Jefferson Airplane tape vacations, and Daniel Johnston-esque balladry. I make the comparison due to it sounding as if it was recorded directly to an old boombox just like Johnston’s early recordings, and when the Taterbug decides to sing, he wails just the same way, especially on the title track as he plucks away at what sounds like a one-string guitar. I’m pretty sure he even sits down at a chord organ at one point. Now, I’m not trying to make a DIRECT comparison between the two here, I know it sounds like I am, but I’m not, I swear (tugs collar). Although the execution is relatable, this really is in a world of it’s own, a world of sunny fields and floppy felt hats, unshaven armpits and really nice dogs. You guessed it, it’s a hippy dream, the kind of psychedelic that just trips out naturally without a million effects pedals and an 18-ft. high TV screen. I want to hug this guy, I want to hang out with this guy. Simplistic songs, bedroom brilliance at it’s best, and a great way to get ready for summer. Also, look out for his upcoming work with Ryan Garbes in the garage-pop band, Dunebuggy.

Comes with silkscreen J-card and xeroxed inserts in an edition of 100.


DANIEL HIGGS: “Devotional Songs of Daniel Higgs” c90 (Open Mouth)

Listening to this made me realize that every time a current folk singer’s songs are described as hymns, that it’s incredibly unfounded. On “Devotional Songs”, Daniel Higgs actually has a song that repeats the word “amen” with the same structure as any you might hear in church. There are really a lot of lyrical concepts covered here, including things like outer space, the universe, and religion, all of which are incredibly deep, none of which I understand, so I won’t attempt to write about them. This isn’t an unappreciated confusion though, it piques the curiosity and creates the desire to interpret, at least for one’s self.

Higgs primarily uses banjo and guitar (and organ on one occasion) and, this is going to sound cliche, I know, but his ululating voice really does act as it’s own instrument, running a gamut of ranges that would never make sense on paper over his lightning fast finger-picking. Incredibly long (well over an hour), and modestly recorded, at one point even talking to the listener as he pauses to open a window, this is basically a wet dream for the Harry Smith of the future. I was never really interested in his previous band, Lungfish, but after hearing this, I think it’s time to visit the back catalog of this modern-day mystic.

Comes with color labels and insert.


GULLWING: s/t c20 (Basement Tapes)

I want to start this by writing about the packaging for this tape. It’s kind of a bummer. It doesn’t stack, it doesn’t shelve, and no one I know has the kind of table space to set aside for items like this. I like handmade stuff as much as the next person, and I appreciate the effort put into this, but not only does it not close, but the tape doesn’t even fit into it properly, hence the copious amounts of string and glue. There’s creative, and then there’s unreasonable.

That being said, the actual music within is a whole different matter. Baltimore’s Bryan Rhodes, half of the Cutest Puppy in the World, creates a very strange listen that I’m not positive about on execution, whether it’s all original work or edited from other sources or both, which I guess is the point as it’s described as “musique concréte”, layering thick clouds of electroacoustic sound. Side A is heavy on the strings and, unable to separate the band name and the music, I couldn’t shake the image of a seagull fighting to maintain stable flight in a coastal wind storm, the same kind of din made by the crashing waves in “Fantasia”. The sound stays pretty consistent throughout, whereas side B is a smooth, gradual change of jazz forms starting with more eclectic, improvisational works and then slowly sliding into an “adult contemporary”, NPR-safe style, while a foundation of upright bass laces it all together. Worth checking out if you already have a series of gallery pedestals or a curio cabinet to keep your folk art in.


GRASSHOPPER "Kindertotenlieder" c22 (Baked Tapes)

I don't know if you call it serendipity or 'the noise scene being tiny' but just saw these guys played live out here in western mass and really enjoyed it, got a few tapes from Jesse who runs Baked Tapes outta new york and when I got home I said "should listen to some cassette gods jams" and sure enough, top of the damn pile, there's a tape by these guys. Jammed the tape and, though different from their live set, still really enjoyed it.

Grasshopper is a duo both using trumpet and electronics and though brass / wind instruments have been establishing some pretty solid footing in the 'noise' scene the last few years, these guys approach it less from the lineage of free jazz. Well, that's probably not fair at all but they apply a lot less skronk to their palate amd in some parts there are even suggestions of melody or at least the phrasing is consistent enough that you know there's a rhyme to their crime and for me it was a great combination. The timbre of a couple of fucked up inharmonious horns mixed with the 'warmth' of their electronics (which it seemed was often sourced from their horns) was a solid match.

I'm sort of writing interchangeably about their live show and tape because the cumulative effect was similar though it's worth mentioning that the tape is a bit more subdued and the listening is a little more long form. Good stuff both on magnetic tape and in yr face, check em out if possible.

Real nice 'metal' artwork and lettering printed black on vellum.
Not up on the Baked Tapes site yet, but check back or just write to him!

and their myspace for some sound clips, etc.

REVERSE MOUTH "Wizard of porks / Garbage Empress" c24 (Deep Fried Tapes)

Remember in thriller when Vincent Price says "Darkness rolls across the land" and the music has been mixed down a bit and tightened up with the bass line carrying the song? He goes on and on about the bugs and dying and everything and it's awesome because it's Vincent Price and Thriller is like the most popular record ever and Michael Jackson is spooning a fuggin TIGER on the cover. Well, what would have ruled more is if Vincent Price said all that stuff and then the music faded away and this tape came on, full focus, right up the noise nose into the listener's mind space and maybe Reverse Mouth could have just illustrated what vincent was saying, people decaying, worms crawling in my eyeballs and all the while this totally tense and not-necessarily jarring, but really really uneasy music just carried the listener back to the zombie dance. That shit woulda been extra scary, and it woulda been dope to be in Reverse Mouth because you could be like "i made the music to the breakdown in thriller, yeah, you know, the really intense and scary part." Also, it'd be dope to be in Reverse Mouth because you'd be in a good band.

Printed in an edition of 50, still available from the label,
which it's worth noting, has a TON of great stuff out.

THE JAGUAR "Primal Dimension" c30? (Sky Fi Industries)

First off, I have to say that a name like "The Jaguar" for a band is bordering on daring. You remember the trend among avant-indie groups a while back to drop "the" from their animal band name specifically because it got ANNOYING and a million people were doing it, not necessarily because the bands were awesome. That's one reason you notice the conspicuous "The" at the beginning. The article is also significant because it suggest that this dude is THE singular, all powerful, not to be reckoned with Jaguar, unlike any other non-descript jungle animal. This dude is a definite article!

Anyway, this tape is a good listen, though it doesn't stand out like Clint Eastwood does if here were named something like "The Jag." Allusions to Eastwood are probably misleading anyways considering this tape has a definite 'sci-fi' vibe to it. You can totally picture the b-movie 'control panel' flashing and some dude in a spray painted jump suit forcing a frightened "i can't control her!" out. Though not to relegate this tape to the bloopy, semi-synth space station- there's a lot more going on.

The first side has some nice gargled voice moments and a real nice horn section / electronics on opium vibe wraps it up; also notable is what sounds like electronics if you could play them with a bottleneck slide. The second side is a lot thicker and artery clogged, sounds not so much like burning yr bridges as it does letting off a smoke bomb at the baby shower.

Black and white covers on yellow paper, yellow transparent tapes.
Edition of 125, still available from the label:

THE DEAD BARON: “The Great Tape Escape” c20 (Wheaton Records)

The familial bass & drum duo of Stevo and Marcus Lazcano riff out on this single song per side display of headbangerage. And when I say riff, I mean RIFF. These guys entrench themselves into a groove and they stick to it. I’m not exactly saying that it’s a good thing, to be honest, the songs don’t really seem to go anywhere. The assumed vocals are nearly inaudible and the the drums tend to overpower the entire recording. Also, it’s actually only about 16 minutes long, with about four minutes of silence after the first track, and with titles like “Art is Dead” and “Noise on the March”, it tends to give off a sneaking dispostion of being sort of uninspired. I’m not saying that all of these are shortcomings either, I can see this being a really great live show, harkening to the bump’n’thud of something like Olneyville Sound System. I’m uncertain, but I also think this is their first formal release, so although it leaves a little to be desired, they still have plenty of time to develop their sound. We’re already tapping our feet, that’s gotta be half the battle.

Comes with B&W xerox insert, limited edition of 50 copies.


SHEP & ME/CAETHUA: s/t split

I don’t actually know who put this out, how long it is, or anything like that. Dan Beckman handed it to me and there’s no indentifying marks except for who is on it and on which side, that’s it. Nonetheless, I’m going to try and write about it as cohesively as possible. Both of these artists currently hail from Belfast, Maine and although they both can be described as “experimental folk” (for the sake of putting names on things), there’s definitely enough of a contrast between the two, with Shep’s caterwaul opposite Caethua’s ambience, to make for an interesting listen.

Shep and Me is the identity of Matthew Himes and friends, howling balladry over low-volume, fuzzed-out guitars, dogs barking, and electronics rattling. Himes’ voice is gruff yet high-pitched, warm and inviting, like a campfire, you want to be near it, but certainly not in it. This is full-on campfire music, sitting on picnic tables underneath the canopy on a scout trip.

Caethua is Clare Hubbard, who can also be seen in the improv noise band D.B.H. and her own totally fucked rap act, Sports. Although she shows her incredible singer/songwriter chops on both piano and acoustic guitar in this format, she doesn’t leave the noise behind, connecting all of her songs into one long track with garbled organics of birds singing and water boiling (at least that’s what it sounds like).

Comes with a one-color silkscreen insert. I don’t know where you can find it, but I think this might actually be a preview of songs to be put on an LP or something in the future. That’s totally unfounded, but keep your ear to the ground because it’s worth hunting for.

This has in fact been released on LP here in the future world of 2011. check out Himes' label, Lighten Up Sounds - Ed.


HITTY TITTY: “Wee Tee Kah Way Loh” c21 (self-released)

Incredibly cermonial in its execution, Hitty Titty sounds like a Victorian era tea party dance ritual performed by powder poofs affected by years of inbreeding, frolicking in rich, feathered costume, deformed but dedicated.

Molly Colleen O’Connell is a musician/illustrator living in Baltimore and, this being her first formal outing, I think there’s a lot to look forward to from her. Using gentle electronics and baroque yodeling, she weaves a delicate and brief birdsong reminiscent of acts like Lucky Dragons and Lexie Mt. Boys which, for a first recording, is mind-blowing. Superior production and killer packaging (you get all that you see above) make for an incredibly enjoyable listen with tons of replay value. You’ll be flippin’ this one all day long.

http://www.lostghostsrecords.com/ (in the distro section)

AMBERGRIS: “Anti-Matter Alma Mater” (Potlatch, I Gather Tapes)

To continue with George’s theme of label debuts, along comes Matthew Thurber’s Potlatch, I Gather, a tape label dedicated to releasing “books on tape”, radio-play type stories with musical backgrounds of Thurber’s own creation. This first release was used as the soundtrack to an art exhibit of the same name done in collaboration with Rebecca Bird and appearing in both Switzerland and Brooklyn last year. It follows the story of a character named Charles who returns to his old school, the Carrot University of Time Travel, for a class reunion. He begins talking to an old classmate and former girlfriend, a twin made of crystal, who tries to jog his amnesia-affected memory of his past, but he continues to only draw a blank as his frontal lobe has been stolen, presumably by a third, malcontented classmate. With bells and chimes reminiscent of Dungeons & Dragons audio adventures, and Thurber’s distinct brand of Beefheart calypso, he spins this tale of desperation on side one. But on side two, entitled “Wormhole”, he stays strictly musical and details through his lyrics how, as he writes, “the same characters find themselves trapped in a Wormhole for all eternity, due to poor study skills”. Although the overlaps of voices can become confusing at times, the story is still relatively straightforward and, being adept at keyboard, ukulele, and saxophone, the composition of the music proves itself as remarkably proficient.

If you still can’t follow the story, you can pick up one of his comics, which oftentimes contain stories involving the same characters and concepts from Picturebox books. If you still can’t figure out what’s going on after that, I don’t know what to tell you.

Comes with xerox insert and paint pen, hand-decorated tapes.


SWORD OF THE ANCIENT: “head of the tide” (Trd W/d)

Just as a cold wind whispers secrets in your ear, standing in an abandoned, but not yet dilapidated house that you wandered into through the woods in your backyard, such is Sword of the Ancient. Kristen Myers and Amy Moon O.S., both members of Uke of Spaces Corners County, head out on their own with these ghost moans and dulcet tones, like a femalular Russian Tsarlag, seemingly there to scare, but actually apparitioning just to comfort and maybe tell a story or two. Like white witches singing siren spells, every instrument on this tape has a voice. I’ve never heard a violin speak with such tragic loss. Drum drones and chants lull you into a dream and have you singing their incantations like “pencil, pencil, paper” and “I’m going to talk and talk until my face falls off” long afterward.

I’m unsure of the actual length, but it’s LONG, eight songs per side, a really full listen, bang for your buck (if you want to put it that way). Comes with xeroxed insert in clear poly box.

P.O. Box 286
Belfast, ME

BLUE SABBATH BLACK FIJI: “The Night Hawk” c30 (Dokuro)

French guitar duo, now living in Ireland, BSBF are a psychedelic onslaught of tropical space bananas, both shredding and surfing their six-strings over an erlenmeyer flask full of rainbow waves. Side A alternates between Star Trek red alerts and galactic steel drums, bouncing dissonance and disco Cylons, while side B is a more direct endeavor of Sonic Youth-riffs over grunged-up drum machine, closing your eyes and doing head circles to take your chi outside and stretch it’s muscles. A vivid and varied listen without traveling too far out of it’s own solar system.

Comes with full-color wraparound covers and labels, sold out from Dokuro, but should still be available from various distros. With a number of tapes and CD-Rs under their belt, and more on the way, you can definitely find something by them somewhere on the World Wide Web.


NO SOUND: “Gay KK” dbl-cs (Feeding Tube Records)

No Sound’s Ted Lee self-releases the soundtrack to his new movie, “Gay KK”, a menacing onslaught of cut-ups and reflections with the ongoing symbol of a pink triangle-shaped mask. Lee is an incredible documentarian, taping nearly every live show in Western Massachusetts, but here we find him picking up on the subtleties of the everyday objects that surround him and showing how an idea as simple as talking on the phone next to a lake can be made into compelling filmmaking. This double cassette covers most, if not all of the ground covered in the movie, starting out with hypnotic accordion pumps and rapid-fire sound clips that are impressively epic in their arrangement, like a lo-fi “2001”. This is followed by a somewhat exhausting live set, only because of the calamitous recording not fully capturing all of the subtleties of his set-up of demon-fast drumming and ring modulated vocals. The guy really does have an incredible amount of energy.
Tape two takes more of a “straightforward” approach with Lee playing quizzical pop songs while jumping from instrument to instrument, including organ, guitar, drums, and even layered vocals. A satisfying portrayal of a confusing mind.
Comes in a white cassette album with color cover and sticker in an edition of 35. This might already be sold out, but he has a new GOLD vinyl LP, and you can see most of the film here, as well as an endless amount of other interesting footage. You can probably throw out your TV now.