TARAS BULBA: “Light Painter / Death Stalker” double a-side c45 (Scumbag Relations)

I usually get really frustrated when a musician creates countless guises for themselves and their various stylized sounds, it gets so damned confusing, and I worry that I'll miss something that I'll really like because I won't recognize where it's coming from. However, I’m starting to realize that as long as the parties involved are doing great work, it doesn’t matter what the hell they call themselves, we’re gonna figure out what’s going on eventually anyways. Rasmus Svensson is quickly becoming a big deal, not just in his native Sweden either, and not just as a musician, but also as a zine maker, a graphic/installation artist, and all while running his own label, Push the Button Multimedia. Normally working with his other bands Smycken, PWR, and Night Piano, this is the first I’ve heard from Taras Bulba (I’m assuming that the change of title was in service of the noisier, grittier sound) and it certainly didn’t disappoint. As the title dictates, there’s a definite progression between the songs from a place of safety to seriously dubious surroundings. Starting out with heavy flute echoes, adding organic percussion, followed by ominous electronics, and finally concluding in a serious guitar-psych run through the jungle. I find it interesting that he chose to break it up into songs over one long composition, but it in no way detracts, it almost listens like a math equation, it’s the science of interesting transition. A really great listen and the same program on both sides works in its favor too (no rewinding, heavy replay).

One-color silkscreen covers (either copper or blue), black tapes with brown spatter paint.


MAJIC EYES: s/t c20? (Eggy Records)

Okay, first, I have to talk about this label. Where the hell did it come from? We received three tapes in the mail from them, all good, all with killer design, colorful, and with a palatable universal composition (something I typically really like, a label “theme”). Turns out, they’re based in Portland, Oregon and have even started distributing tapes by mail order from other labels across the country as well. You get a distinct feeling that whoever is in charge is really enjoying the process involved in this, there’s serious love coming from this establishment even though it might just be getting it’s first legs.

The other tapes available are worth checking out, but I found this one to be the easiest to write about (which isn’t saying much, the general information on all this stuff is somewhat limited, either that or I’m just stupid). Basically, it’s a fella named Danny living in San Francisco making, as the label writes, “hazy pop of prime Elephant 6”. That’s definitely the quickest identifier of this music, simple chord progressions, ultra bright bass sounds, sometimes blown-out yet subtle recording, it’s like he heard the Neutral Milk Hotel records and said, “well, I don’t have a whole bunch of people who know how to play exotic horns or anything that can help me out with this, so I guess I’ll just do it myself”. And that he did, a really impressive and vivid album was made in this guy’s bedroom, for the first seven tracks, that is. The last is an extra long rambler outdoors (aptly titled “a midafternoon walk on prince to broadway in summer”), a real pleasant way to close this short introduction to something you can probably expect to hear a lot more about in the future. If this is your bag, definitely climb in.

Silkscreen covers, opaqe orange tapes with b&w labels


JAMISON WILLIAMS: “Onassis Project” c24 (Closet Sorcery)

This is another one that hit me out of left field, really had no idea what I was getting into. Williams seems to generally to stick to solo alto sax improvisation on most of his releases, which he’s more than proficient at alone, but on “Onassis Project”, we find him taking up the role of “sound manipulations” (as he’s credited), a seamless rapid-fire, cut-up blend of his sax, vocal howls, harsh electronics, and the occasional found sound sample. I’m really used to a “wacky” sound when it comes to this genre, but Williams barely scrapes the surface of that adjective (maybe once with a Hawaiian record) but, on the whole, this shit is TIGHT. It’s divided into five songs, but that seems like kind of a vain action since the composition is pretty universal throughout and, since it’s a tape, there’s no real way to tell the difference between them, but hey, it’s his right as the artist. All of the titles are seemingly related to Jackie O and her legacy in some way and the inserts feature pictures of political dignitaries or something that were assumedly important in her life. So I guess there’s your answer, it’s probably all really significant, and it’s just wasted on an uneducated nincompoop like me. Regardless, it’s a perfect length tape for what it’s worth, but good luck finding a copy out there in the ether, your best bet is to get ahold of the creator himself via his normal outlet:


ROM B: “Incomplete Disco” c74 (self-released)

ROM B is the dark techno identity of Virginian Billy Brett, here bringing together three of his albums, “My Kind of Country”, “Business As Usual”, and “ROM B” into an incomplete discography (hence the title) on one really long tape. With pounding bass beats, synth stabs, and generally violent lyrics sung in a weird post-industrial nasal style somewhere between Swans and Aphex Twin, you can tell there’s a cool sense of sadism behind the knobs, a serious microphone mangler. These 36 tracks (all recorded within the last year and a half) definitely give you a full idea of what this music is about, almost to the point of beating you over the head with it, like a double-length greatest hits. The electronics are pretty active and powerful, my favorite being an extra long instrumental song on side two, but the singing can be difficult to attach to throughout, the “scary” sometimes ranging on silly due to the production (or lack thereof as it winds down). It’s most effective when smothered with heavy delay, giving it less of a “I’m talking right at you” feel and allowing the brevity of the lyrics a little more breathing room. I think if this tape were cut in half I would enjoy it a lot more, it’s currently suffering from what I call “Thanksgiving syndrome”, or putting out every song all of the time, considering them as having universal quality instead of, as they say, “killing your babies”. Still, there’s always something to be said for prolificacy and boldness, and there’s definitely plenty of that within.

Edition of 25 on opaque, orange tapes with color copy insert.


"Turn of the Century Photograph"
(Unread Records) C30


UPDATE: 3/10/10 - I am pleased to announce that a handful of songs from this cassette will be coming out on Charlie's first release for Feeding Tube Records: "Country Creamed/Victorian Fog" LP.

I first heard Charlie McAlister on a mix tape. "What is this demented rockabilly jam with all that fucked up banjo"? Sounded straight out of a "God knows when" time vortex. "A Hasil Adkins outake"? "Oh this was made last year"? Cool! The next encounter was the song "Sleep Walking" from an obscure 7" from the once published Whump Magazine that also featured Caroliner and a bunch of other great 90's stuff. Even cooler! Pop music with absolutely crucial organ sound and reedy vocals. Thus began the search to aquire more of the records and tapes McAlister has made throughout the years, and continues to make to this day. Many of these remain in print.

I'm choosing to review the decade old "Turn of the Century Photograph" tape because it offers a solid introduction to the McAlister catalog. It doesn't go as far out as some of his more collage-based recordings, but it has some really amazing skewed-pop gems. "Bog Man" has a mummy coming back to life to terrorize a small village, "Girls in the Big Parade 1917" has a wonderful WWI feel, and "Plantation of Pain" is just pure postbellum magic. If you haven't figured it out yet, McAlister creates true American folk music. It is the way he twists old stories and symbols into nearly incomprehensible new versions that has made him a legend of underground music for the last couple decades. The tape also has a very long and bizarre play about fried sandwiches at the end of the B side.

When I finally met the man, outside of his "Fire Ant Mound" in Charleston, SC, he took me 45 minutes down some railroad tracks and then told me and my compadre that he was going to cut our heads off. C. McAlister has a thirst for blood and it shows in his desperate recordings and works of art, which all come highly recommended.

"Turn of the Century Photograph" available from
http://www.unread-records.com (catalog #12)

You can get much more of Charlie's work at his website:

AMBERGRIS "Sherlock Holmes and the Large Door" (Potlatch, I Gather) C20

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Ambergris is the solo project of comic artist Matthew Thurber, the saxophonist in the now- defunct new age jazz band, Soiled Mattress and the Springs. This tape is the follow up to the amazing (and sadly out of print) "Anti Matter Alma Mater". Like the previous album it has a "book on tape" feel, with soundtrack and sound effects.

The A side is the title piece; a surreal story from the unreleased Sherlock Holmes archives. The detective, who we find is prone to walking about "on all fours like a mastiff", attempts to enter a sealed door lined with speared onions. It is refreshing to find a young artist working with actual ideas in this world of visceral and, sometime questionable, entertainments. Although this tale lacks the narrative scope of "Alma Mater" (it is about 1/4 as long), it is something I've returned to again and again whenever I'm sick of music.

The B side is a pair of Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 covers. It's cool to hear someone doing Fellers music faithfully and accurately in this day and age. If by some chance this is your first time encountering this seminal 90's SF band, please do not hesitate to check out some of their stellar albums, which are still available in various formats.

check it all out at http://www.ambergriscomics.com
and be sure to pick up the new issue of "1-800 Mice" as well.

(Feeding Tube Records) C10


The opening of this live acoustic set taped on a couch in Easthampton, MA is one of my favorite recordings in recent memory. That's not surprising seeing as Couchie Pouchie (a band with an ever-shifting moniker -- see Creepy Pee Pee, Crappie Pappie, Drippy Hippy) is comprised of D.B. Russell (The Frothy Shakes) and Tim Sheldon (Fat Worm of Error, Rack Rash - see review of the excellent "National Felt" in these pages) and the song is the Phil Phillips penned "Sea of Love". This much covered song is delivered completely straight and it's a soulful and heartfelt version, if maybe a tad creepy.

The rest of the tape veers into diffuse improv with Russell's high pitched and mongoloid singing/intoning accompanied by Sheldon's acoustic guitar and the singer's abstruse Casio sounds. The third piece is also a real winner; an ad lib with the lyrics "I wanna live in America, where the sun shines every day. Here in this real hell". A national anthem for these times if there ever was one.

Overall, a very deranged, yet surprisingly melodic tape of retarded half-songs. A reel winner! First edition of thirty or so still kicking, and I believe this will be reprinted by the label too.

the tape is available from feedingtuberecords.com

This is the band that later developed into Western Mass. super group Egg, Eggs - Ed.